Tuesday, 8 March 2016

(8th October 2011) A Rewrite - The Long Now Foundation


The world we live in is flying past. There is no longer any time to catch one's thoughts before the next task has arrived with yet another impossible schedule to adhere to. We live our lives at an increasingly hectic pace bringing huge pressures on ourselves whilst all the while believing or being led to believe that this is how the modern world operates. Buzz words fly commingled with a profuse energy generated by enthusiastic individuals all hell bent on meeting that deadline. The deadlines are real but the means of completion are false and self-perpetuating.

In an infernal attempt to find faster, more cost-effective cost efficient methods we propel ourselves to unbelievable speeds while totally ignoring the fact that time passes fast enough as it is and perhaps we should be preparing for its passing; preparing for our future. Everything that modern man does is all based in the here and now without any thought, or very little, of what the future requirements are.

The future is travelling toward us now at light speed and we haven’t the faintest idea of how to deal with it but rely instead on our ability to adapt to the times we live in, being reactive rather than proactive. We could of course, in part, prepare for that eventuality rather than wait for its arrival. If we did we may find the future will work for us and not us for it.

“Civilization is reviving itself into a pathologically short attention span. The trend might be coming from the acceleration of technology, the short-horizon perspective of market-driven economics, the next-election perspective of democracies, or the distractions of personal multi-tasking. All are on the increase. Some sort of balancing corrective to the short-sightedness is needed—some mechanism or myth which encourages the long view and the taking of long-term responsibility—where 'long-term' is measured at least in centuries. Long Now proposes both a mechanism and a myth.” - Stewart Brand

Technology is a twin edged sword. It cuts through so much hassle and creates so many infinite possibilities while improving so many aspects of our modern lives but in itself is just another tool that can hinder as much as help. We can switch off our mobile phones but few do. We don’t have to slavishly sit in front of our computers waiting for the next E-mail. We do not have to leap up as each text message arrives.

During my time working for a major, national newspaper all editions would be printed during the night, then packed in quires (twenty-four newspapers to quires in those days) before being bundled then loaded onto vans which would then be driven to one of London’s key network rail centre’s where the appropriate editions would be taken from the back of the vans and re-loaded onto trains. The trains would then depart, calling at the various stations on the way where the papers were left for the local newsagents to collect. It was an infallible system. It kept large vehicles from the road thereby reducing traffic congestion and unwanted emissions. Some twenty years ago, during the national newspaper strike between Rupert Murdoch’s News International and the UK print unions, it was decided to transport newspapers by train.

An understandable tactic when you consider that the train operatives were union men and may have felt a loyalty, a commitment even, to not only support the print strikers verbally but also to instigate indirect action.

Long after the strike was over and the majority of unions in Great Britain made toothless, the same mode of transport, that is road vehicles transport what had been goods traditionally handled by rail, remained in place. It is too late now to revert back as the ramifications on current lorry drivers might well mean the end of their living but with a little forward planning, something few governments do, this unsuitable situation may never have occurred. I can perfectly understand why in America or Australia or even on the continent the wisdom of using road transport but here, in England and throughout the United Kingdom, we should think and plan locally. Our nation resides on a small set of islands with relatively small road links. What is the point of filling them with Lorries when we, the inventors of trains, turn our back on a tried and tested system and use one that is wholly inappropriate?

Of course, you could apply the self-same argument to the English canal system as it too offers, albeit at a much slower response rate, another set of alternatives. And why not? Not all goods have to be delivered the next day or even the day after next. It is this intolerable act of not thinking things through, of not planning far enough in advance that strikes me as a stupid neglect of responsibility.

“When I was a child, people used to talk about what would happen by the year 02000. For the next thirty years they kept talking about what would happen by the year 02000, and now no one mentions a future date at all. The future has been shrinking by one year per year for my entire life. I think it is time for us to start a long-term project that gets people thinking past the mental barrier of an ever-shortening future. I would like to propose a large (think Stonehenge) mechanical clock, powered by seasonal temperature changes. It ticks once a year, bongs once a century, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium.” - Danny Hillis

Personally, I think we should take a leaf out of this marvellous organisations manifesto and adopt and adapt it and incorporate it into our lives too. Live for now but with an eye to the future. The Long Now Foundation.

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all words and art are copyright © of Russell 'C.J' Duffy.

1 comment:

LeeKwo said...

Great write Russell/Velocity is the pathology of the 21st C/