Planning for the future is large part of our lives whether it’s deciding to get a college degree or investing money for retirement. But how should humanity think about planning for the really long term— for the next 10,000 years of civilization? These are the questions Long Now aims to explore. On this episode of Campfire, Jackson sits down with Nicholas Paul Brysiewicz, the Director of Strategy of Long Now (@longnow). They talk about the Foundation’s mission, the qualities of a city that perseveres through time, and Long Now’s Organizational Continuity and Long Bets projects.
The Long Now Foundation’s Mission and Nicholas’ Work — (2:02)
How to Advocate for Future Generations — (7:50)
How Long Now Chooses Projects to Focus on — (11:46)
Cities That Have Stood the Test of Time — (16:00)
Cabin’s Network as a City— (20:15)
Peter Calthorpe’s 7 Principles for Building Better Cities — (23:45)
Long Now’s Organizational Continuity Project — (27:45)
Long Now’s Long Bets Project — (31:17)
Want to learn more about what new technologies are waiting to be released? Follow us on Twitter or join our Discord to find out what's in store for us and how we make use of Web3 in both digital and physical space. See you at the next Campfire 🏕️🔥.
Long Bets’ Website
Long Now’s Website
The Interval Bar’s Website
Long Now and Nicholas on Twitter
Hosted by @JacksonSteger
Sound Engineering by @Prodcolin
Videos and Clips by @McdonnellCallum
Produced by @PhilippeIze
Distribution by @Alisonclaire and @PhilippeIze
[00:00:00] Jackson Steger: Hi everyone. This is Jackson Steger, and you're listening to Season 2 of Campfire. Let's get it.
[00:00:09] Today's guest is Nicholas Paul Brysiewicz, Director of Strategy for the Long Now Foundation. The Long Now Foundation is a nonprofit, encouraging imagination at the time scale of civilization by carefully reflecting on the last 10,000 years and planning for the next 10,000.
[00:00:26] Today, we chat about the projects that the Long Now Foundation is working on and how cities should start to imagine themselves on similarly longtime horizons. After all, this season of Campfire seeks to understand how to build new cities. Each week we are joined by experts and practitioners from different startup cities who will share the stories and lessons that they have learned from experimenting with radical new models of living.
[00:00:26] An editorial note, originally, we had planned to do just 12 episodes on city building, and this would have been our last one. But based on feedback from the audience and from some personal reflection, we're just going to keep pumping out some city building episodes for you for the foreseeable future. A reminder, if you introduce us to a guest and we book them on the podcast, we will reward you with Cabin tokens, which is exactly what happened with today's guest, who was referred by a Campfire listener, Kat Dovjenko. Thanks, Kat.
[00:01:18] And one more reminder, Cabin's neighborhoods are open for coliving. If you’re interested in long-term coliving at beautiful locations with nature out the front door, high speed internet, and actual campfires, you can join the waitlist today by visiting www.cabin.city. Now on to the episode.
[00:01:39] Nicholas Brysiewicz, welcome to Campfire.
[00:01:41] Nicholas Paul Brysiewicz: Thank you. Thank you for having me, Jackson. Appreciate it.
[00:01:44] Jackson Steger: Today, we're going to talk about long-term thinking and city planning and the intersection of those two things, but I also want to first just learn a little bit about the Long Now in a vacuum. And so, with that, could you share what is the Long Now Foundation, what its mission is, and then what your role is within that context?
[00:02:04] Nicholas Paul Brysiewicz: Yeah, thank you. The Long Now Foundation is a nonprofit here in San Francisco that's trying to help people think about the next 10,000 years. And the way we want to do that is by also helping them think about the last 10,000 years. And so that 20,000-year moment with 10,000 years on either side of this present moment is what we call the Long Now. So, I supposed the short now on this podcast, the Long Now of civilization itself, 10,000 years ago, came out of a glacial period, started building cities, things like agriculture took off, started living more densely. That's the time scale of civilization that’s been around. And so, when we're thinking about the future, there's so many organizations or cultural narratives that want to convince people or talk about how we're at the end of the civilizational narrative.
[00:02:44] And I think at Long Now we're thinking, if we've made it this far, 10,000 years in, maybe it's thinking on that kind of a time scale it's going to help get us further into the future. If you ever ride motorcycles or you go get your motorcycle licensing, one of the first things they tell you is you don't look where you don't want to go or you want to look where you want the bike to go. And I think with civilization it might be something similar, that's the idea, is if you're really looking out at a multi-thousand year time horizon, you're thinking about how the decisions that you're making today affect people in 400 human generations, you're going to do things a little bit differently. And that might actually be really important.
