Rx for a Better Future: Wisdom Over Recklessness

A Long Now Boston conversation with Bina Venkataraman, March 2, 02020, Cambridge MA. 

In a world dominated by short-term thinking, it is easy to become cynical or jaded about human behavior and the long-term prospects for humanity. Bina Venkataraman has a solution – the pursuit of “wisdom over recklessness.”  Wisdom (“experience, knowledge, and good judgment”) can overcome recklessness (“lack of regard for the danger or consequences of one’s actions”), but it requires a different approach to what we measure, what we reward and what we imagine. Bringing this wisdom to bear on our individual and collective choices requires change and new tools at the individual, cultural and institutional levels, which Bina has documented in her book The Optimist’s Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age. She offered great advice to a large and enthusiastic crowd at the Long Now Boston Conversation event on Monday March 2, 02020, at the CIC in Cambridge, with the help of moderator William Powers.

Summary by George Gantz for Long Now Boston
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Pathways to Human and Planetary Thriving

Long Now Boston FLASH TALKS 2020.

On January 6, 02020, five Long Now Boston members shared their ideas for improving the long term future for planet earth and the human civilization that inhabits it.  In one way or another, all five speakers touched on the importance of working together towards outcomes that better match our human values and aspirations.   The top vote-getter for the night was Ye Tao of Harvard’s Rowland Institute for his presentation on Mirrors for Earth’s Energy Rebalancing (MEER:ReflEction).  Long Now Boston Board Member George Gantz (ineligible for votes) concluded the event with a presentation on Empathy: The Secret Sauce for Human Thriving.

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Life Among the Stars

Avi Loeb is confident in the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations, and optimistic that confirmation, when achieved, will fundamentally transform the human perspective, just as the Copernican revolution, based on increasingly detailed astronomical observations, did a half-millenium ago.  With the rapid increase in relevant data from more advanced observations and increasingly sophisticated space missions, that confirmation may come soon.

“Our civilization will mature only by leaving home to the cosmic street and meeting others.”  Avi Loeb

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How Humans and Technology Co-Evolve

Long Now Boston Conversation Series
November 4, 02019, at CIC, 1 Broadway, Cambridge MA, with James (“J”) Hughes (IEET) and Nir Eisikovits (UMAEC).

Synopsis: Human species have co-evolved with technology for hundreds of thousands of years.  Fire and stone tools were once the killer apps, giving humans immense advantages – but human physiology and society also evolved with them.  It is no different today, but the stakes are higher, as they include global existential risks, and the pace of change is faster by many orders of magnitude.  It is impossible to plan or to predict the future, but we can shape its trajectory by better understanding the risks and tradeoffs and by seeking to achieve equity in how we govern technology.

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From Synthetic DNA to Billion Year Libraries

Long Now Boston Conversation SeriesOctober 7, 02019, at the Cambridge Innovation Center.
Featuring Dr. Hyunjun Park, CEO of CATALOG DNA, and Nova Spivack, Chairman of Arch Mission Foundation.

Synopsis: Human science and imagination are moving us to a reality we can barely comprehend.  Synthetic DNA is the basis for stunningly efficient data storage and sophisticated computational functionality – yet the microminiaturized manufacturing process defies visualization.  Using this technology, petabytes of data are encoded on strands of DNA and dried into something the size of a sugar cube.  Imagine such a cube layered into a small, superstrong container at the core of a small disk the size of a DVD.  That disk consists of a number of layers of nickel nanofiche analog imagery on top of high-density digital storage layers, bonded with an epoxy in which human and other DNA samples are stored — a complete library of human knowledge and history.  Now imagine those libraries scattered around the earth, on the moon, in orbit around the sun, where they will serve as the backup for planet Earth, lasting billions of years. 

Summary by George Gantz
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Mastering the Balance – Loonshots and Franchise

Long Now Boston Conversation Series
September 9, 02019, at the Cambridge Innovation Center.
Featuring Safi Bahcall, author of Loonshots (2019)

Synopsis: According to Safi Bahcall, the people, companies, institutions and governments that drive progress take advantage of both the creativity that generates new ideas, and the logistical discipline that can take them to scale.  Creatives need the open environment of loonshot nurseries.  Soldiers need the structure and hierarchy of a franchise. Both are essential to long-term success, and the best leaders are the ones that love their creatives and soldiers equally.  

Summary by Paul Hoxie and George Gantz.
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Long Now Boston Garden Party 02019

August 17, 02019,Cambridge MA

Reflections on the 4th Annual Summer Picnic of Long Now Boston.  

A Timely Experience

A great deal of planning and preparation had gone into the afternoon picnic, but the time for planning was over. It was time for the event to begin. Thoughts and questions cross through your mind as you walk into a quiet Cambridge neighborhood.  Will the event be well-attended?  Who will I know?  What questions might be asked of me, and what questions would I like to ask?

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Innovations to Eradicate Global Poverty

Long Now Boston Conversation Series

June 3, 02019, at the Cambridge Innovation Center.

Featuring Eleanor Murphy (Acumen) and Katherine Collins (Putnam, Honeybee Capital)

Synopsis:  Some 12,000 years ago, people began cultivating their own food, providing a far more reliable source than nature alone, leading to settled communities and, ultimately, a global civilization. The technologies and capacities for feeding human communities have improved through the millennia, bringing huge benefits to growing populations.  Yet poverty and hunger still afflicts much of the world — a tragedy that we can eliminate within decades if we empower communities, through enlightened investment, technology and market solutions, to achieve their own aspirations.

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FLASH TALKS – Probing the Future

Long Now Boston Conversation Series
May 6, 02019, at the Cambridge Innovation Center.

Featuring eight talks by Long Now Boston Members.

On May 6, Long Now Boston held a 2018 FLASH TALK event.  Eight presentations had been selected in advance from the pool of entrants, and each presenter was given 5 minutes, and 3 slides, to explore their ideas.  The result was a wide-ranging and surprisingly robust discussion of topics in chemistry, climate, aging, cityscape design, science education and the future of democracy and capitalism.  

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