“I cannot imagine the future, but I care about it. I know I am a part of a story that starts long before I can remember and continues long beyond when anyone will remember me. … I want to build a clock that ticks once a year. The century had advances once every 100 years, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium for the next 10,000 years.”
These are the words of Danny Hillis, an inventor and computer theorist responsible for designing the 10,000 Year Clock. The project is many years in the making, an endeavor advanced by Hillis and the Long Now Foundation. The idea first entered his mind in 1989. An eight-foot prototype was built nearly a decade later in 1999, ushering in the new millennia with two chimes in front of a small crowd in San Francisco. Now, 18 years later, work begins on the real thing.
As you read this, dedicated teams in California and Seattle are working on putting together the 200-foot tall clock. A separate team in Texas is hollowing out a 500-foot cavern in a mountain that will house the impressive structure. What’s Bezos’ involvement? He’s financing the project, providing $42 million in funding and donating the mountain (yes, it’s his mountain) that will be the clock’s eventual home.
“It’s a special Clock, designed to be a symbol, an icon for long-term thinking.” – Jeff Bezos
The clock will tick forward only once a year. It will feature a chime generator capable of creating totally unique bell sequences every day for 10,000 years, totaling more than 3.5 million combinations. The construct will feature five chambers. One will display a model of our solar system (which includes interplanetary probes launched in the 20th century). This chamber will animate once every year. The other four chambers will follow a similar formula, activating every 10, 100, 1,000, and 10,000 years, though the themes are yet to be determined with the latter three chambers to be designed by future generations. Finally, once every millennium, a cuckoo will emerge, echoing Hillis’ original vision.
As its name suggests, the 10,000 Year Clock is designed to run for 10,000 years, powered by day and night thermal cycles and a weight that can be wound by visitors. To ensure longevity, the build consists of a mix of 316L stainless steel and hi-tech ceramics to avoid the metals fusing, a real concern because the clock advances so slowly. Furthermore, the climate inside the mountain is a consistent 55-degrees F, so engineers don’t have to worry about destructive freeze-thaw cycles.
The final structure will be open to the public, but it’s not expected to be an easy journey. According to Bezos, “the nearest airport is several hours away by car, and the foot trail to The Clock is rugged, rising almost 2,000 feet above the valley floor.”
Installation has begun—500 ft tall, all mechanical, powered by day/night thermal cycles, synchronized at solar noon, a symbol for long-term thinking—the #10000YearClock is coming together thx to the genius of Danny Hillis, Zander Rose & the whole Clock team! Enjoy the video. pic.twitter.com/FYIyaUIbdJ
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) February 20, 2018
It’s an ambitious endeavor, reminiscent of the kind of project that would have happened in another day and age. Another thing to add to the bucket list.
To learn more, visit 10,000 Year Clock.