[00:03:14] So, even in a world where we're moving fast and we're breaking things and everything's super rapidly paced, we're trying to preserve a little space for people to be provoked into thinking on time scales that are not the usual ones. So, we work in a bunch of different media. Our origin project is probably the most famous project we have, which is a 10,000-year clock, and it’s been designed by Danny Hillis, one of the guys who invented supercomputers basically. And Danny wanted to design a symbol to the future, the same way that pyramids of Giza are a symbol of the past. So, if you go these the pyramids in Egypt and you touch those stones, and those are stones that human hands touched thousands of years ago, it's kind of a trip to think about those time scales, is there anything we can put into the world where you would be touching this thing and this thing would endure, and you would know that people in the year 7,000 or something might also touch that same thing, then think about you and does that build some kind of a connection across time?
[00:04:03] And so, Danny decided to build a giant monument scale clock and bury it inside of a mountain. So, it's currently still under construction in a mountain in West Texas, and it'll probably be open in my lifetime, I think. But they've been working on it for about 20-27 years or so now. That's when the foundation was started as well. So, the Long Now Foundation is there to steward both that project but also all these other projects, like we have a long-term language archive, called the Rosetta Project, where we landed these nickel disks onto a comet, Comet 67P, the rubber ducky-shaped comet that was in the news about five years ago. Now, it has an off planetary backup of all human language. Basically, all the human languages, we were able to document, which matters on long time scales because, one, we're in the most accelerated time of language extinction ever, like we lose a language, I think last I heard was once every two months. And most of these languages are indigenous languages. They are just not making the generational jump.
[00:04:52] And so, if you can document that, if you can get grammars, vocabulary lists, parallel text translations, and all that stuff together, you stand a chance of possibly capturing in a bottle a whole worldview. You know, languages encompass so much more than just the ways of sending information or it was telling stories. There's so much baked into that. And so, when we lose a language, we lose a whole worldview. So, how do you stifle some of that extinction? The Rosetta Project is kind of our answer.
[00:05:15] We also landed a copy on the moon a few years ago, and there's about a hundred terrestrial copies floating here on the planet. We've got some other projects too. We have an award-winning cocktail bar in San Francisco on the North Waterfront because we realized that for some people, when you want to talk about the next 10,000 years, it’s kind of nice to have a cocktail in hand. And so, it's called The Interval, and it is a cocktail bar inside of a library inside of a historical museum. So, anybody in San Francisco, I absolutely encouraged you to come stop in and have a tea or a cocktail.
[00:05:42] And then we've got like a long-term betting platform. We've got a speaker series where we've had 300 experts come and talk about their work in the context of the next and last 10,000 years, called The Seminar Series. We've got some genomic conservation projects, genomic technology for conservation projects, like Revive & Restore. They've had their hand in things like de-extinct the Passenger Pigeon, or rewilding things like the black-footed ferret. I see more genetic diversity into that. And of course, famously the woolly mammoth is also part of that whole view of how do we actually be good stewards to the future with these tools that we have access to today.
[00:06:14] So, all of this stuff is really just connected in a sense that these are the kinds of things that benefit from a longer time scale. And if we can really think about how we're connected as ancestors to people that are going to be here in thousands of years, it just takes, it adds a different flavor component to the kinds of things you're thinking about. It kind of shifts your thinking a little bit.
[00:06:32] Jackson Steger: I really appreciate you providing all of that background. And while you were speaking about the clock, in particular, as the symbol representing future generations and how future generations might touch it in the same way that we can connect with past generations at the Giza pyramid, I'm reminded of a book I was recently reading, called The Ministry for the Future, which is this cli-fi book about how in 20 years there will be all these climate catastrophes. And so, as a response, this global climate organization creates The Ministry for The Future, which is a legal entity that advocates and litigates on behalf of future generations since they do not have a present voice. And so, that was like a cool way to connect, thinking about the future and representing the future and going to battle for the future. So, it's all very useful.
[00:07:21] Nicholas Paul Brysiewicz: Yeah, that author, Kim Stanley Robinson, has given a number of talks for us before. So, those talks are freely available on YouTube and on our website. Kim Stan is brilliant, and that book is really interesting, very provocative.
