Feb 6, 02023: Antarctic Ice: Report to the Future

Feb 6, 02023: Antarctic Ice: Report to the Future

A Long Now Boston Conversation exploring the timeless mystery of Antarctic ice, and its possible demise, with literary scholar and science writer Dr. Marissa Grunes, currently living at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, and special guest Dr. Catherine Walker (WHOI).

Date: Monday, Feb 6, 02023, 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Zoom
Free tickets are available on Eventbrite

The frozen continent – Antarctica – has inspired human imagination for centuries. Its ice seems timeless, an object of awe and foreboding mystery, as well as a source of inspiration and challenge.  Dr. Marissa Grunes has long been drawn to Antarctica by its deep natural history and austerity.  This year she is working at McMurdo Station in support of the National Science Foundation’s work on the continent.  Her recent writing includes articles in the Boston Review, Nautilus, and most recently in Hakai Magazine.

Marissa will call in by video to lead us in a conversation touching on the imagery and art of Antarctic ice, the history of its many explorations, and the reality of life on its surface.

Marissa will be joined by Dr. Catherine Walker, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, for a discussion of the long-term future of planetary ice, and what its potential loss would mean to humanity and to our planet.

Among the questions the presenters will address:

  • Why have so many people been drawn to the extreme and hostile continent of Antarctica, and how has our conception of the frozen continent changed in the past two centuries?
  • What inspires you in your quest to explore, experience and explain Antarctica’s history and future?
  • What have we learned about the role of planetary ice in terrestrial bio-geo-atmospheric dynamics?
  • How fast is the ice melting and how long will it last based on current climate projections?
  • What will the Earth be like without its ice?
  • How can we save Antarctic ice?

Join the conversation and be part of the solution.

The conversation will be held virtually using the Zoom platform. Login information and password will be provided to registrants prior to the event.

All tickets are free for this event! Please register at Eventbrite.

Login begins at 7:15 p.m.; the conversation begins at 7:30 p.m.

Audience participation is encouraged.

About the Speakers:

Dr. Marissa Grunes is a literary scholar and science writer currently living at McMurdo Station, Ross Island, Antarctica. She earned a PhD in English Literature from Harvard University in 2019 and has held postdoctoral fellowships from several institutions, most recently the Center for Public Humanities at Arizona State University. Her recent writing includes articles in The Boston Review and Nautilus and and most recently in Hakai Magazine

Dr. Catherine Walker is a Glaciologist and Planetary Scientist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution working on polar, ocean and planetary exploration.  Catherine saw Apollo 13 when she was 10 years old and decided to be an astronaut, a goal which she has not yet given up.  She received a Bachelor’s degree in Astronomy (and a minor in Earth Sciences) from Mount Holyoke College, and a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Oceanic and Space Sciences from the University of Michigan.  As a postdoctoral scholar at Georgia Tech and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, Catherine studied ice-ocean interactions on Earth and across the many Ocean Worlds of the solar system. At WHOI, she continues her work to understand these extreme environments using satellites and work in the field, most recently diving to the seafloor in the Human-Occupied Vehicle (HOV) Alvin in 2022.  

We’re proud and excited to welcome Marissa and Catherine to the Long Now Boston community.

Thanks to our generous event sponsor, this event is Free.
Register at:  https://endless-ice.eventbrite.com

Sponsors:


Long Now Boston thanks bPrescient for its key support as a Corporate Sponsor of Long Now Boston.  bPrescient is a creative force solving serious medical challenges through the application of advanced analytics and machine learning. Leveraging a unique and highly effective business model, bPrescient has become a leading resource for life science firms trying to bring method, order and insights to the growing flood of research and clinical data.

We also thank our anonymous event sponsor for making it possible to offer this evening’s event for free. The sponsor acknowledges the importance of complexity science in working towards a more comprehensive understanding of the amazing world we live in, and recommends the audio/video series “Making Sense of Complexity”, featuring interviews with complexity science researchers and philosophers.  

For information about event or corporate sponsorships, please contact info@longnowboston.org.

Longtermism at the Crossroads

A conversation with Philosophy Professor Kieren Setiya of MIT, on the concepts and challenges of longtermism as articulated by William McAskill.

Summary

At the Long Now Boston Conversation event on December 6, 02022, Professor Kieren Setiya pointed out that longtermism is a new iteration of utilitarianism that argues against geographical and temporal partiality.  While it brings attention to our global long term responsibilities, it overemphasizes hypothetical quantifications of future goods at the expense of current harms and fails to address the negative consequences of systemic injustice.

“If we factor in uncertainty using the tools of expected value theory, we find that tiny chances of extinction swamp the moral mathematics.”   

These flaws can be answered by adopting a more expansive consideration of the past and future trajectories of the human narrative.  We have been making progress in our pursuit of a more just and ethical world.  We share an ethical obligation to continue this progress and contribute to a future that is more just and offers greater good for those that it inhabit it.  This includes taking responsibility for the collective and systemic defects in our current world.  As Long Now Boston has advocated, this means learning how to be a better ancestor.

“An alternative view is that size doesn’t matter in itself. We should care not about the number of human lives, but the continuation of the human story.  This is in part about preservation; but mere survival is not enough, for we have unfinished business: think of the injustice of the world; our ignorance; our untapped creativity and our inhibited capacity for love.”

