The Conversations at The Interval
Interval events are lectures and discussions about topics including art, design, history, nature, technology, and time. They take place on Tuesday nights a couple times a month and feature artists, authors, entrepreneurs, scientists, and others who bring a long-term perspective.
Below you'll find information about upcoming and previous talks. All events are recorded and will eventually be released online. Video and audio of a select group of past talks is available on this site. We also have nearly 200 videos in our Seminar series which you can watch for free.
Upcoming Salon Talks
Previous Salon Talks
November 13, 02018
The legacy of Ursula K Le Guin lives beyond the page in generations of writers who have learned from her. She used fantastic fiction to imagine ideals for the real world. Kim Stanley Robinson, her student 40 years ago and now a celebrated science fiction writer himself, reflects on Le Guin the teacher, her impact on his work, and how she changed the world.
October 2, 02018
Fred Lyon is a time traveler with a camera and tales to tell. At 94-years-old, this former LIFE magazine photographer and fourth generation San Franciscan has an eye for the city and stories to match. We showed photos from Fred's books San Francisco, Portrait of a City: 1940-1960 and San Francisco Noir, and images spanning his diverse career. In conversation he'll discuss his art, work, and life; recollections of old friends like Herb Caen and Trader Vic Bergeron; and more. He shared his unique perspective after nearly a century in San Francisco.
September 18, 02018
The invisible backbone of our food system is a man-made, distributed, and perpetual winter of refrigeration we've built for our food to live in. It has remade our entire relationship with food, for better and in some ways for worse. The time has come for us all to explore the mysteries of the artificial cryosphere. We need to understand refrigeration's scope and impact in order to take stock of what’s at stake and make sure that the many benefits of our network of thermal control outweigh the enormous costs. Nicola Twilley is writing the first comprehensive look at the global cold chain, due out in 02019.
September 4, 02018
The ambition to think on the scale of thousands, millions, even billion of years emerged in the 19th century. Historian and author Caroline Winterer chronicles how the concept of “deep time” has inspired and puzzled thinkers in cognitive science, art, geology (and elsewhere) to become one of the most influential ideas of the modern era.
August 14, 02018
Recent data shows damage from climate change rapidly increasing. There are many scientifically proposed methods (from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.K. Royal Society, and the American Geophysical Union among others) for directly reducing atmospheric heat. Yet to date there are still no formal research programs or capabilities to further explore these geoengineering ideas. What are the potential risks and benefits? How do we balance this effort vs. emissions reduction and restoring the natural system? Kelly Wanser of SilverLining discusses her work advocating, educating and coordinating research on this important effort to combat climate change.
July 31, 02018
An Open Source pioneer, Brian Behlendorf now leads the effort to build the infrastructure for trust as a service. In the past he helped build the foundations of the Web with the Apache Foundation and brought Open Source to the enterprise with Collab.net. At The Interval he’ll discuss his current work leading Hyperledger at the Linux Foundation to unlock blockchain’s potential beyond cryptocurrency.
July 17, 02018
Long Now board member Esther Dyson shares her ongoing work to move communities away from short-term thinking and into health. In conversation with previous Interval speaker Kara Platoni, she discusses how short-term desire is addiction, affecting not just individuals but institutions and culture. Dyson’s founded the 10-year Wellville project, now underway in five communities across the US, to tap into people’s natural resilience and build long-term desire: purpose.
July 10, 02018
Scifi author, scientist, and entrepreneur Hannu Rajaniemi discusses the real life late Victorian attempts to map the afterlife which inspired Summerland, his latest novel.
June 26, 02018
An environmental researcher examines perceptions of energy use & conservation and asks how we can inspire behavioral change and policy support in individuals and the public at large. With a background in environmental engineering and training in cognitive science, Dr. Attari searches for the narratives that can help us improve our environmental decision-making
May 15, 02018
The world's first crowd-sourced project, the first Edition OED took 70 years and the work of hundreds of people to complete. Dr Sarah Ogilvie (Stanford) shares the untold stories of the volunteers who created the Oxford English Dictionary from her new research.