[00:07:32] Jackson Steger: Yeah. One thing that comes to mind just thinking about the time scale of the Long Now and how it's going to outpace anyone that's alive today, how do you align incentives of individuals who are going to live 80 to 100 years with the rest of humanity? Maybe on some level there's this innate motivation of preserving the human race but still there's so many behaviors just on a day-to-day basis that aren't necessarily benefiting humans in the long run. And so, what have you seen that is an effective way to tie the short-term incentives of a single human life with the entire species?
[00:08:12] Nicholas Paul Brysiewicz: That's a really good question, and I think it's phrased correctly for some of the conversations that are happening today around incentive mechanism design and shaping incentive landscapes. So, the things that you want to happen end up happening because everyone's incentivized to do it.
[00:08:25] On some level, I have a lot of thoughts about this. I guess the first thing I'll say is that I don't know if the incentives end up being aligned. I think on some level we talk a lot about trusting the future. On some level, if I'm enabling someone in four generations to do something, how do I know if I want to enable them doing something unless I know of the thing they're going to do? And so, on some level it's a question you run into, I guess, if you're like a Montgomery Burns type character and you have to drop up a will for your grandchildren or something and you don't know what they're going to grow up and be, so you don’t know if you want to pay for them to go to college for that. You know what I mean? Like there's this question of to what extent do we know about our values being aligned with people in five generations.
[00:09:03] And I don’t know if you do. I don't know if you have to though. I think part of it is that element of trusting the future. It's almost like in any relationship, my experience in any relationship, equality in a relationship benefits from a certain level of trust. If I walk into a situation, if you and I are sitting in a restaurant together and I walk in, and I immediately start acting, I think you're going to rob me or hurt me, or in some way, be the kind of person I can't trust, if that's the way I enter into that relationship, it's going to affect an almost like observer observed quantum mechanical way.
[00:09:32] What ends up happening, if I enter into the conversation with somebody online, although this person's an idiot and I'm going to show everybody how much of an idiot they are, then they're going to come at me in a certain way that's very different than if I enter into it with generosity of spirit. And I think entering into a relationship with the future with that generosity of spirit is both obviously the right answer to me. And I also think like it's very parsimonious. You don't have to do nine-dimensional chess on incentive landscapes to think about, well, if I do this, and then they would do that, but then I would do this. And you get into this kind of game theoretical thing that feels really reassuring if you are looking for a sense of control.
[00:10:06] So, what I'm appealing to is like absolutely the opposite control. It's absolutely getting comfortable with letting go of control, and saying, you know what, I think in five generations they're going to know what they need better than I do. So, what I'd like to do is preserve options for them. So, things like, I don't know if they're going to need to speak 3,000 languages, but you know, I'd like to preserve those languages just in case they want to. And once the language is extinct, once the animal is extinct, once the ecosystem is gone, then it's no longer an option for them. But if I can maintain it, if I can preserve it for them, then at the very least they can make that decision for themselves.
[00:10:37] So, I think the ethics of multi-generational collaboration is less about getting solid alignment or feeling good about alignment or controlling for alignment and more about kind of reaching into that place inside of yourself that's I'm going to let the other be other and I'm going to hope for the best, I'm going to expect for the best, and I'm going to enter into that relationship with the generosity of spirit that allows that stuff to come forward.
[00:11:00] Jackson Steger: And that answer instinctively really makes sense to me. I even think about, like in the context of my own life, making decisions on behalf of future Jackson and wanting to know that in my career I'm trying to preserve optionality such that I don't know exactly what situation future Jackson will be in, and if I can give him the right options and give him the chance to pick from a menu of skills or abilities or opportunities, then I think I'm doing right by him, and I do trust him innately. So, I like applying that mindset for future generations of humans too.
[00:11:30] I'm curious then just in the structure and in the operations of Long Now itself as a foundation, how do you raise capital for the foundation? How do you find people interested in contributing? And then how are you, as director of strategy, setting strategy on such long-time horizons? How have you chosen the projects that you do focus on?
[00:11:53] Nicholas Paul Brysiewicz: Yeah. Upfront, how do we raise capital? We have a couple of different things we do. One, we have these big projects, big moonshot projects, like the clock in the Long Now. And a lot of times, for these kinds of things, we find individual patrons that understand why these projects are important, or really excited by them, and are able to actually support these things coming into being. And so, that's usually the way that we'll do something like that.
