The Long Now Foundation Seminar

These happen every few weeks in San Francisco. In case you don’t know what the Long Now Foundation is, here is a brief summary from their website.

The Long Now Foundation was established in 01996* to develop the Clock and Library projects, as well as to become the seed of a very long term cultural institution. The Long Now Foundation hopes to provide counterpoint to today’s “faster/cheaper” mind set and promote “slower/better” thinking. We hope to creatively foster responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years.

I have been interested in the Long Now Foundation for quite some time, and the Long Bets group as well. Now that I am in the area, I get to actually attend these conferences and enjoy them.


The Conference I went to last night was good because it was my first one. However, Peter Diamandis, the founder of X-Prize, essentially presented an infomercial about the program. I had looked at some X-prize information online before I went to get a feel for what might be discussed, and a lot of what I read on the website came out in the presentation.

One thing that really interested me was the survey they handed out before he spoke. It was almost an exact list of many things I studied in my Future Studies class my Senior year at Elon. We were asked to select three that we thought should be the focus of a mega x-prize. ($100 million to $1 billion)

My choices were:

  • Download brain to computer with memory intact
  • Brain to brain communication at 10x our current interface (vocal interaction)
  • Real time collective conscious for a group of over 100

You can tell I am really hyped about the possibility of a true hive mind. The Internet is a start to this process, as we are now aware of our friends activities in a general way from the social media trickle effect. We may not know exactly what is going on, but from services like Facebook, My Space, twitter, and IM / email, we generally know the location, occupation, and major events in peoples lives that we may not have communicated with in years. 

This allows for awareness, but not advancement. A true hive mind would allow for ideas, directives, and information to flow uninhibited at speeds as fast as thought. The ability to put my brain on a computer with my memories intact is also incredible. When we eventually create a machine that can handle the brain’s information, we could have our conscious live forever.

The x-prizes in this “mega” category are funded in unique ways. One of the possibilities is a cure for aids. What could a $1 billion prize do for research in that direction? Who would put up that kind of cash? Diamandis has an excellent solution. He has tapped into the health insurance industry. If they put up $1 billion now, the cure would save them multiple billions over the course of time. And they don’t pay unless the cure is created. How can they lose?

I found the economic model behind his projects to be revolutionary. He creates an industry behind each project, and essentially started the private space flight sector. I am looking forward to seeing how the project develops in the future.

One category of x-prizes that I thought was missing was social reform. It seems Diamondis wants to change the world through massive technological breakthroughs. Eradicating hunger and poverty were two of the proposed mega prizes, but these were to be done through technology.

I think that a $1 billion prize to create a new system of government could inspire some radical change. What about you? Would this be funding terrorism?