Longplayer is Jem Finer's intriguing project to write and perform a one thousand year long musical composition: "It began playing at midnight on the 31st of December 1999, and will continue to play without repetition until the last moment of 2999, at which point it will complete its cycle and begin again". As part of it, he has launched Longplayer letters and invited thinkers and writers to engage in an ongoing chain of correspondence on the subject of long-term thinking. The first is a provocative letter from Brian Eno who writes of how, inspite of the fact that our geographical ‘circle of empathy’ is expanding, our view of time, and our future horizon and backwards view, are not:
“In terms of time, however, the picture seems to be narrowing. Public attention is increasingly focused on very near futures: businesses live in terror of the bottom line and the quarterly results, while politicians quake at tomorrow’s opinion polls and formulate policy in terms of them. We’ve heard tales of farmers planting olive trees or vineyards for their grandchildren to harvest, or of foresters cultivating groves of oaks to replace a chapel roof hundreds of years in the future, but by and large, we don’t do that anymore. We have less active engagement with our future than our ancestors did.”
Eno goes on to talk about how our appetite for robust solutions and quantifiable activity ("it’s very natural to think that the best way to defend any system is by hardening it so it becomes unassailable") can reduce our capability to evolve, adapt and improvise to deal with unpredictable events. Fascinating.
HT @paul_armstrong for the link