For more about the controversies of longtermism, see Professor Setiya’s book review The New Moral Mathematics (Boston Review), and recent articles The Heavy Price of Longtermism (New Republic), or Longtermism: How good intentions and the rich created a dangerous creed, (The Guardian)

Professor Satiya was also recently featured in Nautilus magazine: Life is Hard and That’s Good, where he discusses his recent book , Life is Hard: How Philosophy Can Help Us Find Our Way (2022).

About the speaker:

Kieran Setiya is the Philosophy Section Head in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT.  He works on issues in ethics, epistemology, and the philosophy of mind and is the author of a number of books including Knowing Right From Wrong (2012) and Midlife: A Philosophical Guide (2017). His new book, Life is Hard: How Philosophy Can Help Us Find Our Way (2022) was just released.  In August, Professor Setiya published a book review The New Moral Mathematics (Boston Review) commenting on the philosophical consequences of Longtermism as articulated by William MacAskill in What We Owe the Future (2022).

Engineering for Long Term Solutions

Engineering for Long Term Solutions

Long Now Boston and The Maintainers joined forces to present a conversation melding our two key concepts of long-term thinking and the maintenance mindset. The event was led by Maintainers Movement Fellow Tona Rodriguez-Nikl and hosted on June 6 02022 within the Long Now Boston conversation series. 

VIDEO:  Recording

Introduction

The conversation event was led by 2022 Maintainers Fellow Tona Rodriguez-Nikl. Tona is a professor in the department of Civil Engineering at California State University, Los Angeles. In addition to technical research, he is interested in the broader impacts of technological development and the role of engineers and technology as we address climate change and other future challenges.  Tona introduced each of the speakers.  Their comments are summarized as follows:

Bill Bulleit – Emeritus Professor of structural engineering at Michigan Tech

The Engineering Way of Thinking (EWT): Uncertainty and the Future

  • EWT is way to approach design, using heuristics, to develop, maintain, and and manage artifacts (all in their broadest sense of their terms)
  • Heuristics: anything that aids a probable solution 
  • EWT is knowing that failure will emerge
  • Because we live in a world of uncertainty, we want to make space for small failures and experimentation for all the big stakes in our world. 

Key ideas:

  • Think globally, act locally
  • Many experiments, with corresponding criteria for failure, are required.
  • Diversity in the broad sense, is essential
  • Big, relative to the system, is bad

Guru Madhavan – Director of Programs, National Academy of Engineering 

Politics of Recognition

  • Maintenance is simultaneously  life and larger than life. 
  • Engineers often celebrate themselves as innovators, when a vast majority of Engineers are maintainers, trying to avoid disruption. Engineers may need a re-branding, both in how engineers are viewed by the general public, but also how they view themselves!

Politics of Project Management 

  • We are well familiar with the delays of mega-projects (of a billion dollars or more), especially as they relate to maintenance, often over by 200-1400%.
  • When lacking concrete goals:  schedules, costs, and teams get derailed in mega-projects. 
  • Monitoring accountability is necessary, and we must create pathways of conversation between maintainers and those planning/engineering.

Today’s innovations are tomorrow’s vulnerabilities. Without maintenance, failures flourish.

  • We need to grapple with the politics of recognition, and the politics of project management. This is how we can responsibly channel the role of engineering if we are to tackle any wicked problems. 

Donna Riley – Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University

Engineering and social justice: Power relationships must be named and challenged in regards to who is involved in problem definition.

  • Who defines our problems? We have many futurists telling us what we “ought” to want. We must question: A future for whom, and what is the quality of that future for all?

Many disasters have been long in the making. 

Engineers tend to be ahistorical (Donna says this as an engineer). 

  • Engineers cite unanticipated consequences, however Henry Petroski points to the big bridge collapse, and how similar bridges have failed for similar reasons… had engineers learned engineering history, they would have learned from these failures. 
  • However, Donna argues, more than nuts and bolts history, we also have a social history.
  • Eg: Before the Flint, Michigan water crisis, there was a Flint governance, racism, economic crisis… Fixing the pipes doesn’t solve the problem for a long term. If we don’t look at each of these aspects, we’re not certain we’ll reach a long term solution. 

Moving to an ecosystem focus for engineers, and increasing engagement between engineers and non-engineers, is needed to contribute to problem solving together. Engineers need to be less arrogant and more humble (also saying this as an Engineer). 

Kai Whiting – Researcher and Lecturer, Sustainability and Stoicism, UCLouvain

What does ancient living tell us about the ways in which we desire “the good life”? 

  • Eg: We build a bridge not to cross a river, we build the bridge because something or someone we want to connect with is on the other side. 

What is the meaning of life? To exist – or to do something more? The good life = the life worthy of being lived. Humans are naturally sociable. What we need is good character overall. 

  • Character building to live a good life: Developing the wisdom to moderate yourself for the sake of the whole community. To know what is good/bad/and to take courage for a collective good, not just for the self. 
  • Eg: What’s best for me, is what is best for all… not one size fits all. 
  • We all have commitments to different arenas. What are my skills? What community am I in? How can I collaborate with my network? How can I think carefully about the knowledge that I have to offer and what is my role? I have multiple hats in multiple parts of life. 

