Privacy is the New Celebrity

Zander Rose on the Long Now and Being the Best Ancestors We Can Be - Ep 24

May 05, 2022 MobileCoin
Privacy is the New Celebrity
Zander Rose on the Long Now and Being the Best Ancestors We Can Be - Ep 24
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Lucy Kind interviews Zander Rose, an industrial designer and the Executive Director of the Long Now Foundation, a non profit organization that fosters long term thinking and planning on the timescale of civilization. Zander tells Lucy about  the Long Now's efforts to build an immense mechanical clock that will keep time for 10,000 years. Lucy asks Zander about the benefits of "better, slower thinking," and Zander expands on his vision to set aside short term gains and prioritize decisions that benefit future generations, so our far distant ancestors can inherit a richer, more abundant planet. 

Speaker 2 (00:08)

Hello, and welcome back to Privacy is the New Celebrity. I'm Lucy Kind. And today on the show, we are joined by Zander Rose. Zander is an industrial designer and the executive director of the Long Now Foundation, a nonprofit organization that fosters long term thinking and planning on the time scale of civilization. One of their biggest projects is a mechanical clock that will accurately keep time for 10,000 years, currently under construction in West Texas. Zander is also working on a number of other interesting projects related to the Long Now Foundation, including the Interval, the Organizational Continuity Project, and the Rosetta Project. I'm excited to dive into all of these projects. So Zander, thanks for joining us on Privacy is the New Celebrity.

Speaker 1 (00:52)

Thanks for having me with you.

Speaker 2 (00:54)

So your organization is called The Long Now. It's a term that a lot of folks might be unfamiliar with. Can you tell us what it means?

Speaker 1 (01:02)

Yeah, actually, when the organization was founded by a group of some of the early tech pioneers, people like Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly, and one of the other ones was Brian Eno. And when he first moved from the UK to New York, he realized that when people in New York said now, they really meant the five minutes that they were in, not the kind of larger now of the kind of last and next decade, the kind of time that we are in. You also realize that when people said here, they often meant the four walls they were between, not the larger here of the civilization and the society, at least that they lived in. And so he coined this term, the long now and the big here. And we kind of expanded that from not just the time that we are in, but really the human time that we are in, what is now often being referred to as the Anthropocene. Basically, when the last Ice Age retreated about 10,000 years ago and we've had a stable climate and agriculture and then cities, it's kind of our human technological moment in this last 10,000 years. And then we try to actually stretch that in a way as equally into the future so that it's also the next 10,000 years. And I think often, especially with some of the apocalyptic language that happens around everything from climate change to AI, we often feel as though we're at the end of a 10,000 year story. And I think what we're trying to get across is we're actually at least in the middle of a 20,000 year story. And if you thought of yourself as having at least 10,000 years in the future, maybe not yourself, but the next 400 generations, how would you act differently? What type of choices would you make? And what type of world do you want to leave for the next generation?

Speaker 2 (03:03)

I like that. So instead of the individual now, it's the societal now, which, yes, thousands and thousands of years. That's great. So tell us about this clock you're building, the clock that keeps time for 10,000 years. What's it like and how does it work?

Speaker 1 (03:18)

