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
Tuesday, October 24, 7:30pm
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?
Rob Reid founded the company which built the Rhapsody music service. This is his second novel; Year Zero in 02012. Rob recently launched an "After On" podcast where he discusses at the science, tech, and social issues that feature in the novel with experts in related fields.
Previous Salon Talks
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.
Gillmor is a veteran journalist, formerly of the San Jose Mercury News. He has been champion of media literacy and citizen journalism for many years working with The Knight Foundation, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University's Law School, and currently Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.
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.
Leyh's current project is completing a 40-foot tall coil which has been in the works for 5 years; and that's a step toward eventually building a pair of coils at 3 times that height. Invented by Nikola Tesla in the 01890’s, the Tesla coil produces high-voltage, low-current, high frequency alternating-current electricity with vivid electrical streamers that extend from the top of the coil.
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.
Margaret Levi is Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and the Sara Miller McCune Director of CASBS. She is Jere L. Bacharach Professor Emerita of International Studies in the Department of Political Science at the University of Washington. She became a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow in 2002, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2015.
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. Kildall challenges us with a model of time developed by philosopher Henri Bergson.
Scott Kildall is a cross-disciplinary artist whose work includes writing algorithms that transform datasets into 3D sculptures and installations. His art often invites public participation through direct interaction. He has been an artist in residence with the SETI Institute and Autodesk; and his work has been exhibited internationally at venues including the New York Hall of Science, Transmediale, the Venice Biennale and the San Jose Museum of Art. Besides many other fellowships, residencies, and honors.
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.
Neal Stephenson is the bestselling author of more than a dozen novels including Snow Crash, Anathem, Seveneves, and The Baroque Cycle. He spoke in Long Now's SALT series in 02008 and at The Interval at Long Now in 02015 (on the release of Seveneves). He lives in Seattle, WA.
Nicole Galland has written six previous novels, most recently Stepdog; others include The Fool's Tale; I, Iago; and Godiva. She previously collaborated with Neal Stephenson on The Mongoliad Cycle. Galland spent time in the Bay Area studying at UC Berkeley and as dramaturg for Berkeley Repertory Theatre. She lives in Martha’s Vineyard, MA.
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.
This event is co-presented by the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) where Andrew Lakoff is currently a fellow.
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 ficiton 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.
April 4, 02017
A 25-year veteran of the Jet Propulsion Lab tells how on Earth he became an engineer and what it took to nail the landing on a planet 140 million miles away.
"Curiosity" is the name of NASA's Mars rover that Adam Steltzner and his team safely delivered to the planet's surface four years ago. Adam's own curiosity is what led him from a late start to become a celebrated engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He'll talk about why he believes that in the long view, curiosity is the essential quality for civilization to continue to realize its potential.
Adam Steltzner previously spoke in Long Now's Seminars About Long-term Thinking series in 02013; we are thrilled to have him back to speak at The Interval. He'll discuss his own curious journey and the creative, collaborative teamwork that characterizes his work at the Lab followed by Q&A with Long Now's Stewart Brand.
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 .
David gives a hands-on tour of his company’s soon to be released model Trident which was funded via Kickstarter. Long Now’s Stewart Brand hosts and leads Q&A with David after his talk.
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.
As a sociologist, Klinenberg brings insights on how neighborhood dynamics (what he calls "social infrastructure") can help individuals & communities prepare for extreme weather including flooding and heat waves. He discusses how cities can be wiser and think more long-term by planning traditional infrastructure projects which also enable such social infrastructure in their design.
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.
Pervasive data collection is a feature of most modern work and education settings. Dr. Tara Behrend, Director of the Workplaces and Virtual Environments lab at George Washington University, studies the psychology of information privacy. In her talk she will discuss the long history of surveillance and the consequences of these practices for individual freedom and self-determination today.
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.
At the core of A Burglar’s Guide to the City is an unexpected and thrilling insight: how any building transforms when seen through the eyes of someone hoping to break into it.
Encompassing nearly 2,000 years of heists and break-ins, the book draws on the expertise of reformed bank robbers, FBI Special Agents, private security consultants, the L.A.P.D. Air Support Division, and architects past and present.
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.