Conversation and Discussion:

Tona: We ought to rationally think about our situations and our impacts. Parallels to Bill’s presentation in thinking about our situation to make change. This is Engineering work. Donna’s contribution about who decides, relates to Kai’s question of “why” do we do what we do and how do we manage it.  Panel: highlighted role of the engineer, and how we hold together 

  • Non engineers can learn from engineers. 
  • Engineers can learn from non engineers. 

What are the limitations behind the scope of experimentation? 
Bill: long term solution is actually to maintain, alter, then maintain again. Because we don’t have any set goals, or know exactly where we’re going yet…. Any experiment or any movement within a system should not require decisions that could lead to collapse, so instead, make small changes within a complex system. 

Eg: the baby formula fiasco: the problem in one plant set the whole crisis  in motion. 

Donna: Bringing values into the conversation and assuring that the voices that need to be there are at the center. 

  • Engineering principles… which values? What if engineers were taught they’re supposed to value nature, but this ends up supporting national ideals, and the locals get made invisible. Eg: Need Science, but with room  for the people to raise questions 
  • This all relates to thinking small, and it’s a nice experiment to add  thinking long. Vulnerabilities are created when not thinking long term. How to provide visible, shared, and community values in more equitable ways.
  • Tona asks: how do you do this!?: how do we bring in a topic of virtues when people aren’t interested in thinking about it. 
  • Seneca: we learn not for school, but for life. How to create this space for students… when folks are thinking broader. 

General vs liberal education. How to give an introduction about how each field thinks about something. How can educators of engineers bridge this gap? Engineering the way of thinking about education. 

Engineering the questions of Know How vs Know What. We’re still clueless about how to competently build things now. 

  • Something to keep in mind: how do you avoid premature speedbumps? 
  • How do we prematurely slow down so that projects can evolve? 

Mega projects – a better transition to clean energy  will involve mega projects. Something to think about: maintenance of the mundane or the subliminal. We don’t currently have a system to achieve a design approach for net zero. 

  • Local public utilities:how  to do large scale projects on a small scale… requires talking about coordination
  • Large projects create cost overruns / how to negotiate commitments 
  • How deal with Uncertainty 

What we need to be asking:  how do energy and services combine to lead to human flourishing? How do we have a clear understanding of what it is that energy provides?  How do we   meet our needs?  What is it that’s harmful? 

Theme: the world we live in today is much more complex than ever — we need to be able to expand the engineering mindset to a larger/broader scale, one that is values-centered. Question: is that a fair assessment? We need to think about a broader way of doing engineering or maintenance?? 

  • Not more complicated, more complex. We can’t handle complexity, we can handle complications.
  • Engineering has to think about  more values, and what values engineers want to approach. 
  • Guru: meta  point: engineers are dual citizens in the world of  both disasters and blessings, needing to bridge wonders and worst case scenarios. What matters is peer review,  good engineering needs to be open and transparent

June 6, 2022 – the concept of a global celebration on June 6 2269 (being promoted by 2269.co) is useful to think about. 

Closing

The ideas shared during this event confirmed that the practice of engineering must evolve to stay up to date with the challenges of an accelerating world.  That acceleration is being driven by global and technological factors that require new modes of thinking, planning, design, construction and maintenance.  But this is what engineers do, and the perspectives shared by the panelists provide encouraging evidence that the needed change are moving forward.

For more information on the Maintainers movement, follow the organization on Twitter and sign up for their quarterly newsletter and email listserv.  

For information on Long Now Boston, To stay up to date with Long Now Boston, check us out on our website longnowboston.org, or on  Facebook and Twitter. 

Chasing Oumuamua – Project Lyra

A Long Now Boston Conversation with Dr Martin Elvis (Harvard & Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) on Project Lyra, a space mission to chase, catch and interrogate Oumuamua in 26 years.

Introduction:

On May 2, 2022, Dr Martin Elvis gave a spellbinding presentation on Project Lyra – a proposal to chase, cash and investigate the mysterious interstellar visitor named Oumuamua.  Harvard astronomer Abraham Avi Loeb had introduced Oumuamua to Long Now Boston in his 

Long Now Boston Talk “Life Among the Stars ” in December 2019.  Since then, Avi has raised a storm of controversy on his continued claim that Oumuamua is best explained as an artifact – a manufactured device of interstellar origins.  If this is true, the consequences to humanity would be profound – we are not alone in the Universe and the Fermi Paradox would be laid to rest.

Project Lyra

Martin reviewed the technical data on Oumuamua, noting that it is generally believed to be of interstellar origin, but that no consensus has emerged as to its nature.  Given its odd observed behavior and apparent acceleration after passing the sun, it is not unreasonable to think that it is an alien craft, either an accidental or anonymous METI (messaging by extraterrestrial intelligence).  Speculations continue to abound – and the consequences of one or another of these speculations being true are very significant.

The proposed solution is to launch a light, fast surveillance mission – Project Lyra – to intercept Oumuamua before it is gone forever.  If the resources and technical capacity can be assembled, the mission could be launched in 2028.  By using Jupiter as a slingshot in 2032, the mission could intercept Oumuamua by 2050, in 28 years.

