Pages: pp. 44-46
As we transition collectively into another millennium, we are also experiencing a most remarkable development. Under our own control and incentive, we can now create and instantly share our individual intellectual resources through a worldwide computer network. This phenomenon is simplistically summed up as "the Internet." Many individuals from diverse communities have contributed their unique facets to this phenomenon. With the blessing of the IEEE Computer Society's Internet Computing Editorial Board, I have the honor of assembling a "Millennium Mosaic" to celebrate the Internet and its developers.
The concept is simple: challenge people who significantly contributed to the Internet phenomenon over the past three decades to pause and project where it is going during the first decade of the new millennium.
Given all the facets of this mosaic, implementing the concept was an editorial challenge. The matter was facilitated, however, by a piece of paper I've kept for nearly 20 years—known simply as "Lukasik's List." As perhaps the ultimate, nearly invisible strategic technology mastermind of our times, Steve Lukasik assembled his own personal cabinet of technical genius, innovation, and counsel in the early 1980s. About half of the contributors to this issue were drawn from that list.
Lukasik's List didn't account, however, for many subsequent critically enabling communities, such as the entrepreneurs who dared to venture and scale in the marketplace, or the innovators who dreamed of virtual worlds and wrote the code to make them happen, or the press who understood what was happening and penned the lyrics to capture public imagination, or the leaders who pushed a clear path through regulatory brambles and universal bureaucracy.
On behalf of IEEE Internet Computing, I wish to thank these 20 Internet stars. We hope you enjoy their observations and forecasts. Happy new millennium!
"I have a recurring dream of a big, slow clock in a faraway place. . .," writes Danny Hillis in "The Impatient Pendulum" ( Forbes ASAP, 30 November 1998). "This is the clock that connects the motions of the sun and the moon and the stars to the mundane calendars of humankind. Wound by human caretakers in quiet ceremony, it patiently counts the millennia."
On the cover of this issue of IEEE Internet Computing is a model for Hillis's 10,000-Year Clock. As we go to press, the recently completed 8-foot tall prototype is scheduled to "bong" twice on 1 January 2000. To follow is a city Clock, a 20-foot tall structure to be housed in a museum or similar building in an urban area; and a desert Clock, which, at a height of 60 feet, will reside in an outdoor and protected, yet accessible, place—most likely in the southwestern United States.
Made of Bronze-Age materials and powered by the "world's slowest computer," Hillis's patented binary digital-mechanical system, the Clock will be accurate to one day in 20,000 years. The Clock face displays the year (based on the Gregorian calendar), the positions and local rising and setting times of the sun and moon, and the locally visible star field, which will adjust to the earth's rotation, seasonal shifts, and the precession of the equinoxes.
Hillis, who authored the concept of "massively parallel" supercomputers, first envisioned the Clock in 1993 as a way to start people thinking of—and feeling responsibility for—the future beyond 2000. According to Hillis, we allow the millennium to act as a barrier between ourselves and the future. He writes, "It's as if the future has been shrinking one year, per year, for my entire life. 2005 is still too far away to plan for and 2030 is too far away to even think about." The Clock will demonstrate the linearity of time—impervious to Moore's Law accelerations, climate, wars, or dark ages. It is about "time going on, not special moments in time."
The Long Now Foundation was founded in 1996 by writer Stewart Brand to gather support and funding for the Clock project and its associated library project. The Library is intended to represent "information time" much as the Clock represents physical, or Newtonian, time. "One of the fundamental mysteries of the universe to me," writes Hillis in Brand's book, The Clock of the Long Now (Basic Books, 1999), "is how one kind of time can be made out of the other—how information time can be built on top of physical time." The Library may be used as a "Responsibility Record"—an accounting of policy decisions with long-term consequences. As a repository for these policy decisions as well as longitudinal scientific studies, cultural artifacts, art, and music, the 10,000-Year Library aims to "make the world safe for rapid change."
Information on the foundation and projects can be found at http://www.longnow.org/. Details about the design principles and the options considered for the Clock can be found at http://www.longnow.org/10kclock/clock.htm.