May 8, 02018
Science fiction does more than predict future inventions. Stories are a testbed for exploring the unexpected ways people could incorporate technology into their cultures. Science journalist and novelist Annalee Newitz will discuss how scientists, innovators, and the rest of us benefit from the crucible of imaginative fictions.
April 17, 02018
The future of privacy begins with the current state of surveillance. The 21st century practices of US intelligence agencies push the technological, legal and political limits of lawful surveillance. Jennifer Granick is a civil liberties and privacy law expert with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who is the perfect guide to how the system works and the technological and political means we have to defend our privacy.
April 10, 02018
Clandestine influence campaigns are rampant on social media. Whether pushing Russian agitprop or lies about vaccines, they can impact policy and make us question what is true. A technologist, Wall Street veteran, and citizen advisor to Congress, DiResta will tell us how bad it is and some things we can do.
March 27, 02018
Technology’s promise is to “save” time. Its track record in real and psychological terms is often the opposite. A sociologist of science and technology, Judy Wajcman continues her examinations of time pressure and acceleration in the digital age. Her latest work considers how calendar software interacts with the existing anxieties of our digitally driven lives.
March 6, 02018
Photojournalist Christopher Michel has traveled literally to the ends of the Earth. From the North Pole to Antarctica and even 70,000 feet up into near space. He brings back evidence and observations from his travels. “Big Here” is the corollary to the Long Now, from Brian Eno's original essay, and Chris will truly expand our knowledge of this planet with his talk and photos from his journeys.
February 6, 02018
Our century’s frontier is biological: how can we best set our course to take life forward? Megan Palmer, a scientist and engineer by training, now focuses on where synthetic biology meets (and will meet) policy. She'll discuss her work on standards and practices to assure synthetic biology will be safe, responsible and good for the world.
January 30, 02018
New technologies can change the lives of individuals and disrupt businesses and markets. They also may bring up moral questions, both new and everlasting. The Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi will discuss ethics, governance and moral purpose in our time of dawning AI (and into the future).
January 16, 02018
New science and tech are vastly accelerating the search for exoplanets: an effort that’s only decades old. How long until we find Earth 2.0? SETI Institute’s Senior Planetary Astronomer will update us on the latest work to find planets like Earth.
January 9, 02018
Based on four decades in technology and media, constantly in the eye of innovation, O’Reilly is starting vital conversations about our future. Be ready for keen details on how we got here, a frank assessment of emerging challenges, and a bold call to action for the sake of the generations on the horizon.
November 28, 02017
The Internet was once seen as a democratizing force, but today social media platforms have become exploitable intermediaries of political discourse. How should governments, institutions and tech companies respond? In the wake of an Internet-mediated and norm-breaking election, we've asked one of the United States' premier election law experts to speak for us about what comes next.
November 14, 02017
An R&D update from PARC, the legendary research lab. Janos Veres who heads up PARC’s Novel and Printed Electronics team discusses the materials, processes, and vision that enable the printable electronics of our near future. Joined in conversation with PARC designer, and previous Interval speaker, Mike Kuniavsky.
October 24, 02017
A veteran entrepreneur turns a satirical eye on Silicon Valley in his new science fiction novel. Rob Reid’s latest book "After On" was written in part at The Interval and actually features our establishment in the story. Set in present day San Francisco, the story includes an app gone wild, super AI risk, the promise & peril of synthetic biology, and lone wolf terrorism. But it’s only scifi, right?
October 17, 02017
As lying dominates politics and highly centralized entities increasingly control our media: is there any hope for honest news? These dual trends are a direct threat to our core liberties, including freedom of speech and assembly. Dan Gillmor will discuss where journalism goes from here and what, as media consumer-practitioners, we all can do.
September 26, 02017
Nikola Tesla’s wireless electrical system is more than a high voltage spectacle. Experiments with Tesla coils could help explain important questions about how lightning works. Bay Area citizen scientist Greg Leyh has built the largest
Tesla coils in the world in his quest to better understand the physics of lightning.
September 19, 02017
The human quest to understand our world continues. The Director of Stanford’s Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) discusses how academics and researchers have organized the study of human action, society, and institutions over time, how they share their findings, and what transformations we need for the future.