Martin noted that assembling, launching, and monitoring the Project Lyra mission would be challenging.  We would learn a lot in the process of securing the opportunity to investigate this interstellar object close up.

Conclusion

Given the renewed interested in space missions in the past few years and the prospects of near-term space commercialization, many in the audience felt that Project Lyra in some form could and should be funded.  We may wait years to find out.  If the mission does proceed, we will still have to wait decades to learn, if we can, the mystery of Oumuamua’s nature and origins – is it a space anomaly or a space craft.

For a recent post on Project Lyra, check this out on PHYS.ORG.

Dec 5, 02022: Longtermism at the Crossroads

Dec 5, 02022: Longtermism at the Crossroads

A Long Now Boston Community Conversation with writer and philosopher Kieran Setiya, Philosophy Section Head in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT.

Date: Monday, Dec 5, 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Zoom
Free tickets are available on Eventbrite

Longtermism is a new and increasingly popular philosophical framework that applies rational methods to answer the moral question – “How do we value the far future?”  For many long-term thinkers, this approach is a welcome response to the perceived epidemic of short-term thinking (“short-termism”) that pervades our culture and technology.  Pioneered by William MacAskill in What We Owe the Future, Longtermism argues that we need to balance the desire to benefit society now with a calculus that looks at the aggregate future benefits to human civilization, and life itself, in the long term.

But where does this approach take us? 

In August, Professor Setiya published a review of MacAskill’s book in The Boston Review,  The New Moral Mathematics, providing a philosophical perspective on the consequences of Longtermism.  He concluded: “What We Owe the Future is an instructive, intelligent book. It has a lot to teach us about history and the future, about neglected risks and moral myopia. But a moral arithmetic is only as good as its axioms.”  

In our December Conversation, Professor Setiya will expand on the potential drawbacks to Longtermism’s moral arithmetic and consider the long term consequences of this philosophy. 

Among the questions to be addressed in the conversation:

  • How do you respond to the “Repugnant Conclusion” from MacAskill’s population ethics  that a world with many more people living worse off than today is better than a world with fewer people living much better lives?
  • What does a “rational calculus” leave out?  Are there moral considerations that can’t be properly captured in a cost-benefit framework?
  • How do we balance the different values Longtermism is trying to reduce to a single measure, and what gets lost in making the arithmetic tradeoffs?
  •  What axioms could be added to MacAskill’s formulation to better guide our moral evaluations of present versus long term risks and opportunities?

Join the conversation and be part of the solution.

The conversation will be held virtually using the Zoom platform. Login information and password will be provided to registrants prior to the event.

All tickets are free for this event! Please register at Eventbrite.

Login begins at 7:15 p.m.; the conversation begins at 7:30 p.m.

Audience participation is encouraged.

About the Speaker:

Kieran Setiya is the Philosophy Section Head in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT.  He works on issues in ethics, epistemology, and the philosophy of mind and is the author of a number of books including Knowing Right From Wrong (2012) and Midlife: A Philosophical Guide (2017). His new book, Life is Hard: How Philosophy Can Help Us Find Our Way (2022) was just released.  In August, Professor Setiya published a book review The New Moral Mathematics (Boston Review) commenting on the philosophical consequences of Longtermism as articulated by William MacAskill in What We Owe the Future (2022).

We’re proud and excited to welcome Kieran to the Long Now Boston community.

Thanks to our generous event sponsor, this event is Free.
Register at:  https://dear_tomorrow.eventbrite.com


https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/67J-1McSgccEYZSbuXsEQ7e82OwKczBq5XTUJMHYq5_0HOwO_s7jtTVEqcfNJVXOnxUBx-3plFam7yla-rLDUlhWuw6D9C5BBiwmN_QiScyTwmloCO4SWI3Ux9L0mUtEuCLPPZqT

Cambridge Innovation Center is an in-kind sponsor of this Long Now Boston conversation. We are very grateful for their support.

For information about event or corporate sponsorships, please contact info@longnowboston.org.

Oct 6, 02022: DearTomorrow: Envisioning a sustainable future in a time of climate change

Oct 6, 02022: DearTomorrow: Envisioning a sustainable future in a time of climate change

A Joint Conversation Event by DearTomorrow and Long Now Boston

Date: Thursday, Oct 6, 5:30 p.m. ET
Location: Boston Public Library, Commonwealth Salon room
Tickets are available on Eventbrite

Long Now Boston, in a distributed partnership with the nonprofit DearTomorrow, is hosting a DearTomorrow event about climate change as part of the Cambridge Science Festival, featuring Jill Kubit, director and co-founder of DearTomorrow. 

The effects and impact of climate change can seem distant to us. Perhaps we feel overwhelmed and hopeless in the face of this crisis. Scientific communication is crucial, but may not stand alone in generating interest and maintaining actions to address climate change. How can we contribute to the discussion on climate change in a way that inspires and motivates us to take action? 

DearTomorrow is a climate storytelling project that makes climate change more personally relevant by connecting to the values that we all share: love, family, and legacy.  It opens up conversations about envisioning a sustainable approach to energy needs of the future for a world fueled by renewable energy, new options for agriculture, changing transportation choices, flourishing health, and of course equitable access to a better tomorrow.