[00:12:13] But there's all this other operational stuff. How do I stay involved with this kind of a thing, how do we find the risk capital to try new projects out or enter into these conversations with all of these experts. And that stuff mostly comes from, we have 12,000 members across 64 countries, and some of these folks are kicking in 8 bucks a month, either their members of basic level on Netflix, and some of them have the ability and the inclination to kick in a lot more. And through that, through having lots of donors and members all around the world, we’re able to keep doing this work at a really high level and doing really exciting things because we have so many people who are involved. So, we have a bimodal strategy, where we have some individuals who are really making certain things happen that wouldn't happen without their support. But then we've got a distributed group of people who are really in support of this stuff and want to see us continue to be a foundation.
[00:12:57] Again, this organization has been around for over a quarter century now. So, we're moving into our second quarter, which we're calling our Q2. So, we're moving into Q2, the next quarter century. And as the director of strategy, thinking about what does it mean to support an organization on a hundred-year or a thousand-year time scale? At these time scales, you're looking at things like the United States dollar, and you're going, wait, are we even going to pay with dollars in a thousand years? What is this going to be? I imagine we're probably not paying with dogecoins, but you know what? I could be wrong about that. I've been wrong about a few things with dogecoin. So, you never know.
[00:13:26] But like the idea is I don't even like the ontological dimension of what does it mean to raise funds. It becomes a really interesting question on these time scales, and you start thinking about it differently. The way I think about it and the way I'm kind of structuring the strategy that I'm trying to advance through Long Now is that basically an institution only collapses when it's no longer delivering value to the people around it. And if the people around an institution, whatever kind of institution, it’s a library, ballet, or an orchestra, or a museum, or a soup kitchen or any kind of entity that people are getting a ton of value out of, is going to keep the lights on.
[00:14:00] And so, those relationships, those human connections, like the one that we're building here now, and if anybody's watching online, they're kind of feeling connected to this conversation, these human relationships and the ability to feel like this is our people that I care about, they’re involved with this thing, and I like that project, and we all like this project, that kind of thing matters, I think, the most. So, most of what I'm trying to do is cultivate a sense of connection between human beings and these projects and these ideas, such that there's enough people moving in and out of these doors of the abstract institution, that it's never left empty, it's never left vacant, it's never left really needing to go out hat in hand and try to get supported.
[00:14:37] But then there's constantly like a group of people who are like this is really great, I'm glad the world has something like this in it, and I would be really sad if the world didn't have something like this in it. And as long as you have people who feel like that, I guess maybe the technical word here is just ‘care’. As long as people care about something, it's going to last. And so, how can the Long Now Foundation be the kind of thing that people care about and want to care for? That's the strategy in the development stuff that we're…when I think about hundred or thousand years, that's really what rises to the surface.
[00:15:06] Jackson Steger: Yeah. So, we've I think all got some things wrong with dogecoin, but I appreciate that answer, Nick. And I want to now rely on that framework that you mentioned at the beginning of the recording, which is that you look at the last 10,000 years in order to look at the next 10,000 to think about cities because, here on this podcast on Campfire, we're talking about how to build cities and tactics for building cities. And then more broadly at Cabin, we're thinking about how do we build a city that lasts for a very long time and is part of this. We believe that if nation states were the past iteration of how countries are formed, that network states are this possible future, and we want to set up our network state to last for a while. Our roadmap goes into the year 2525, for example. And when it comes to cities, I first want to look at the past. And as you look around at the major cities of the world, especially the ones that have been around for centuries and not decades, which to you have stood the test of time and why?
[00:16:08] Nicholas Paul Brysiewicz: The answer to that is just like straightforward, where it's like things like Jerusalem has been a continuously inhabited city for many thousands of years. But then you get this idea of, okay, the city is an idea and the city is a metaphor, right? When we talk about network states and using some of these things, we're pressing some of these terms into a service they're not usually pressed to do. So, I think it's worth disentangling this idea. But traditionally, I think the city of Jerusalem or Vancouver or something that we normally think of the cities, is inextricably connected to a sense of place, right? There's a placeness to it, there's awareness to it. And if you bend to some of these places, you can start to really recognize why someone thousands of years ago started hanging out here, because most cities, it's the place people are meeting up at. It's either a crossroads or it's where the good water is, or it's just a really safe place to protect.
[00:16:54] And I was just recently in Vancouver, right? I’d never been to Vancouver before. And you get to Vancouver, and you start looking around at the mountains and the water and you're like, oh, I absolutely see why thousands of years ago people decided this was the place we're going to settle down. There's just something about it in the phenomenological experience of being there. Like something in you is just having cherries wrong in your slot machine where it's like, it's just amazing. And I think most cities have some element of this.