Yeah. So we built several prototypes, the first of which is at the Science Museum in London. And the second one, you can see at least the display part of it at the interval in San Francisco that keeps track of the planetary cycles. But the idea here is to build a monument scale, all mechanical clock that you can really kind of walk through the workings of, that you have to make a journey too, and that journey that you may make with your friends. You might have conversations about why you're making that journey and why going to something like this matters. We're trying to get the same effect that you might get on a geologic time scale when you're standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon or the astronomic time scales that you get when you look through a telescope. But both of those are pretty dwarfing to the human experience. And so we're trying to bring that down to something that stretches time, like for a human, like 10,000 years, but something that really immerses you in it. And that is ambitious enough and interesting enough that if you visit it, it would hopefully be a changing experience for you. But even if you don't visit it, it becomes ideally an icon for people to reference and say, these crazy people built this 10,000 year clock. Maybe we could at least have a 100 year project. So we realized that this project is kind of ridiculously ambitious. And by doing that, we hope that it becomes an object that people tell stories about and enters into the kind of civilizational conversation. Because fundamentally the only thing we know that has lasted on these kind of time scales is stories themselves. So if we can help tell better stories about the way people think about the past and the future, that's really the hope with it. In terms of the clock itself. It really started with Danny Hillis, who was a computer scientist out of MIT. He had been building some of the fastest supercomputers in the world. What actually cluster computing and things like that are based on now with massive parallel processing. But he kept realizing that as he was building these faster and faster computers, that there were these things that were ignored in this slower space, and that if we are going to work on climate change, if we are going to solve something like world hunger or even education systems that all have kind of generational needs to work on. But we are largely just taking those kinds of challenges off the table because they just seem too difficult to do within the kind of time frames that we give our excuses to do or give ourselves the excuse to work on. And so his thought was to build the slowest computer in the world as this kind of icon to long term thinking that could at least inspire people and say, all right, well, we can try some longer term things. And humanity is a pretty tenacious species. We probably are going to be here for a lot longer, but we aren't really making choices and working in a way that seems like that.

Speaker 2 (06:37)

Yeah. Awesome. Sounds like you guys are creating a new point of reference for what is long term thinking. And I know your organization supports what you call better slower thinking. You just mentioned that term slower. Tell us about that. What does better, slower thinking mean to you?

Speaker 1 (06:55)

Well, there's a lot of place for fast and frenetic and experimental thinking, and we're not at all trying to say that that's not the case. But if you kind of look at the layers of human time, you have these fast layers moving on the outside with things like art and fashion and now in many ways, communications technology. But then as you look at the underlying things of infrastructure and governance and going all the way down to the slowest thing really is nature. And this idea that you could kind of map in a way, any project against these things. And one of the interesting things when you do map that out is you start to realize how you can create, let's say, technologies or projects or interventions into the world that maybe skip these layers or cause a shearing in these layers that are where parts where, let's say if you're cutting down old growth redwoods and you're selling them on the commercial scale, you've now taken a layer that's down in the nature layer that's moving at millennia, and you've removed it in a decade. And that's when obviously, then civilization kind of gets upset and governance gets upset, and you can see how that may happen. And you can even do this with crypto technology. Right? It was early on. It was this experiment on this outer layer. It quickly moved into the commercial part of civilization. It is now also, obviously, having implications, certainly not with ones like MobileCoin, but with ones with Proof of Work where it's now affecting the nature layer. And that's where we're starting to see people get upset right when it skipped all the governance and the culture parts and now governance and the culture are all trying to figure out how to rectify those things. And I think it's an interesting tool for looking at anything. And how are you making decisions that are making the world better? And more specifically, are you making decisions in a way that create more optionality for the future rather than less? And I think we, for some reason, have been getting worse for a while at kind of trusting that the future knows more about their present than we can ever predict or plan for them. And so the best thing to do is to give them the most options and the most tools so that they can make their own decisions about their present. And by doing something like cutting down all the old growth redwoods, you've now taken away that option for all those future generations. If you load the atmosphere with so much carbon that it becomes a feedback cycle or a largely unrecoverable thing or something that creates a lot of disasters, you have taken the option away that you had as a generation to enjoy all these things and to use these resources. So the goal is really just to kind of identify those things. We are a small institution. We're not necessarily, we do have a couple of projects that are kind of stakes and ground like the clock, and you mentioned Rosetta, and we've done some things in trying to bring back extinct species of genetic engineering and making predictions about the future. So all these projects are in a way these kind of iconic things that we hope are large enough interventions and interesting enough to tell stories about so that everybody in their own perspective fields, whether it's a policy maker or a technology maker or an average person even in their life, how you are creating more optionality rather than taking optionality away from the future?

