Honest Answers about the Financial Collapse

Deregulation, Disaster, and What Happens Next
Filed under Uncategorized

Imagine a clock that marks time not only in minutes and hours, but centuries and millennia. What would that tell you?

That it’s important to think beyond the immediate, for one thing.

The financial crisis, like the energy crisis and the climate crisis, arose because of short-term, get-rich now, pay later thinking. Apart from a general sense of greed that surrounds our culture, we have not developed the foresight, thoughtfulness and concern necessary to preserve and protect those who come after us. Last week, Barack Obama had to warn us that solving the problems we face might take longer than “one term,” as if fixing the many broken parts of our economy, not to mention the planet, isn’t going to take decades (once we actually start).

To illustrate the relationship between time and responsibility, a group of interesting folks are planning to build a “clock of the long now” in Nevada – it will tick once a year, and cuckoo every 1,000 years. The non-profit “Long Now Foundation” wants to “provide counterpoint to today’s “faster/cheaper” mind set and promote “slower/better” thinking.” As they explain, “we are trying to stretch out what people consider as now.”

In a book about the project, Stewart Brand proposes a 10,000 year library that would contain a “Responsibility Record” — to “make decision-makers accountable to posterity as well as to their present constituents.” But it’s hard to imagine our elected officials and corporate executives thinking beyond the next election or stockholder meeting. I can tell you from first hand observation that most members of the House of Representatives weren’t thinking beyond the end of the week when the bailout legislation was first sent to Capitol Hill in September.

What does a future produced by short-term thinking look like? Read the fascinating new novel Anathem, by Neal Stephenson. On a world much like Earth, all scientific knowledge is protected and advanced by people who live in secular monasteries. They are separated from the rest of the distracted and oblivious population by walls whose gates may open only once every year – or once every thousand years – to seed the inhabitants of the planet with the knowledge they had long ago forgotten.

Comments Off on Now v. Later Posted by Harvey Rosenfield on Monday, November 10th, 2008

You can follow any responses to this entry through the magic of "RSS 2.0" and leave a trackback from your own site.

Comments are closed.