Participants will break into smaller conversation groups and discuss the questions below.

We ask participants to think about those whom they love – a child, grandchild, niece or nephew, family, friend, or even their future self. Dedicate this conversation to them. You will reflect on climate change, or any theme that is related to climate action, and how you envision the future. 

  • How have you been impacted by climate change?
  • What are your thoughts on climate change?
  • How will climate change affect the lives and future of the people and places you care about?
  • What are your thoughts about how to leave a legacy of a safe and stable climate?

We encourage participants to save their thoughts and ideas, write a letter, and share with the DearTomorrow community. These messages are shared at deartomorrow.org and through social and other media, community events, and public art to inspire deep thinking and bold action on climate.

Join the conversation and be part of the solution.

This event is free. Audience participation is encouraged.

About Dear Tomorrow:

Jill Kubit is the director and co-founder of DearTomorrow. Her work has been recognized by the MIT Climate Co-Lab, the Grist 50, TED, Vox, Public Radio International, Yale, and BECC. Jill is also a founding member of the Our Kids’ Climate global climate-parent collaboration. She is focused on building three main areas on climate: creativity and culture, the parents movement, and integrating social science and practice. She advises dozens of start-up founders and leaders on social entrepreneurship and climate communications. Prior to DearTomorrow, Jill worked for 10 years to help establish the labor-climate field. She has a Master’s in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School and a B.A. from Northwestern. Watch Jill’s TED talk about the founding of the DearTomorrow project.

DearTomorrow is a digital and archive project founded by Jill Kubit and Trisha Shrum developed for people to personally connect with the issue of climate change, to commit to taking stronger action, and to share these stories with friends, family, and their social networks. The project is designed with best practices in climate change communications, including narrative storytelling, visual imagery, and trusted messengers. (https://www.deartomorrow.org/)

We’re proud and excited to welcome Jill and DearTomorrow to the Long Now Boston community.

Thanks to our generous event sponsor, this event is Free.
Register at:  https://dear_tomorrow.eventbrite.com


https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/67J-1McSgccEYZSbuXsEQ7e82OwKczBq5XTUJMHYq5_0HOwO_s7jtTVEqcfNJVXOnxUBx-3plFam7yla-rLDUlhWuw6D9C5BBiwmN_QiScyTwmloCO4SWI3Ux9L0mUtEuCLPPZqT

Cambridge Innovation Center is an in-kind sponsor of this Long Now Boston conversation. We are very grateful for their support.

For information about event or corporate sponsorships, please contact info@longnowboston.org.

June 6, 02022: Engineering for Long Term Solutions – The Challenge of our Times

June 6, 02022: Engineering for Long Term Solutions – The Challenge of our Times

A Joint Conversation Event by The Maintainers and Long Now Boston

Date: Monday, June 6, 7:30 p.m. ET
Zoom room opens at 7:15 p.m. for music and slides
The conversation starts at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are available on Eventbrite

The accelerating pace of innovation and change has led to complex social, technological, and even existential challenges that were unimaginable a century ago.  Addressing these wicked problems requires a shift in the way we approach “engineering”, the structured processes by which we solve problems.

The Maintainers, a global network interested in the concepts of maintenance, repair, and care to sustain our human-built world, and Long Now Boston, which fosters long-term thinking, have come together to bring you a groundbreaking conversation with a wide-ranging panel of experts to explore the future of engineering and its role in an increasingly complex world.

The conversation will be led by Tona Rodriguez-Nikl, Maintainers Movement Fellow 2022, and will feature a panel of esteemed academics and practitioners involved in cutting edge research and dialogue on the applicability of engineering concepts and principles to modern problems. Panelists include:

Bill Bulleit – Structural Engineer and Philosopher
Donna Riley – Administrator, Author, and Advocate
Kai Whiting – Researcher of Stoicism and Author
Guru Madhavan – Biomedical Systems Engineer, Maintainers Advisory Committee Member

Together they will explore the ethical and philosophical ideas that guide the methods and conceptual processes for engineering (or re-engineering) our world. The goal is to maximize individual and collective human thriving, in a context which enables reduced resource consumption and the avoidance of scarcity-driven conflicts.

Among the questions this panel will address are:

  • What are the drivers of human thriving and how do we bring them to the center of the engineering process?
  • How do we define and measure the outcomes we are seeking to achieve in the far future?
  • As we extend our time horizon to embrace the interests of multiple generations or global health more broadly, how do we deal with unknowns, uncertainties and the unpredictable?
  • What are the key reforms in the practice and education of engineering that need to be made?

Join the conversation with other Maintainers and Long-Term Thinkers, and be a part of the solution. Audience participation is encouraged.

Login begins at 7:15 p.m. EDT; the conversation begins at 7:30 p.m EDT. The conversation will be held virtually using the Zoom platform. Login information and password will be provided to registrants prior to the event.