Speaker 2 (10:56)

Totally. Well, I'm glad that there's all these different initiatives that you mentioned which are part of fostering long term thinking, giving examples of what that might be. I know you also helped host the Long Now seminars which started back in 2003 to foster automatic habits around long term thinking. What are some of your favorite conversations that you've had on there?

Speaker 1 (11:17)

Well, we've had like 300 of them at this point, but I think we had some really interesting ones that really changed the way I thought about the deeper future, especially on a global scale. People like Philip Longman who showed over the next century that we often think about population as being this really big problem in the world overpopulating. And if you look at all the graphs going out to 2040 or so, you have this hockey stick graph of just going up. But actually the Global North is already largely below replacement value. Nobody's having as the world is industrialized, women have been educated and people are urbanizing. They're having way less kids and generally less than 2.3 per couple, which is basically below replacement value. So that means the Global North is already starting to decrease in population. In countries like Japan, this is very obvious. And the moment you have a decreasing population, it also means that the population that's left is an aging population that doesn't contribute much to the workforce, doesn't contribute much to creativity, tends to hoard all their wealth instead of spending. And so you've seen over the last 30 years in Japan a kind of stagnating economy and the Global North is all kind of this is starting to happen everywhere. And the people that are having babies over replacement value of the Global South, which generally have less resources are generally going to be more negatively affected by climate change. But even then, even the Global South is really starting to taper off and the whole world is going to start lowering its population by around mid century. And I think it's a really interesting question that has always that one talk really changed the way I thought about the next century, which is even my daughter will live through not necessarily the whole next century, but at least this declining world population and what that means for the world. In the last 10,000 years, we really haven't had a declining population, except for maybe the moment during the Black Plague, and that didn't go very well during that time. We are going to have to re-envision civilization for this aging population. What we feel the ideal population of the world is how where those people are going to be. And then obviously some of these issues that come up, like where they're going to live and what they're going to eat and where they're going to get water. I think we often think about the deeper future as this ridiculously overpopulated, under resourced place, and I think we're going to have a kind of a different problem than that. And so that was a talk that was really interesting for me. We had Jill Tarter when she was the director at Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. And obviously it's a very Long Now problem like trying to listen for signals from an extraterrestrial civilization. It will obviously be one of the most world changing things if we got one of those signals. But the funny kind of dirty secret of that problem that was great for her to talk about is that if we got a signal, it's almost by definition either hundreds or thousands or possibly hundreds of thousands of years old. And so what do you do with that? Do you answer it? How do you answer it? You're not going to get the answer till double that time frame back again. We as humanity, I don't think, are really equipped to have a multi-millennial conversation that starts with “Hi” and what do you do? These are the kind of talks that I think really blew my mind in thinking about some of these civilization scale problems.

Speaker 2 (15:14)

Oh, man. Yeah, totally. I feel like I want to touch upon both of those talks. Let's start with the first one. So speaking of decline, with population decline, another sort of decline which you mentioned is climate change and our inability to shift away from fossil fuels, even though we know that they will literally make this planet uninhabitable. And with the pandemic and all the unrest of the past few years, I think it's easy to get into a bit of an apocalyptic mindset. So I'm curious, when you conceptualize civilizational thinking and decided to build this clock, are you building it for future generations of our current society, or are you imagining something for civilizations far in the distant future maybe long after this current civilization has disappeared?