August 15, 02017
What place is there for art in the 21st century world of technology, business, and science? Everywhere. Award-winning cross-disciplinary artist and current SETI artist-in-residence Scott Kildall discusses collaborating with scientists, technologists, and others. He'll share his work and explain the vital role for Art Thinking as a tool that offers perspective in a dynamic, fast-moving world.
July 11, 02017
Burning Man co-founder Michael Mikel (aka Danger Ranger), who serves as Director of Advanced Social Systems for the Burning Man Project will discuss the thirty-year history of the event. Outlining the five eras of Burning Man, he will explain how over time the event and organization have evolved and been molded by external and internal forces.
June 27, 02017
Before us, after us, and without our realizing it: geology, ecology, and biology uniquely record human activity. Geoscientist Miles Traer, co-host of the podcast Generation Anthropocene uncovers the many “natures" of the San Francisco Bay Area that exist beneath our feet.
June 14, 02017
In a special daytime event co-authors Neal Stephenson (Anathem, Seveneves) and Nicole Galland (The Fool's Tale) discuss their novel The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. with Long Now’s Alexander Rose on the day after it was released. It's a book that features ancient texts, 19th century technology, time travel, a language expert protagonist, and magic. Perfect for a Long Now talk.
May 30, 02017
What tools & concepts do climate, health and security authorities rely on to evaluate potential crises? An anthropologist of science & medicine asks how preparedness became the norm for experts charged with managing uncertain futures. Lakoff's book Unprepared: Global Health in a Time of Emergency.
May 16, 02017
A special night of short talks about the long history and scientific background behind a most persistent malady. And the drinks that can help keep it at bay. Featuring returning Interval speakers James Holland Jones (Stanford), James Nestor (Deep), Kara Platoni (We Have the Technology), The Interval’s Beverage Director: Jennifer Colliau, and more.
May 9, 02017
Legendary science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson returns to The Interval to discuss his just released novel New York 2140. Robinson will discuss how starting from the most up to date climate science available to him, he derived a portrait of New York City as "super-Venice" and the resilient civilization that inhabits it in his novel. In 02016 Robinson spoke at The Interval about the economic ideas that inform New York 2140. He will be joined by futurist Peter Schwartz in conversation after his talk.
April 18, 02017
By law “speech” once meant “words,” literally. The interactions of culture, technology and the law have over time broadened that definition and expanded protections to cover images and gestures. Dr. Jennifer Petersen of UVA and CASBS review that progression and looks toward the future of whether code will be considered as speech.
March 21, 02017
As co-founder of the underwater robot maker OpenROV, David Lang can report from the front lines of the growing citizen science movement. His products enable a community of citizen ocean explorers, just as many other amateur enthusiasts around the globe use unprecedentedly powerful, cheap technologies (and the scientific method) to explore the natural world .
March 7, 02017
What qualities help assure that a community can survive the threat of disaster? The population density of cities leads to inherent vulnerabilities to mass climate disasters: such as single point of failure transit systems and utilities built prior to today's environmental realities. At the same time the resources of cities offer tremendous potential for preparation and innovation.
February 28, 02017
Organizational psychologist Tara Behrend focuses on the implications of a digitally connected world of work. As pervasive data collection becomes increasingly common in modern work and educational settings, she examines what it means for individual freedom and self-determination.
February 21, 02017
From 01960s political protests to successfully eradicating smallpox, Brilliant recalls his long, strange trips around a changing world. His personal stories include icons of the last century from Steve Jobs to MLK to the Grateful Dead. Recollections of a visionary physician, technologist, and seeker, in conversation with Long Now's Stewart Brand with whom Dr. Brilliant founded The Well online community in 01985.
February 14, 02017
Burglary reveals unexpected ways of moving through—and misusing—the built environment. In his talk Manaugh (author of the BLDGBLOG blog since 02004) discusses how, for burglars, architecture itself is a tactical tool. Seen through the lens of breaking and entering, walls become doors, sewers merely underground streets.