Thanks to our generous event sponsor, this event is Free.
Register at:  https://the-maintainers.eventbrite.com

About the speakers:

Tona Rodriguez-Nikl – Moderator and 2022 Maintainers Movement Fellow


Structural Engineer, Teacher, Author

As a Maintainers Fellow, Tona is interested in how technological development will adapt to the changing social conditions and physical realities produced by climate change. Tona is a structural engineer by training and is a Professor of Civil Engineering at California State University, Los Angeles. He  is the chair of the Engineering Philosophy Committee of the Structural Engineering Institute and previously served on its Sustainability Committee. He is also the co-author of a textbook on engineering ethics and teaches a class on the social aspects of disasters. Tona’s work as a Maintainers Fellow relates to two broad areas: integrating the idea of care into engineering and understanding engineering’s relation to well-being in a post-growth economy

Donna Riley – Panelist 

Celebrating Diversity Seminar Series: Dr. Donna Riley | College of  Engineering | University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Administrator, Author, and Advocate

Donna Riley is Kamyar Haghighi Head of the School of Engineering Education and Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Riley’s research focuses on the integration of ethics, communication, social analysis, lifelong learning, and other critical capacities in the formation of engineering professionals. She is the author of two books, Engineering and Social Justice and Engineering Thermodynamics and 21st Century Energy Problems. She is a founding faculty member of the Picker Engineering Program at Smith College, the first engineering program at a U.S. women’s college. Donna is a fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education.

Guru Madhavan – Panelist

Image of Guru Madhavan
Biomedical Systems Engineer and Maintainers Advisory Committee Member

Dr. Guru Madhavan is the Norman R. Augustine Senior Scholar and senior director of programs of the National Academy of Engineering where he leads and oversees activities of broad scope and complexity focused on engineering practice, education, research, communication, and policies. His books include the nonfiction Applied Minds: How Engineers Think that has been translated into many languages. For his books and lectures, he has received the American Society of Engineering Education Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering Division Meritorious Award and the IEEE-USA Award for Distinguished Literary Contributions Furthering Public Understanding and the Advancement of the Engineering Profession. He is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering.

Bill Bulleit – Panelist

William M. Bulleit, P.E.

Structural Engineer and Philosopher

William M. Bulleit is an emeritus professor of structural engineering in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering at Michigan Tech in Houghton, MI located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  Prior to going to Michigan Tech, he designed submersibles in Florida and bridges in Washington. His major research area for many years was structural reliability. This research led him to consider the more philosophical aspects of making decisions under uncertainty. He was one of the original members of the ASCE/SEI Engineering Philosophy Committee and is its most recent past chair. He has written about how different levels of uncertainty affect the way decisions need to be made in order to be effective, safe, and ethical. Within these writings is the concept of the Engineering Way of Thinking, a way of making decisions that is applicable beyond engineered technological systems.

Kai Whiting – Panelist


Researcher of Stoicism and Author

Kai Whiting is a co-author of Being Better: Stoicism for a World Worth Living In. He is a researcher and lecturer in sustainability and Stoicism based at UCLouvain, Belgium. He Tweets @kaiwhiting and is a co-founder of theWalledGarden.com, a place for Stoic community, discussions, and mentorship! He is also the co-founder of Wisdom Unlocked, a non-profit organization that uses Stoic principles to help people cultivate good character in difficult circumstances. 

We’re proud and excited to welcome Tona, Bill, Donna, Kai and Guru to the Long Now Boston community.


Our event sponsor this month salutes Mike and Pete of www.2269.co for their leadership in imagining a thriving future worthy of a global celebration of imagination, exploration and progress — on June 6, 02269.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/67J-1McSgccEYZSbuXsEQ7e82OwKczBq5XTUJMHYq5_0HOwO_s7jtTVEqcfNJVXOnxUBx-3plFam7yla-rLDUlhWuw6D9C5BBiwmN_QiScyTwmloCO4SWI3Ux9L0mUtEuCLPPZqT

Cambridge Innovation Center is an in-kind sponsor of this Long Now Boston conversation. We are very grateful for their support.

For information about event or corporate sponsorships, please contact info@longnowboston.org.

May 2, 02022: Chasing Oumuamua – Project Lyra

May 2, 02022: Chasing Oumuamua – Project Lyra

A Long Now Boston Conversation with Dr Martin Elvis of Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian Institution

Date: Monday, May 2, 7:30 p.m. ET
Zoom room opens at 7:15 p.m. for music and slides
The conversation starts at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are available on Eventbrite

In October 2017, a mysterious object from interstellar space was discovered as it made a close pass through our solar system.  Named Oumuamua and later designated as “1I/2017 U1”, this object captured global attention.  Due to its small size, high speed, and unusual physical features, Oumuamua resisted easy classification.  In the past five years, speculations on the origins and nature of Oumuamua have become controversial, with some experts, including Professor Abraham “Avi” Loeb of Harvard, arguing that it could be a manufactured artifact rather than an unusual but natural object sourced in some ancient star system potentially billions of years in the past.  Avi raised this possibility in his Long Now Boston Talk “Life Among the Stars ” in December 2019.

In January of this year a serious proposal called Project Lyra was floated to launch an exploratory mission from Earth, intended to intercept Oumuamua in 26 years.  While the technical challenges are significant, the initial findings are that this would be feasible, and the scientific opportunity would be attractive.

Dr Martin Elvis, Senior Astrophysicist at the Harvard & Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, has been studying extraterrestrial objects for his entire career, and last June published the book Asteroids: How Love, Fear, and Greed Will Determine Our Future in Space, which expanded on his Long Now Boston talk in 2018: Asteroid Futures: Decade, Century, Millennium.  In his extensive research for his book, Martin was in a uniquely privileged position to learn about the controversies relating to Oumuamua and the early speculations on Project Lyra.  He will share his observations with Long Now Boston on May 2.