Speaker 1 (15:57)

This is very much a project by and for humanity. Well who knows, maybe another civilization may grow up or even land and appreciate it. But certainly there are two aspects to it that I am always thinking about and one is that present. And I remember when I was working on the first prototype there's a set of technologists from IBM that came by to look at it and there was one engineer from India and he listened to my whole thing and he said “well that's all fine, but in like 3000 years they won't know what this is for and they're going to be sacrificing virgins on it and the blood is going to go down into the whole thing and it's not going to work.” I was like, well okay, well that's a fair assessment but before you walked in this room you weren't thinking 3000 years into the future. Even to be skeptical of these ideas and to criticize them means that you're engaging them. So there's that bit that I think this project really has the ability to flip in people's heads and just get them out of their normal routine and go what do I think is going to happen in a thousand years? And people get very apocalyptic about things like climate change and I don't actually see it as an existential threat. I think it could have existential threat capabilities because of the turmoil it could create on Earth, but it's really a carrying capacity problem and it's where are we going to grow our food and what our shorelines are going to look like? But we have plenty of room certainly in the Northern hemisphere to move our agriculture north. And I think that the Southern hemisphere is going to have more problems because they have more borders they're going to get pushed up against and create the kind of political strife and those are going to be geopolitical problems. And I think you mentioned the Pandemic and that one was one of those ones where I really had hoped that something like that Pandemic would be a moment of global coordination and while we saw glimpses of it, we certainly didn't see a wonderful example of a new global coordination and maybe it's because the Pandemic wasn't bad enough, it was certainly bad. But if climate change isn't doing it, if Pandemic isn't doing it, what is going to be the thing that allows us to govern our planet in at least certain ways that are in all of our best interests.

Speaker 1 (18:30)

And the classic example of some successes were things like CFCs being taken out so that our ozone didn't get depleted and that was a great world coordinated effort. We seem to be having a much harder time on the CO2 effort even though that now the financial forces are not nearly as strong as they were. We certainly have the technology to shift off of these things, but there's just a lot of industrial and infrastructural inertia that was less so with something like CFCs. So I think it is truly a Long Now question, and I don't have a great answer for it as to how civilization can coordinate, at least on these things that are in our best interest.

Speaker 2 (19:21)

Yeah. Well, shifting away from the complexities of Earth for a second, I want to go back to what you mentioned about SETI. I know that you are advising right now for the METI Project, which is thinking about transmitting radio messages to a nearby star in space this year. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Speaker 1 (19:40)

Yeah, I think METI is a really interesting one. It becomes very controversial for a lot of people. People get very, especially in the existential risk communities, they feel as though the most dangerous thing we could ever do as a civilization is to send out a signal that notifies a potentially higher technological civilization of our location. And I think it's born out of a lot of science fiction movies. And certainly if you want to make risk zero, we could have zero emissions into space. But the irony is that we're listening for all these things, hoping to discover this. And I think if we're listening for these high powered signals, we kind of have the duty to send a few. And I also think that generally people just underestimate the vastness of space and that if it's civilization that is advanced enough to travel interstellarly, the idea that they would extend the energy to come and do harm just seems so preposterous to me and so near zero that I just can't imagine it happening. If we got a signal, I don't think our first intent as people building probably the most difficult and expensive thing we could ever build in the world, which would be a starship that took generations to get somewhere, would go there with the intent of destroying it.

Speaker 1 (21:09)

And then there you are. You've destroyed it, and then what do you do? Right. So it doesn't make any sense to me. And I think it's one of these things that we have a responsibility to do as a civilization that kind of understands that there might be things out there, and then it also creates a lot of really interesting discussions about what kind of signal you send, what kind of frequencies and bandwidth and linguistic things. We have always been doing this abstractly for SETI to kind of go, all right, what might we receive? But when it's your turn to send it, it's kind of like the difference between us making a— we could have done a white paper on how to build a 10,000 year clock, but the moment you start building the 10,000 year clock or you start building this message you're going to send to space, that conversation gets much more real, much faster, because you really have to do a thing. And so the act of doing these types of projects are important as much for the people doing them as it is for the outcome of the project.

Speaker 2 (22:13)

Yeah, totally. It's very fascinating that humans are very focused on all the different aspects of Sci-Fi. Right. For both coins. But logic that you mentioned makes sense. Going back to Earth, now, one question that comes up on our show often when thinking about the future is, are you optimistic that we'll be able to solve these big civilizational problems? Like, do you think we're moving in a direction of more long term collective thinking?