[00:17:217 So, what's interesting when you talk about using cities now is the more expanded metaphor for what's going on. It's like it’s we're getting away from a placeness. And I think that's so central to the idea of a city, that I think once we get rid of the sense of place, what is a city is a really interesting question, and I think that's where all the fun work is being done with what you guys are doing with some other people. It's like, yeah, what is it?
[00:17:38] Because you think about something like jazz. Jazz isn't a city, and I don't think anyone would ever say jazz was a city. And yet, you've got jazz clubs all over the world, and they’re decentralized, not organized. No one votes on what kind of jazz is being played at all these jazz clubs. It's super informal. The governance is super messy and complicated, and yet there's jazz clubs. There have been jazz clubs on this planet for decades and decades, about as long as there's been jazz. There's been continuous practice of jazz. It's a continuous practice that humans engage in. And the jazz club is like the dojo for that practice. It's the training ground for that practice.
[00:18:13] So, that’s interesting. It’s like I don't think anyone would ever press the city metaphor into the jazz world, and yet I see a lot of similarities in thinking about, oh, are we moving to a space where all of a sudden, I guarantee you, the guy in the jazz club in Tokyo and the guy in the jazz club in New York and the girl in the jazz club in New Orleans, they all have something that they feel like a certain affiliation and a kind of connection. They even probably have some kind of transcendental goals that they share, like they're pushing for the flourishing of jazz or just showcasing jazz.
[00:18:40] And so, again, that's an interesting thing where it's like we talk about this stuff and we know that there's like the world of jazz, right? So, here's an interesting philosophical distinction that we might want to unpack, is like what's the difference between a city and a world? You know, a city is your world when you live in a city. You live in New York is your world, right? But we talk about people being in the world of business, people being in the world of tech, or being in the world of jazz. And so, we talk about jazz, and we already have a vernacular way of talking about world and how worlds appear around these kinds of things.
[00:19:08] And so, I almost think about these like networked worlds. I don't know how much worlding is happening there, but I think of that as like being the more accurate philosophical term that we're gesturing to when we talk about decentralized cities, because there's a world of people who care about, I don't know, fill in the blank. It's something you care about deeply. I got a guitar in the background. There's a world of guitarists, right? And guitar stores and guitar repair shops and stages with guitars waiting on them and houses with guitars in the basement. And using that as our base metaphor for understanding what are our loyalties and affiliations and like what are the things that we care about in a transcendental way where this thing continuing matters more than even me continuing, like these kinds of things we give ourselves up for or give some element of ourselves up for, the flourishing of this other thing, it's a really interesting provocation, and it's cool to see people unpacking some of these.
[00:19:56] I'm really curious, for you, how do you think about it? Do you think ‘cities’ is actually the right term, or do you have an issue with it? I’m kind of curious, how do you think about this as a city, given what we just mentioned?
[00:20:05] Jackson Steger: Yeah, I think that in your example, the world that Cabin is currently in is the world of coliving. And as I think about us building out this city vision, first, we have to be much more grounded, and can we create a coliving network for nature loving remote workers? Can we have this experience where we have our first early neighborhoods, which right now there's three of them in in Texas, Oakland, and the Sierra Nevada, where we have these really consistent experiences that are grounded around coliving, around creating, and around conserving. So, we've got a strong permaculture natural farming angle too.
[00:20:40] And so, can we have a consistent enough experience in those places? And then, can we take the people who have been early residents in these coliving environments? And can we bring them to our coliving spots in Puerto Rico or in Greece or wherever else we add a new neighborhood, and cross pollinate, for lack of a better term, the vibe? Can we bring those values from spot to spot, in the same way that in your jazz example, I'm sure jazz musicians throughout the 70’s, 80’s, like traveling around the country and playing piano at a bunch of different jazz bars, are able to bring practices that work really well in one place into the other, such that you have this emergent way that the strategy and the culture of a thing happens.
[00:21:22] And so, I think then in that context, we're just trying to also make sure, because the physical world is also concerned with something we're doing, like that we're buying properties that are raw, or we're partnering places that are raw. The Texas property, for example, is 29 acres. It's mostly undeveloped. So, we have unmaintained optionality, like you said earlier, to create and iterate on that world as we see fit and as we learn and as we see what the needs of the organization are. So yeah, super appreciate that world analogy. I'm a big, oh no about big, I'm a budding bachata dancer, which like originates in the Dominican Republic, but I live in L.A. right now, which has developed its own flavor of bachata, called L.A. Bachata. And you go to Spain, and Spain has its own version of bachata, but it's all still grounded in the same like basic step, and then there's just different like flavors and spices aligned with it.