Among the questions  this conversation will explore:

  • What additional observations of Oumuamua would be most useful in clarifying its origins?
  • What are the big technical challenges and institutional roadblocks to Project Lyra?
  • What would happen if Avi were proved right, and Oumuamua were determined to be of unnatural origin?
  • Is this proposed project worth the cost, given the other priorities in space and here on Earth?

Join the conversation and be part of the solution.

The conversation will be held virtually using the Zoom platform. Login information and password will be provided to registrants prior to the event.

Thanks to our generous event sponsor, this event is Free.
Register at:  https://chasingoumuamua.eventbrite.com
Login begins at 7:15 p.m.; the conversation begins at 7:30 p.m.
Audience participation is encouraged.

About the speaker:

Dr. Martin Elvis is Senior Astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. In addition to his significant contributions to the science of deep space objects, Dr. Elvis has a passion for near earth objects and the opportunities they offer for future space exploration and development. Dr. Elvis has published over 400 journal papers and is one of the 250 most highly cited researchers in astronomy and space physics, with more than 28,000 citations.  In June 2021, published the book Asteroids: How Love, Fear, and Greed Will Determine Our Future in Space, which expanded on his Long Now Boston talk in 2018: Asteroid Futures: Decade, Century, Millennium. 

We’re proud and excited to welcome Martin to the Long Now Boston community.


Our event sponsor this month salutes Mike and Pete of www.2269.co for their leadership in imagining a thriving future worthy of a global celebration of imagination, exploration and progress — on June 6, 02269.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/67J-1McSgccEYZSbuXsEQ7e82OwKczBq5XTUJMHYq5_0HOwO_s7jtTVEqcfNJVXOnxUBx-3plFam7yla-rLDUlhWuw6D9C5BBiwmN_QiScyTwmloCO4SWI3Ux9L0mUtEuCLPPZqT

Cambridge Innovation Center is an in-kind sponsor of this Long Now Boston conversation. We are very grateful for their support.

For information about event or corporate sponsorships, please contact info@longnowboston.org.

April 5, 02022: Entrepreneurship – A Structured Process

April 5, 02022: Entrepreneurship – A Structured Process

A Long Now Boston Community Conversation with Danny Warshay, Author, Brown University Professor, Entrepreneur

Date: Monday, April 4, 7:30 p.m. ET
Zoom room opens at 7:15 p.m. for music and slides
The conversation starts at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are available on Eventbrite

If you have imagined starting a venture or changing the way things are done, then Danny Warshay has something to offer—a structured process for turning an unsolved problem into a breakthrough success.  As he shares in his award-winning new book, SEE, SOLVE, SCALE: How Anyone Can Turn an Unsolved Problem into a Breakthrough Success, Danny demystifies entrepreneurship and offers practical, proven techniques for seeing a problem with a fresh mind, for iterating towards an optimal solution, and for bringing those solutions to scale.  The process  starts with Bottom-Up Research which this session will cover in detail, and moves through a series of stages, one of which is the Landscape Exercise—drawing the future you imagine and building a metaphorical road to get there.

Danny is excited to share his ideas with Long Now Boston, and is offering “advance credit” for those seeking an introduction to his reframing of the entrepreneurial process and a firm grounding in Bottom-Up Research.  In this flipped workshop approach, Danny is asking participants to view this video (esp min :10+ and :20-:60) in advance, and bring their insights with them.  Danny will begin the conversation with an interactive discussion of key learnings and will call on you to contribute: What surprised you?  What did you learn?  What questions were raised?

Danny also plans to share the insights of a few of his former students—many of whom have launched successful ventures after taking his course.

Danny teaches entrepreneurship as a process that anyone can learn, master and apply, not a character trait.  The tools are universally applicable to problem solving of all kinds   

Among the questions  this conversation will explore:

  • How can entrepreneurship cross boundaries from business to non-profits to social change?
  • What are the key motivations that inspire successful entrepreneurs?
  • How can we scale up the ideas of See, Solve, Scale?
  • How can we scale up the practice of Long Term thinking?

Join the conversation and be part of the solution.

The conversation will be held virtually using the Zoom platform. Login information and password will be provided to registrants prior to the event.

Thanks to our generous event sponsor, this event is Free.
Register at:  https://see-solve-scale.eventbrite.com
Login begins at 7:15 p.m.; the conversation begins at 7:30 p.m.
Audience participation is encouraged.

About the speakers:

Danny Warshay (FRSA) is a Professor and Executive Director of the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship at Brown University. He leads creative and thought-provoking workshops on entrepreneurship throughout corporate, academic, startup and governmental contexts throughout the United States, and in China, Egypt, Portugal, Bahrain, Slovenia, South Africa, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, the UK, and Jamaica.  He began his own entrepreneurial pursuits while an undergraduate at Brown as a member of the startup leadership team of Clearview Software, which was acquired by Apple. He earned an M.B.A. from Harvard Business, and has co-founded and sold companies in fields ranging from software and advanced materials to consumer products and media. His course at Brown, The Entrepreneurial Process, has been recognized as the highest-rated course on campus.

