Vivid and the long now

vivid2Jennifer: Vivid Sydney is already two weeks underway- a festival celebration of art and ideas, transforming the city into a unique dynamic landscape of music and light. It is the largest international light festival in the Southern Hemisphere and features interactive, low-energy lighting installations, including the lighting of Sydney Opera House sails. Such visual displays aim to educate audiences on all aspects of “smart lighting”, including reducing photon wastage and decreasing light pollution to enjoy spectacular star-gazing in darker skies. The festival is a partner of the UN International Year of Astronomy, and it coincides with the Federal Government’s phasing out of incandescent light bulbs in Australia.

Festival curator is Brian Eno- music producer, writer, visual artist, political activist and committed futurist. He has been invited to “think-tank” forums to contribute his ideas and opinions on time and urban futures and is also a member the Global Business Network, assisting businesses, NGOs and governments in planning for multiple possible futures. The more I read about Brian Eno, the more I discovered about the extraordinary diversity of his futurist activities.

Upon moving to New York, Englishman Eno became aware of the varying definitions of the word “now”. The American interpretation of “now” as “immediately” was very different to the longer and more gradual “now” to which he was accustomed in England. In 01996 Eno contrived “The Long Now” concept and co-founded the foundation of the same name. Its ambition is to extend what we consider as “now” to creatively foster responsibility in the framework of the next 10 000 years. Indicative of this futures thinking is Eno’s use of five digit dates. The presence of the extra zero is to protect against the deca-millennium bug which will rear its head in about 8000 years.

The Long Now Clock will be funded by this private organization and designed by board member and computer scientist Daniel Hillis. Powered by seasonal temperature changes, it will tick once a year, chime once a century and operate for ten millennia. The Long Now Clock is to be constructed on a mountain in eastern Nevada, purchased by the foundation in 01999. It is hoped that the clock will encourage thinking beyond the mental barrier of a short-term future and become iconic in public discourse to reframe popular thinking.

The foundation has developed content to accompany the long-term context provided by the Clock, in the form of the Rosetta Project- a library of all languages endangered by the phenomenal spread of English. Every language which has a high likelihood of becoming extinct before the year 2100 will be documented.

Finally, Eno promotes the following guidelines to improve the quality of long-term thinking and to assist understanding and acting responsibly in The Long Now: serve the long view, foster responsibility, reward patience, ally with competition and take no sides. At Bridge8 we have just celebrated five, long years. I think we are on course to becoming a long-lived, long-valuable institution.


  1. What a coincidence – I’ll be in Sydney tomorrow, including at UTS. Thanks for reminding me this was was on – I’ll to check it out 🙂

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