[00:22:15] Nicholas Paul Brysiewicz: Do you see, like a way of being at these various centers that you're setting up, do you see it the way of being like the standard step and that people are putting their own variations on it, and as they move between places, maybe there's like cross-pollination of like a genre like adaptations a little bit? Is that kind of how you guys think about it?
[00:22:31] Jackson Steger: Definitely. I think that everyone brings their own vision into something like Cabin and that we are co-creating the experience to a degree. Right now, there's a gentleman on the Austin neighborhood, his name is Charlie, he's an architectural engineer, and what he's bringing is this building skillset and this orientation for developing housing at one-tenth the cost of developing that kind of housing in SF or actual downtown Austin might be.
[00:23:00] And so, now there's this whole other part of Cabin that, like Charlie, is helping to maybe make happen, which is we're addressing a housing crisis problem if we're able to create a supply of housing that is dramatically cheaper and easier to build. And so, that's an angle to our organization that didn't exist six, eight months ago, and now we're able to do that in tandem with the original like prefab modular housing stuff that we had in our beginning, and we're only 18 months old. And to see how that direction in the like Pacific housing has changed has been really exciting, and I see that across a bunch of different pace layers, as Stewart would say.
[00:23:34] Given all of looking to the past and a little bit to the present in that conversation there, I want to also look to the future, and the Long Now tweeted back in September Peter Calthorpe’s 7 principles of sustainable urban design. 1) to preserve natural ecologies; 2) to plan mixed use development; 3) decrease block size; 4) build public space; 5) design for bikes and pedestrians; 6) enhance public transit; and 7) to stop using freeways as the framework for cities.
[00:24:06] So, hearing that list, does that make sense with your orientation on preserving optionality in the Long Now? Is there anything that in there you want to elaborate on or any additions that you would include? How should city builders think about building metropolises and Metropoly that last for a millennium?
[00:24:25] Nicholas Paul Brysiewicz: Yeah. Okay. I'm certainly no expert on Peter Calthorpe, but he was a dock resident here on this particular dock, here in Sausalito. And so, a lot of his stuff about walkable cities and stuff was developed here. He's also, of course, given some Long Now talks as well, which everybody can check out.
[00:24:40] So I love that you brought that up. When we think about cities, I think what's helpful is looking at things like pace layers diagrams, books like How Buildings Learn that Stewart Brand wrote, people like Peter Calthorpe, getting into the canon of what it means to really think about planning cities. But then I also think there's something really important about experiencing other people's attempts to rethink cities. And I'm saying this in a super biased way because I just got back from Arizona where I went to go see also Paolo Soleri’s kind of utopian vision for a different kind of architectural dwelling in the 1970s. And of course, it's all made out of concrete and clay. And it's just, it's a very, you know, it's a dense, it's meant to be dense. It's meant to basically be the opposite of Phoenix, Arizona. The Phoenix, Arizona puts automobiles up on a pedestal, and everything's basically built around the giant truck. Arcosanti doesn't have it. You park your car out front and that's the last you see your car, and you can still have an entire city experience there. That was the idea, right?
[00:25:34] And so, you see what works there. And what didn't work for yourself, I’m going back to that felt sense that you feel like when you're in Vancouver and you're like this is the place for a city, go see what other utopian cities are like and really kind of sit there and see what strikes you because you’re the future that they imagine trusting and that they wanted to preserve optionality for. A lot of these places are available for you to go be in, and I think the best measurement of the quality of a city is simply just being in it. You know, you could look at metrics, you could look at quantitative measures of all these different things about a city, kind of like looking at biometrics or to diagnose somebody, but I think there's no substitute for simply just being there and seeing what it feels. We all know what it feels like something to be in New York. Hopefully everyone gets to go to New York and see what that's like. It's one of my favorite feelings. Everyone knows what it feels like to be in San Francisco. And then it's like, what does it feel like to be in Arcosanti? I can tell you, it felt strange. There were things that they really nailed that were really interesting. There were some things where I was like, oh, of course this will never work, and you can see with fresh eyes that maybe it was different back then.
