cover image The Clock of the Long and Now: Time and Responsibility

The Clock of the Long and Now: Time and Responsibility

Stewart Brand. Basic Books, $22 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-465-04512-9

The image of our planet on the cover of Brand's Whole Earth Catalog communicated a powerful symbol of the big picture. Brand's new, mind-stretching book challenges readers to get outside themselves and combat the short-term irresponsible thinking that has led to environmental destruction and social chaos. Brand also eloquently urges us to distill and preserve knowledge. Though we seem to live in an age of information overload (each new U.S. president leaves behind more papers than all the previous ones combined), Brand contends that we actually inhabit an age of rapid information loss. Because of changing storage media, as one researcher has quipped, ""digital information lasts forever--or five years, whichever comes first."" Time capsules don't solve the problem, for 70% of them are lost almost immediately after being sealed. Brand envisages two monuments that will incorporate the long view into our common consciousness. The first is a giant, exquisitely slow clock. It would be big enough to walk around in, and it would display the year, positions of the sun and moon, generations and millennia. The second is the ""Ten-Thousand Year Library,"" a vast underground labyrinth of books. Here we'd preserve enormous amounts of knowledge from history and other long-perspective disciplines. These ideas deserve more than 15 minutes of fame. Quotable quotes, plentiful paradoxes and humane values make this a book to be savored and discussed--slowly. (June)