January 17, 02017
Rationality, a cornerstone of modern economic theory, is increasingly called into question by new behavioral research . By looking at subsistence societies, this biological anthropologist reaffirms that humans can act in their own self-interest. Bringing an evolutionary perspective to formal decision theory, Dr. Jones will explain what we can learn from the most rational people in the world.
November 15, 02016
Stanford historian Fred Turner discussed how concerns about mass media in the 01940s set the stage for not only the psychedelic 01960s, but also today's social media. This presentation connects the subjects of Turner's two most recent books: From Counterculture to Cyberculture and The Democratic Surround. Fred Turner is a two-time fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) who are co-presenting this talk.
September 27, 02016
A now extinct bird that once flocked in the billions, a casualty of industrialization, can be revived. Ben Novak, lead scientist of Revive & Restore's Passenger Pigeon Comeback discussed his work to return a species to the skies, sharing the latest developments and a broad overview of the process of genetic rescue and de-extinction.
August 23, 02016
The technological advances that make life easier also result in systems that are beyond our understanding. In his new book Overcomplicated Arbesman, a complexity scientist, discusses how we can live and thrive with advanced technologies that defy human comprehension.
July 19, 02016
Recent research shows that genetics as well as environment contribute to our political opinions. Social and political psychologist Rose McDermott of Brown Univiersity, a Stanford CASBS fellow, explains the biological foundations of ideology, how conservative and liberals react to each other's scent, and much more. From July 02016.
June 28, 02016
A philosopher considers the history of hope and its future in the epoch ahead. A tour through the theoretical, empirical, and practical dimensions of hope and how it differs from optimism followed by a conversation with Long Now co-founder Stewart Brand on hope and optimism as tools in the now and the long now.
June 7, 02016
Much of what will happen in the next 30 years is inevitable, driven by trends that are now in motion. Long Now’s Kevin Kelly shaes his thoughts on upcoming changes from virtual reality the on-demand economy and how they represent long-term, accelerating forces in this unique event in discussion with The Interval audience.
May 31, 02016
The world we live in is unprecedented: broadly connected, rapidly changing and radically contingent. The ways humans process the known and the novel have also evolved. Our speakers share their research on the emergent spectrum of the Pragmatic Imagination.
May 17, 02016
Automated systems increasingly try to predict our behavior and needs; what do we do until they get good at it? The first talk in a new series from the team at PARC, the venerable research lab, UX designer and author Mike Kuniavsky takes a clear-eyed look at the benefits and risks of a future interwoven with algorithms. From May 02016.
May 10, 02016
Humanity’s adaptation to climate change will require novel, global cooperation and societal evolution. The award-winning science fiction author of 2312, the Mars Trilogy, and Aurora shares his vision for how the world must change in advance of his 02017 novel New York 2140. Hosted by Stewart Brand. From May 02016.
April 26, 02016
With the paradox of wu-wei, Chinese thinkers anticipated aspects of modern neuroscience more than two millennia ago. Chinese language and religion scholar Edward Slingerland (author of Trying Not To Try) looks at wu-wei’s contemporary relevance to creativity, trust, virtue, and the future of human cooperation.
April 5, 02016
How will artists and architects shape the most important debate of the early 21st century? In an epoch defined by human activities, the question is not whether to geo-engineer the planet, but how to bring intentionality and consideration to that global project.
March 29, 02016
Memory is not about the past, it is about the future. Historian and media expert Abby Smith Rumsey explores how digital memory, which cannot be preserved, will shape the future of knowledge and affect our survival. From March 02016.
March 22, 02016
Isabella Kirkland's paintings are built for longevity with the hope that the images survive long after the biota are gone, to stand as mute record to their passage. Mixing old techniques, scientific acumen, and keen observation, her paintings act as snapshots of modern attitudes towards other forms of life. Unusually, Kirkland's work has exhibited about equally between art and natural history contexts. She has collaborated with Long Now’s Revive and Restore project to paint flora and fauna that are gone, going or coming back. For this special event at The Interval Kirkland discusses her artistic path over decades including the Manhattan art scene of the 01980s as well as her most recent work "Nudibranchia" which includes over 200 varieties of colorful sea slugs.