Speaker 1 (22:42)

I'm definitely optimistic. I think the challenges are massive, but our capacity to solve them is also ever increasing. And we have generally sometimes our backs have to be against the wall a little bit more, whether it's something like a world war or a famine or maybe a larger pandemic or maybe an asteroid impact or something like that. But we are pretty darn creative and tenacious species when we need to be. And I think that for the very first time in the world, we can coordinate at global scale. We can have civilizational conversations. It is possible. And so we have all that going for us, even something like the pandemic, the DNA model for that was in our hands in less than a month. And we developed a vaccine— in a way the vaccine was designed in weeks. And obviously there's a long process to get it to market, but it still was the fastest vaccine to ever get to market. And all of a sudden, we're now using mRNA, which probably wasn't going to get into human trials for decades. And we can now use it for all kinds of things that are not necessarily pandemic diseases, but we now have license to do all these other things that it could benefit, ranging from multiple sclerosis or these things it would have just taken decades.

Speaker 1 (24:16)

So I think I have very high optimism. I'm not so optimistic to say that any technology doesn't come with its own set of new challenges and drawbacks and things that civilization has to deal with. And I think my favorite definition of technology is actually by Danny Hillis, which is all the stuff that doesn't quite work yet. And we're stuck in a place where we have a bunch of things that don't quite work yet, ranging from social media to potentially even vaccines that are they work some, but not completely. And the things that we don't consider technology in general is like electricity. Like, there was a time when people walked into a room and brought all their friends over to turn on the light switch. And sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. But that was technology then. We don't consider that technology now. So what we call technology is this kind of moving bar. And we are living through a time where multiple technologies are being developed simultaneously, and that can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming. But I think it's generally a good thing.

Speaker 2 (25:28)

I like that definition of technology. That's a good one. Yeah. I want to ask you about some of the other things that you're working on. So you're also the founder of The Interval. Can you share a bit about that project?

Speaker 1 (25:42)

Yeah. That's our kind of headquarters and space that we have in San Francisco for Long Now. And it's in Fort Mason, which is an old army embarkation base. And we moved in there back in 2006 when we had our offices upstairs and we had this kind of museum and bookstore that was downstairs. But it was always very sleepy and not very well attended. But when we started doing these talks, we would have receptions there. And I would see on those one evenings a month, there would be people having these great conversations about long term thinking. The real question for me was how do I turn the bug into the feature and make every night be a night where people are having an end day having an interesting conversation? So we kind of set about designing a space that was actually designed around good conversations. And I think so few places really are that way now. A lot of cafes are now really places where people sit alone with their laptops. Bars are generally have really loud music and are trying to churn through customers. And us, as a nonprofit like, our goals were not to have a fantastically profitable cafe and bar.

Speaker 1 (26:59)

Our goal was to create a kind of space that people would purposely come to have interesting conversations. And so we filled it with books. We had room for about 3000 books. That's a fair number of books, but it's not an infinite number of books. So we came up with a design principle for collecting, which is called the Manual for Civilization. So all the books we put into the library are the books that if you got dropped off on another planet, what is the library you wish you had with you? And so become a really fun collection principle for collecting books and makes for a great book collection. And then all the things in the space are things like prototypes for the clock that we built along the way. The bar top itself is made from the limestone that we cut away for the spiral staircase that's in the underground space for the 10,000 year clock we're building. And it has a slowly evolving video piece by Brian Eno. It has a chalkboard robot that draws images based on the talks that we're having there at night. It also converts into a space that we can have 50 person kind of salon style talks.

Speaker 1 (28:10)

And so as we designed it, the kind of design principle was every kind of surface you touch or everything that's there is its own story and welcomes you into a story. So if you arrive not necessarily with your own conversation ready, there's plenty there. And the menu of the bar is a time based menu to kind of show you, effectively educate you into the history of fermented or mixed cocktails. And then the coffee program is similar. So in a way, it's kind of maybe it's a museum and a library more than anything else. The very funny thing is it's also turned into the place that people take all their first dates, I think, because you have a lot of things to talk about. And I think it's also a test maybe for if the person you invite there can't have a good conversation, then they probably can't have one anywhere.