[00:26:33] But I think anybody embarking on an experimental path, meaning like blazing a trail where there isn't really any prior. No one's come up with a dance step yet. This is a new dance step, right? If you're doing that, I think it's almost like indispensable to just go use yourself. You are the ultimate scientific, empirical instrument for really measuring whether these things were good ideas or bad ideas and what parts of it were. If you can diagnose it and pick a part, this stuff was good, I want to keep this stuff, it's for the birds. We have a unique opportunity to live in kind of the wake of a lot of this experimentation from the sixties and the seventies, and I would just encourage people to go check this stuff out for themselves. It's out there. They'll be excited to see you. They'll be excited to hear that the dream is still alive, again, in a different register. Jazz continues today, but the genre changes in jazz have been significant since it was really brought here. So, I think similarly in city building and city planting.
[00:27:23] Jackson Steger: Yeah, it's a really interesting example too because the first episode of this season featured Phil Levin, who is one of the founders of Culdesac, which is also an Arizona walkable city project but the 2020’s version.
[00:27:35] Cool. I want to transition a little bit away from cities and more just into like organizations more broadly. So, you have a project that’s called The Organizational Continuity Project. And just reading through the page that you have here, one, I just, I think it's really cool that the way you all write years on your website are with five digits. So, for example, this project started in the year 02019. So, I like just having that extra digit for that long-term vision. And you write about, in the business world, average company lifespans are shrinking at a rate of one year per year. And Cabins are not a business. Technically, we operate as a DAO, but like I said, we have this long roadmap that goes for another 500 years.
[00:28:16] So, can you just share what the organizational continuity project is and what the foundation has learned from an engineering governance standpoint? Like what mechanisms help organizations like the U.N., for example, or just other corporate organizations last for hundreds of years?
[00:28:35] Nicholas Paul Brysiewicz: Yeah, that's a great question. I also think this is a cool project. Basically, when you're running something like the Long Now Foundation, people find you, and they want to tell you about their business that's been around for a hundred years, 200 years, 300 years, and you eventually start collecting these names, and you're thinking, we should really go see what these folks know. And they've obviously figured something out if you've got a business that's been continually operational for 800 years.
[00:28:57] And so, Alexander Rose, who was one of the lead designers and engineers on the clock of the Long Now and the executive director of the Long Now Foundation, he had spent so much of his life thinking about how you would design a mechanism that would last for 10,000 years. What size did it have to be, what materials did it have to be out. So, all these interesting, mostly scientific questions, very empirical questions about how would you build this so that it doesn’t go out of function in 10,000 years. And as that project got closer and closer to being more and more complete, he was also thinking about, how do I keep this foundation running? And so, he started looking back at these lists of people who have reached out and says, I’ve got to go visit these folks.
[00:29:34] So, this project is led by Alexander Rose, and he's going and interviewing people who are like, for example, he was just talking to somebody in Japan who is the 47th generation proprietor of a ryokan in Japan and is the first woman in that entire lineage of proprietors. And so, just like sitting down and having a cup of tea or enjoying some sushi in Japan with these folks or probably having a beer in Germany and talking to people, and some of the oldest run businesses are breweries, brasseries distilleries, this kind of a thing. And you know, of course, Japan has a high concentration of them. Germany has a bunch. I mean I just recently learned that Zildjian Cymbals, the drum symbol company, they started as a gong manufacturer in the Ottoman Empire, and the CEO's last name is still Zildjian. So, there's a business that's been around for hundreds of years.
[00:30:18] And so, just like Alexander really started to talk with these folks, collect insights from them. As far as conclusions go, I think you're going to probably have to wait for the book and some reports on the project. Those are forthcoming. But there are certain things that you learn, and you do see a lot of family-owned businesses. You do see a lot of businesses that are tied to a sense of place. Now, if you're running a hot spring, but hot spring is not moving when you decide to go to college across the country or something. So, you can't really take it with you. So, there's a placeness, there's a kind of this inertia to where things are located. But something like Zildjian started in the Ottoman Empire, and I think it's based in Massachusetts now? It's an important part of the inertia, but it's not the whole equation. Things do move.
[00:30:53] So, it's super interesting. I think like Alexander spent some interviewing these folks, visiting these places, and the next phase of that project is going to be distilling and publishing a lot of those insights. There's some really good ones. I've heard a few of them, but I think I’ve got to leave all those fun surprises for him to deliver.
