10,000 Years of Brian Eno


by Tim Moran

Got a minute? I'd like to tell you a short story about a long clock.

A group called The Long Now Foundation is currently helping build a 10,000 Year Clock somewhere inside a mountain in the southwest, thanks, in part, to a nice contribution from Amazon's Jeff Bezos--we're talking $42 million here.

The Clock is the brainchild of Danny Hillis, a polymath inventor, computer engineer, designer, and inventor. His original idea was this: "I want to build a clock that ticks once a year. The century hand advances once every 100 years, and the cuckoo comes out on the millennium. I want the cuckoo to come out every millennium for the next 10,000 years."

The Clock is designed to run for ten millennia with minimal maintenance and interruption. It is powered by mechanical energy harvested from sunlight as well as the people who visit it (you have to read the full description on the site to understand this part).

The primary materials used in the Clock are marine grade 316 stainless steel, titanium, and dry running ceramic ball bearings. The entire mechanism will be installed in an underground facility in west Texas.

Once running, the bells of the buried Clock--which takes a day's pilgrimage to get to-- occasionally will play a melody (Brian Eno is involved with the music). Each time the chimes ring, it's a melody the Clock has never played before. The Clock's chimes have been programmed to not repeat themselves for 10,000 years. Most times, the Clock rings when a visitor has wound it, but the Clock hoards energy from different sources and will occasionally ring itself when no one is around to hear it.

In addition to being a feat of engineering--one that the clockmakers compare with the pyramids--the clock's creation has metaphysical and cultural overtones. The builders hope visiting it will help us think more about our time here on earth and how we fit into the big picture. According to the site: "Ten thousand years is about the age of civilization, so a 10K-year Clock would measure out a future of civilization equal to its past. That assumes we are in the middle of whatever journey we are on--an implicit statement of optimism."

If you have the time, you can register to be among the first to visit the clock when's it's completed. . .at some unknown time in the future.