Alexander Rose on Privacy is the New Celebrity EP 24

by Firen Forrest

In this week’s episode Alexander Rose and Lucy Kind go swimming in the depths of some of life’s greatest questions: what is the meaning of time, how will the technologies we are building now (or not building) affect future generations, and how to solve the biggest problems facing civilization today. And for good measure there are also some fascinating nuggets on communication with extraterrestrial life, how to design a world-class award-winning bar and lounge space, and how to build an organization that will still be around in 10,000 years (of which none currently exist, btw). It’s a genuinely mind-bending episode that’s definitely going to get you thinking in big terms.

A little background on Alexander Rose: first, he often goes by the nickname Zander. Zander is an industrial designer and the Executive Director of the Long Now Foundation, a non-profit organization based in San Francisco that fosters long term thinking and planning on the timescale of civilization. Zander has been at the Long Now for about 25 years, so he’s had a long time to mull over the shortsightedness of humanity. 

Lucy asks Zander about the Long Now’s current project: a gigantic clock that is designed to continue standing (and keeping accurate time!) for at least 10,000 years into the future. The clock is built inside of a mountain in West Texas. While the clock itself is built for the future, he says the exercise of building the clock is for us. Our tendency as humans is to indulge in apocalyptic thinking, most recently around AI and climate change. We believe the world will end with us. He ventures that the likelihood that humanity is going to end any time soon is low and that we should instead see ourselves in the middle of a 20,000 year cycle – 10,000 years behind us and 10,000 years ahead. And how would that change what we do and say now? How would that change of perspective affect future generations? The experience of conceiving and building a 10,000 year clock helps us to tap into that long term thinking.

On the topic of privacy, Zander believes that the interaction of privacy and technology is really one of humanity’s biggest challenges today. He takes a nuanced view on the interplay between privacy and responsibility, asserting that two people should be able to have a private financial transaction, but worries that complete anonymity can bring out the worst in people. Tying it all together, he finishes with this thought: “it would be a bummer if 1000 years from now we couldn’t even read the history of humanity because we have encrypted it all and made it so private that we don’t get the information.” Excellent food for thought.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for this episode. You can check out Lucy’s entire conversation with Zander Rose on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Buzzsprout. While you’re listening, don’t forget to subscribe to Privacy is the New Celebrity Podcast on your favorite streaming service.

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