[00:31:07] Jackson Steger: Appreciate that. Moving to close here at the beginning, we got a brief overview of the different kinds of projects that the Long Now is working on. And so, you talked about the Rosetta Project that's now on like a comet, which is super sick, and all these other blueprints for civilization that you've put together. One project that I just want to close on is this Long Bets project. So, for the listeners, could you explain what the Long Bets is, is this arena for accountable predictions? And then are there any Long Bets that you have made or are there any predictions that you would like to leave listeners with as like a bet that you might put on that platform?
[00:31:48] Nicholas Paul Brysiewicz: That's a really good one. I actually don't have any active bets on Long Bets but let me tell the listeners and the viewers what it's all about. Basically, the idea is when you are in the conversation about thinking about the future, a lot of people are very excited to share what they think the future is going to be. But there’s no cause. There’s no griefing mechanism, right? There's no staking mechanism that's going to all of a sudden we incentivize these people to be quiet when they don't yet really know what they're talking about.
[00:32:09] So, we wanted to create a place that would be stable across time where you can make these kinds of bets that might take 10 years, might even take a hundred years for this bet to come to fruition, but it's an important thing. And we want to see who's good at predicting the future. I mean like any prediction market, most prediction markets are much more near-term focused. Maybe think about it like as one of the slowest prediction markets out there, where I think self-driving cars won't be able to do X, Y, Z thing by this year. So, it has to be bounded bet so that people can adjudicate it.
[00:32:38] And so, a lot of these bets, they're really interesting. The big one for us was Warren Buffett bet a hedge fun, that the S&P 500 would outperform that hedge fund net of fees across a 10-year period, which I mean every hedge fund has to take that bet. And Warren Buffett happened to pick a particularly auspicious period of time for the S&P 500, and I think in 2017 that bet came to a wrap, and Warren Buffet ended up winning. The winnings for Long Bets go to a charity of the winner's choice. So, rather than being, again, much more like an Augur, another kind of prediction market where you can make money on your bets, this is really about just bragging rights. You get some serious bragging rights. But if you're Warren Buffett, you could have a seven-figure check because that bet was pretty big, and we'll take big bets, we'll take small bets. I think the smallest bet we'll do is like 200 bucks. So, if you've got somebody that has the other side of a bet, it's pretty clearly defined in bragging right forever.
[00:33:28] The Long Now Foundation, we've got your back, and you should do a Long Bet. It's www.longbets.org. As to what would I bet, I really, honestly I haven't really thought about this too much because I think I'm mostly in the space where I'm trying to advocate for humility and just the sense of, hey, there's a mystery out there, and I'm not really…I'll be honest, I'm not really sure how much I know about what the future is going to be like. So, for me, I think about what the past is like, and I guess maybe one of the bets I might take is I think when you think about what people are going to drink on Mars, you know, or something, a Mars colony, what are we going to drink on Mars, you'd probably be tempted to think it's going to be some kind of like chemical soup thing in a steel suit that goes up your nose, I would bet you people are drinking red wine on Mars because I think red wine is what humans have been drinking for thousands of years, and I imagine that eventually, once we get settled there and people aren't dying on impact, I think someone's going to pop a really nice bottle of red. And so, that would be at my Long Bet.
[00:34:22] Now, who wants to take the other side of that bet for me? If anybody does, saying in here now, people think we will not drink a glass of red wine on Mars, we can pick a date, I'll take the other side of that bet. That sounds interesting to me.
[00:34:33] Jackson Steger: That’s a great example. And just for listeners, so that they know, right now you can see that Predictor Martin Rees, on this website at www.longbets.org, wrote in, it looks like 2017, that a bioterror or bioterror will lead to one million casualties in a single event within a six-month period, starting no later than December 31, 2020. Absolutely called that with COVID, and as a result, it looks like the challenger paid $400 to give, well, for having that wrong.
[00:35:07] So, Cool. Thank you so much, Nick, for joining.
[00:35:10] Nicholas Paul Brysiewicz: Thank you Jackson.
[00:35:12] Jackson Steger: If listeners want to learn more about the Long Now Foundation, where would you like to direct them?
[00:35:17] Nicholas Paul Brysiewicz: www.longnow.org is the place to go. That's www.longnow.org. And everything's there, and we would love to have you as a member. We'd love to have you stop by the interval for a drink anytime you're in San Francisco. And Jackson, I hope we get a chance to meet in person at some point, but in the meantime, have a great time surfing in Hawaii.
[00:35:35] Jackson Steger: Thanks so much. Have a great rest of your day.
[00:35:37] Nicholas Paul Brysiewicz: You too. Take care.
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