March 1, 02016
Kara Platoni went around the world to document the ways we humans are trying to expand our experience of the world beyond our basic senses. She found scientists, doctors, inventors, and cooks who are actively exploring the frontiers of perception. She gave us a taste of the science and shared amazing stories of biohackers, foodies, virtual reality researchers, and other sensory pioneers.
February 23, 02016
Millions are migrating under duress. Refugee camps the size of cities have persisted for decades. Real dangers and sensationalized fear drive short term news cycles. In a special panel discussion hosted by Long Now academics and on the ground non-profits discuss global migration, the refugee reality, and ideas for the future. From February 02016.
February 16, 02016
A special event in collaboration with Odd Salon, a group of curious historians based in San Francisco, focused on Earth's southernmost continent. With particular focus on the adventurous spirit of Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton and others of the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration at the turn of the 20th century. The night includes several short talks, a showing of the film South (01919), and a guided tour through the natural history of the bottom of the world.
February 2, 02016
A world-traveling champion of sustainable design, Thackara sees "signals of transformation" that point to an emergent economy based on stewardship, not extraction. Where communities are resilient; and soils, biodiversity, and watersheds are getting healthier. He shares findings from his lifelong search for real-world alternatives that work: from earth repair to social farming.
January 26, 02016
Historian of capitalism and author of “Borrow: The American Way of Debt” discussed deep economic history and a forgotten chapter of the New Deal era: how capitalism itself stalled in the Great Depression; and what government, allied with entrepreneurs, did to jump-start capitalism. The question is: could it happen again today? From January 02016.
January 19, 02016
The daily news tells us what happened yesterday. It rarely tells us what’s happening tomorrow. Kirk Citron curates the Long News: looking for longer-term trends that will matter for decades, centuries, even millennia.
December 14, 02015
The world traveling geologist and climate researcher shared stories, science and breath-taking images from his recent trips to the Central African nation of Chad and some of Earth’s most spectacular and least known desert sites.
November 3, 02015
Anthropologists Howard and Frances Morphy have spent decades working with and studying the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory of Australia. They shared their expertise on the Yolngu people: their mythology, language, art, and culture--including the belief in a Dreamtime (Wangarr) of world-creation which continues in the present.
October 27, 02015
Before Andy Weir's self-published novel The Martian became a New York Times bestseller and a blockbuster film, it began as a series of blog posts. Those posts, and the online conversation they sparked, reflect Andy's lifelong love of space and his detailed research into how humans could survive a journey to the fourth planet in our Solar System. In October of 02015, in his talk at The Interval, Andy skipped the fiction and discussed the details of how a real world mission to colonize Mars would work. Hosted by Long Now's Peter Schwartz.
September 29, 02015
In recent years the automation debate has returned. Author and veteran tech journalist John Markoff discusses the potential and peril in designing robots for human use.
June 23, 02015
An economist focused on green tech innovation who was a lead author on the latest IPCC Assessment Report, Dr. Bosetti will discuss how we conceptualize the risk and uncertainty of climate change.
June 16, 02015
Rick Prelinger uncovers the diverse histories of Bay Area telecommunications infrastructure: telephone, radio, television, data, image and sound. A tour of technologies, dead and flourishing, that overlay, underlay and penetrate us all.
May 21, 02015
A special daytime talk by celebrated speculative fiction author Neal Stephenson on the occasion of his just released novel "SEVENEVES". After a reading, Long Now co-founder Stewart Brand joins Neal to discuss the research and writing of the new book, plus a little bit about what is coming next. From May 02015.
May 5, 02015
Through building and analyzing systems, D. Fox Harrell's research investigates how the computer can be used to express cultural meanings through data-structures and algorithms. In his talk he showed that identities are complicated by their intersection with technologies like social networking, gaming, and virtual worlds. Data-structures and algorithms in video games and social media can perpetuate persistent issues of class, gender, sex, race, and ethnicity. They also create dynamic constructions of social categories, metaphorical thought, body language, and fashion. He showed work from his team at the Imagination, Computation, and Expression Laboratory (ICE Lab) at MIT which provides alternatives that can evolve those industry norms.