Speaker 2 (29:12)

Sounds like a fascinating place. How can people get more involved?

Speaker 1 (29:16)

Well, certainly with The Interval, you can just show up. It's public space. With the Long Now we have a membership program that starts all the way down to $8 a month. We have several thousand members in over 60 countries worldwide. And our talks are all streamed and recorded for the public as well as the membership. Members also usually get early access to things like physical tickets to the events that we do here in San Francisco. And we've been around, this is our 25th year now, and I've been working there for 25 years. And it's also time that we realize that as we finish the clock itself, that the next real question is how do you create a 10,000 year institution that can survive alongside this clock and keep it relevant and in some case probably protected in some cases, and we really don't know of any 10,000 year institutions. And so that is what launched my most recent research project, which is called the Organizational Continuity Project. And I had thought, as we were trying to do this generational shift at Long Now that I could call up the experts and find all the books on the subject.

Speaker 1 (30:32)

And it turns out there's really not any or there's vanishingly few. And so I've taken it on as one of my research projects to look at all the oldest organizations in the world, some obviously religions or some, but there's amazing number hundreds and hundreds of companies that have lasted for centuries. And some are highly circumstantial, like the Catholic Church, or there's like a 500 year old ferry company that goes across the River Avon in England. But it's really just two guys on a little raft hand over, handing this little raft back and forth across this little river. It's interesting that it's been around for 500 years, but it's not a very portable lesson for us. So the real goal of this is to look at all these organizations and find the kind of magic thing or the cultural thing or the way that they have each survived in a way that's hopefully less circumstantial and more portable. One of the ones that I came across that really blows me away is Zildjian symbols. If you've ever seen a drum set there's that Z logo on those symbols. That company was started actually, it will be 400 years old next year in the Ottoman Empire and in Turkey and eventually moved to the United States.

Speaker 1 (31:58)

It's still run by the Zildjian family. It's a totally artisan organization. The symbols are tuned by the guy who does that has been doing it for over 20 years and they're still cool, right? They sell all their stuff to rockstars. They've had a growth model, but the growth can't be the only model in something that's going to last for thousands of years because you'll just kind of consume all of the world, but you have to find the right size for your company, the right way of it being reinterpreted generation after generation. And so companies like Zildjian are ones that just fascinate me. And I'm really hoping to learn more about.

Speaker 2 (32:41)

Nice. Well, let's create a hypothetical situation. Say it's 10,000 years from now. The year is 12,022. Our civilization is long gone, but a new civilization is wandering around the desert of West Texas and stumbles across your clock. What do you hope they'll be able to understand about us and take away from their discovery?

Speaker 1 (33:00)

Well, that's an interesting question because it's actually the design principle that I am always thinking about and we often refer to is if we were to have burrowed into this mountain and found the clock already there, what do we wish we had found? The engineering challenges or the early material science challenges where they're difficult but solvable and the real questions that we kind of spend a lot of time on and go back and forth on are the aesthetic questions and the experiential questions. So what is an aesthetic that we would like that if we encountered something from 10,000 years ago? What is an experience that's still a transformative experience. And these things are highly cultural, but I think there's certain aesthetics that seem to still resonate after 5000 years, like Egyptian aesthetics and even the stonework of the Mayan cultures. I think there are certain things that have persisted on this time scale that we tried to in some way engender into the design of the clock itself. But I'd say the answer to your question really is we're not trying to make a monument to ourselves in any way. We haven't even designed in any place where we might even put any names necessarily.

