Long Now

Since I finished reading and watching the Turing lectures I’ve been listening to the Long Now Foundation’s monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking, hosted by Stewart Brand. I’ve followed the Long Now Foundation sporadically since it was established in 1996, and have shared their collection of essays with friends and colleagues many times over the years, but I wasn’t aware of the seminars until recently.

I’ve also been reading John Markoff’s new biography of Stewart Brand, Whole Earth: the Many Lives of Stewart Brand. Brand is a fascinating figure. In the 1960s alone he studied photography under Minor White (one of my favorite photographers), appeared in Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and operated a camera at The Mother of All Demos. He went on to publish The Whole Earth Catalog and CoEvolution Quarterly, co-found the WELL, and co-chair the Long Now Foundation.

Brand deserves a better biography than Markoff has written. I read two of Markoff’s books in the mid-1990s, Takedown and Cyberpunk, when I was interested in hacker culture. I don’t remember his writing being as stilted as it is in Whole Earth, which reads like patched-together interview notes, but I had lower expectations twenty years ago. I’ve kept at it because the subject is so interesting.