April 21, 02015
A Stanford neuroscientist and geneticist explains how Toxoplasmosis and its animal carriers connect us with ancient Egypt and new insights about schizophrenia.
April 7, 02015
A conceptual artist and experimental philosopher, Jonathon Keats' work has included personalizing the metric system, copyrighting his own mind, applying general relativity to time management, and attempting to genetically engineer God. Recently he opened the shutter on his first millennium-long photograph. Co-sponsored by The ZERO1 Art & Technology Network. From April 02015.
March 10, 02015
The versatile author and historian Richard Rhodes (a Pulitzer-prize winner for his book "The Making of the Atomic Bomb") leads us through innovations both medical and military from the Spanish Civil War, the subject of his new book "Hell and Good Company".
February 24, 02015
A filmmaker, historian, and self-proclaimed rogue archivist, Jason Scott discusses his personal history of preserving the digital commons which began with rescuing his favorite BBS-era "text files" and continued with saving gigabytes of the first user-created homepages (i.e. GeoCities.com) which were about to be trashed by their corporate owner. Today his mission, in his role at the Internet Archive, is to save all the computer games and make them playable again inside modern web browsers. And that's where things get really weird. From February 02015.
February 10, 02015
The co-founder of Because We Can, the architecture/design firm that designed The Interval at Long Now, discusses the future of building: automation, communication, and whether "robots" will change everything. An informed and realistic overview of how architects and builders use automation today and how they may use it tomorrow. From February 02015.
January 27, 02015
Stewart Brand and Paul Saffo will discuss the Pace Layers framework for how a healthy society functions, which Stewart introduced in his book The Clock of Long Now (01999). More than fifteen years after its debut, this concept continues to be influential and inspiring. From January 02015.
January 20, 02015
Former Jeff Koons studio artist Mathieu Victor discussed the history of technology used in art and how today's tech enables the 21st century’s most ambitious work.
November 18, 02014
Author Erik Davis is best known for his book Techgnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information. But he has been writing about Philip K. Dick for decades, and was a co-editor of The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, a surreal and daunting task in tis own right. Davis took time out from his dissertation on the "High Weirdness" figures of the early 01970s (which includes PKD) to give us a guided tour of the strangely inspired technologies that were born in Dick's fiction. And what's weirdest is how much they resonate with the tech we use today.
October 28, 02014
Long Now’s Executive Director gives a tour of projects throughout history and around the globe that are designed to last for a millennia or more, including our Clock of the Long Now which he has worked on for two decades.
October 7, 02014
James Nestor takes us into the ocean's depths with freedivers who go death-defyingly hundreds of feet below the surface without scuba gear. In researching it Nestor found there's much more to freediving than a thrillseeker's pastime. He details compelling insights about not only the ocean and its creatures, but about our own human senses and biology whic await us in the Deep. From October 02014.
August 18, 02014
Futurist and Long Now board member Peter Schwartz shared his expertise and explain some of the tools of the futurist’s trade. First he discussed how futurist thinks about a subject, in this case the Future of the Internet. Then everyone attending broke out into small group discussions about that topic, applying scenario planning techniques to propose ways the Internet may change over years and decades to come. Finally the groups presented their work to Peter and the reassembled audience, and we wrote up the results on The Interval's chalkboard.
June 17, 02014
Violet Blue is an investigative reporter on hacking and cybercrime, and the author of The Smart Girl's Guide to Privacy. She looks at the state of commercial and criminal assaults on privacy, what you can do about it, and thinks about what kind of "ideal" of privacy we might someday hope to create.
May 27, 02014
Wired Magazine editor and author of "Proof: The Science of Booze", Adam Rogers leads us on a tour of the 10,000 year story of alcohol. With deep historical research, expert testimony, and solid science he discusses the accidental discovery of fermentation, an alternative American whiskey history, and his own role in the pre-history of Long Now's Interval bar. This talk was the first ever in The Interval's salon talk series; it took place in May of 02014, 2 weeks before The Interval officially opened. From May 02014.
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