On March 22nd, St. Martin’s Press (Macmillan) publishes Danny’s book entitled SEE, SOLVE, SCALE: How Anyone Can Turn an Unsolved Problem into a Breakthrough Success. It is available now for preorder. 

We’re proud and excited to welcome Danny to the Long Now Boston community.

We also thank the RSA US for promoting this event.  Bill Davison and George Gantz, members of the Long Now Boston Board of Directors, are also fellows of the RSA, in addition to Danny.


Our event sponsor this month salutes Mike and Pete of www.2269.co for their leadership in imagining a thriving future worthy of a global celebration of imagination, exploration and progress — on June 6, 02269.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/67J-1McSgccEYZSbuXsEQ7e82OwKczBq5XTUJMHYq5_0HOwO_s7jtTVEqcfNJVXOnxUBx-3plFam7yla-rLDUlhWuw6D9C5BBiwmN_QiScyTwmloCO4SWI3Ux9L0mUtEuCLPPZqT

Cambridge Innovation Center is an in-kind sponsor of this Long Now Boston conversation. We are very grateful for their support.

For information about event or corporate sponsorships, please contact info@longnowboston.org.

March 7, 02022: Consciousness, Memory and Language

Feb 7, 02022: Consciousness, Memory and Language

A Long Now Boston Community Conversation with artist Kerry Tribe and neuroscientist Mark Cohen

Date: Monday, March 7, 7:30 p.m. ET
Zoom room opens at 7:15 p.m. for music and slides
The conversation starts at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are available on Eventbrite

As scientists and artists have contemplated the stars and probed the fine structures of the physical world, some have also explored the most remarkable and mysterious phenomena that occur inside our own skulls. The human brain is both immensely complicated and extraordinarily beautiful in its complexity.  We imagine that we have access to our thoughts and emotions, yet live in a world that is largely an invention of our brains: we are metaphysically separated from our ability to see ourselves.  The brain does not yield its mysteries easily. We have much to learn from the perspectives of both art and science.

Kerry brings her visionary perspective into focus in her latest exhibition Kerry Tribe: Onomatopoeia, on view through March at Emerson College. She was born and raised in the Boston area, but this is her first major exhibition in her hometown.  

Mark has made pioneering contributions to the investigation of human cognition, playing a leadership role in the invention of functional MRI, and other methods of studying the human brain. Mark says that he was, “moved deeply by Kerry’s work and its focus on the inner and outer self, and on the complexities of consciousness. She is a visionary whose art challenges us to question our confidence in our own identity. In this work, I consider her a research colleague.”

We are delighted to welcome Kerry and Mark to Long Now Boston for an awe-inspiring and mind-expanding conversation on our most human of capacities – cognition. 

Among the questions the speakers will address:

  • How is our understanding of consciousness evolving and what are the limits to what can be known?
  • We have discovered that our minds evolve in response to a changing world, so how might we prepare for an uncertain future?  
  • How do we know, and communicate with, other minds beyond our own?  

Audience participation is encouraged for this event. Bring your enthusiasm and your questions for a thought-provoking evening from a Long Now perspective. 

Join the conversation and be part of the solution.

The conversation will be held virtually using the Zoom platform. Login information and password will be provided to registrants prior to the event.

Thanks to our generous event sponsor, this event is Free.
Register at:  https://onomatopoeia.eventbrite.com
Login begins at 7:15 p.m.; the conversation begins at 7:30 p.m.
Audience participation is encouraged.

About the speakers:

Kerry Tribe is a visual artist and experimental documentarian born in Boston and based in Los Angeles. Her work has been featured in solo exhibitions at SFMOMA; The High Line; Carpenter Center for Visual Arts; The Power Plant; Modern Art Oxford; and Camden Arts Centre. Tribe is a recipient of the Presidential Residency at Stanford University, the Herb Alpert Award, the USA Artists Award, and the Guna S. Mundheim Fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin. Her latest exhibition, Kerry Tribe: Onomatopoeia, is on view through March at Emerson College in Boston. 

Mark S. Cohen, Ph.D., is a Professor emeritus at UCLA in the departments of Psychiatry, Neurology, Radiology, Psychology, Biomedical Physics and Bioengineering. Mark is a curiosity-driven scientist with an engineer’s mindset.  He believes that the universe operates on orderly physical principles, knowledge of which will allow us to investigate and understand the most profound and difficult questions: the nature of our inner experience, the meaning of our existence, and the large-scale organization of society.


Our event sponsor this month salutes Mike and Pete of www.2269.co for their leadership in imagining a thriving future worthy of a global celebration of imagination, exploration and progress — on June 6, 02269.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/67J-1McSgccEYZSbuXsEQ7e82OwKczBq5XTUJMHYq5_0HOwO_s7jtTVEqcfNJVXOnxUBx-3plFam7yla-rLDUlhWuw6D9C5BBiwmN_QiScyTwmloCO4SWI3Ux9L0mUtEuCLPPZqT

Cambridge Innovation Center is an in-kind sponsor of this Long Now Boston conversation. We are very grateful for their support.

For information about event or corporate sponsorships, please contact info@longnowboston.org.