The Interval welcomes award-winning journalist Mary Kay Magistad (formerly of PRI's The World and NPR, now host of the Whose Century Is It? podcast) as guest moderator. This event was co-presented by the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS), where Jones was a 02015-16 fellow.
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.
Abby Smith Rumsey is a historian who writes about how ideas and information technologies shape perceptions of history, of time, and of personal and cultural identity. She served as director of the Scholarly Communication Institute at the University of Virginia, and worked for more than a decade at the Library of Congress. Her book When We Are No More, How Digital Memory Is Shaping Our Future (02016) looks at how human memory from pre-history to the present has shed light on the grand challenge facing our world--the abundance of information and scarcity of human attention.
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
Award-winning science journalist Kara Platoni has gone around the world looking at the ways we humans are trying to expand upon our basic senses. There are new frontiers at the edges of our perception that scientists, doctors, inventors, and cooks are actively exploring. From biohackers to foodies, Kara shares the science and stories of these sensory pioneers for our Interval audience. From March 02016.
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, curious historians of San Francisco, which focused on Earth's southernmost continent and the adventurous spirit of Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton and others in the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration at the turn of the 20th century. The night included several short talks, a showing of the film South (01919), and a tour through the natural history of the bottom of the world.
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 18, 02015
What do the next thousand years have in store for us? If we can understand the secrets behind our achievements, perhaps we can direct the brain’s strengths in purposeful ways and open a new chapter in the human story.
November 3, 02015
Anthropologists Howard and Frances Morphy have studied and worked with indigenous peoples for forty years. They discussed the perspective of Australia’s Yolngu people on time, the environment, maps, and more.
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.
July 28, 02015
The written word has transformed humanity. Ideas now outlast their creators. Knowledge builds on knowledge across generations. The author of Wool and The Bern Saga asks: “How will texts survive deep time? What does the library of tomorrow look like?”
July 14, 02015
Dr. Maryanne Wolf shares her research on the reading brain: its protean capacities; its surprising differences (e.g., in dyslexia); and its changes for good and ill in a digital culture.
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
D. Fox Harrell’s Imagination, Computation, and Expression Lab at MIT develops computing systems for creative expression, cultural analysis, and social empowerment.
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 24, 02015
Lewis Dartnell, a research fellow for the UK Space Agency, talks about his new book: a must-have resource kit for the day after the apocalypse.
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.
The Pace Layers idea is illustrated by a simple diagram showing six layers which function simultaneously at different speeds within society. They range from Nature (the slowest) to Fashion (the fastest, shown at the top). As the layers progress, Stewart proposed, their differing speeds help make a society more adaptable. Cultures can be robust and healthy precisely because these layers come into conflict. Each level should be allowed to operate at its own pace, safely sustained by the slower levels below and kept invigorated by livelier levels above.
Though originally conceived as a tool for thinking about society, Pace Layers has had broad influence as experts in other disciplines have applied its framework to their areas including consulting and systems thinking. Jeff Veen of True Ventures (formerly Adobe, Adaptive Path, and Wired) recently said that Pace Layers provides a vocabulary to think about the stacked layers of contemporary design. Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, has called the Pace Layers chapter in The Clock of the Long Now “the most profound thing I've ever read.”
Today in a networked world where everything seems to be about speed, awareness of the slower layers and perspective on how all layers interact can give insight into what the future may hold.
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.
January 6, 02015
University of Nevada-Reno geologist talks about Bristlecone pines, long-term science, and Long Now’s Nevada mountain. With an introduction by Long Now Executive Director Alexander Rose.
November 25, 02014
Founding Wired editor and Long Now board member Kevin Kelly discusses "Cool Tools" his Catalog of Possibilities which contains carries on the spirit of The Whole Earth Catalog includeing more than 1000 useful “tools” of all sort.
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.
Philip K. Dick is widely acknowledged as one of the most important and prophetic science fiction writers of the twentieth century. His career and work is also deeply connected to the San Francisco Bay Area; he produced such landmark works of science fiction The Man In The High Castle, Time Out Of Joint, and Ubik while living in the area.
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.
July 1, 02014
Maker, Burner, MIT Media Labber shows how our imagination has exceeded proceeded and how his students have mined science fiction history to inspire new ideas.
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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