Speaker 1 (34:35)

I'm sure we'll have some kind of plaque at some point, but it's kind of irrelevant in a way. Who name-wise built something like the pyramids or some of these ancient buildings. It's much more about the thing. But I think the difference between those objects and things that have lasted for a really long time is they were really more about the people that built them. And what I would hope if someone found the clock ticking 10,000 years from now is that we cared about them and that they understand that what we were trying to do is change the present people so that they had more care for those people in the future. So if we can do that, then I think we will have succeeded.

Speaker 2 (35:25)

Nice. I like it. It's a care culture. So since this podcast is called Privacy is the New Celebrity and privacy is a big value of ours at MobileCoin, I wanted to ask, do you see your work intersecting with privacy?

Speaker 1 (35:40)

I think the question of privacy, especially as we become a much more intertwined global civilization, is a very important one. And we see both all kinds of problems with privacy. Some of the things that come out of it like anonymity. How do we handle anonymity? Generally, when people, some form of a trusted identity is associated with people, they tend to have a better conversation with each other. And true anonymity can often lead to people just expressing their worst and feeling as though they can say whatever they want and going back to the conversation that we are having about how do we coordinate as a civilization. And part of that is how do we make people feel responsible for their thoughts and their entry into the global conversation. And I am certainly sensitive to the notion that we shouldn't force everyone to use a true name because there's all kinds of problems with that. People should have the privacy of creating their own identity. But I do think that interplay between privacy and responsibility is a crucial one. And obviously, if you have seen with the revelations on Facebook where people are buying and selling slaves through Facebook, and that's the kind of thing that we don't want to have in the world and we don't want to enable it by overcorrecting on privacy.

Speaker 1 (37:30)

But I think everyone should also be able to have a totally private financial interaction between two people and how we, I think this will be another one of these global conversation things of how we balance that in the world. And if there's zero accountability and identity associated with all transactions, it breaks so many models of how we do things like make sure that people pay taxes and build roads and have air traffic control and develop vaccines. So I think that's changing to be more of a thing that we choose those things rather than are forced out of a privacy conversation or a privacy ability. But I think this is going to be a long term negotiation with civilization, just like some of these other things that we're dealing with that are long term conversations that we all have to make some social agreements about.

Speaker 2 (38:37)

Yeah, totally. So that is the question at hand, right? How do you decide what to share or preserve for the public versus what to keep private?

Speaker 1 (38:46)

Yeah. And also the other part of this is when everything is encrypted and everything's behind paywalls or firewalls. It also doesn't bode well for information to last in a way for civilization to be able to learn from it. Thousands of years ago, people wrote things on stone tablets that lasted for thousands of years. And hundreds of years ago they did it in books that lasted. And now we've spent the last half century writing things into digital formats that are generally not surviving well over the long term. And once you then also add the encryption layers, it would be a bummer if 1000 years from now we couldn't even read the history of humanity because we have encrypted it all and made it so private that we don't get the information right like we want some of this information. We would love if the WHO collected all the kind of after the fact information about this pandemic and had it in a format that could be read at least 100 years from now during the next pandemic and hopefully we'll have learned those lessons and we can read them. So how we choose to encrypt things and make them so private that the future can't benefit from them.

Speaker 1 (40:18)

And we see this happening now with books themselves where publishers are really trying to turn books into a one time use thing. Right. They want you to generally pay for the music companies want you to pay for a stream and the book companies effectively kind of want you to do the same thing. But that does not bode well for having a library that can be read 1000 years from now. And I think we want to be able to have that library.

Speaker 2 (40:50)

Yeah, totally. It's all about balance. Well, our guest today has been Zander Rose, industrial designer and executive director of the Long Now foundation. Zander, this has been awesome. Thanks so much for coming on the show.

Speaker 1 (41:03)

Thank you, Lucy.

Speaker 2 (41:05)

That's all for this episode. You've been listening to Privacy is the New Celebrity. Please subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts and check out for the full archive of podcast episodes. You can also listen to our radio show. I'm Lucy Kind. Our producer is Sam Anderson and our theme music was composed by David Westbaum. And remember, private is a choice we deserve.