Stewart Brand, builder of the world’s slowest computer

There’s an interesting story in today’s New York Times about a man named Stewart Brand. Brand was the publisher of the original Whole Earth Catalog, and an early leader of the environmental movement.

Stewart Brand has become a heretic to environmentalism, a movement he helped found, but he doesn’t plan to be isolated for long. He expects that environmentalists will soon share his affection for nuclear power. They’ll lose their fear of population growth and start appreciating sprawling megacities. They’ll stop worrying about “frankenfoods” and embrace genetic engineering.

I was particularly intrigued by this:

Mr. Brand’s latest project, undertaken with fellow digerati, is to build the world’s slowest computer, a giant clock designed to run for 10,000 years inside a mountain in the Nevada desert, powered by changes in temperature. The clock is an effort to promote long-term thinking.

Taking a look at the NYT article just for a peak at his clock will be worth your time.

The thing I like about his clock project is its long-term perspective. Our energy and environmental policies tend to be very short-term; a decade at the most. At times, we need short-term solutions to problems, but we also need long-term solutions. What energy policies will keep us going for 100 years? 1000 years? 2000 years? Coal certainly won’t do it. Neither will fission-based nuclear power (which Brand advocates). Uranium, too, is a limited natural resource. The long-term possibilities: solar, wind, fusion (will it ever work?), and technologies that we might not be even dreaming about yet.

(Yes, I know that Christ could return tomorrow. But he could conceivably wait another 2000 years as well. We don’t know, and need to live as if he could come back on either timescale).

Grace and Peace

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