Will it be a smoldering cinder? A techno-utopia? Something in between? Unless you’re a self-biohacking billionaire, you may never know. But thanks to Big Think’s favorite experimental philosopher, Jonathon Keats, our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren will have a photographic record of how Tempe, Arizona, in 3015 ended up that way.
Using a highly durable pinhole camera, Keats (well, his camera anyway) will document the changes in the skyline of Tempe over the next millennium. The project is sponsored by the Emerge Festival and Arizona State University Art Museum and will (we hope) culminate in an exhibition 1,000 years from now. If physical universities still exist in 3015, and if the camera is not destroyed by rampaging robots constructed by other robots that have long since acquired autonomous intelligence, it will provide our descendants a glimpse backward into “deep time.” Keats hopes that it will give them some perspective on how quickly and radically our cities change, often under our very noses and at the hands of a few ambitious developers and politicians.
Living as we do in a world that records everything, yet seems to have an increasingly limited memory, we can take Keats’ experiment as a reminder that even over massive time scales, some things endure.
Video: Director Nathan Broderick documents (the beginning of) the Millennium Camera Project.
I asked Jonathon a few questions about his farsighted experiment:
1) Do you have any expectations about what the Tempe image will show if it survives? Will it all be bad news?
Tempe is largely a product of population growth in Phoenix, and it's representative of both the promise and the perils of urban expansion throughout the United States. One of the thousand years. It's a good place to examine our expectations about city life.
That said, urbanization is not the only worthy subject for a millennium-long photograph. how our changing climate impacts natural habitat.
In a thousand years, these photographs may provide our great-great-grandchildren's great how the pictures will develop.
2) Why 1,000 years?
Well, it started out at a hundred years. The first instantiation of my deep-time photography exhibition of the city in transformation.
With my century camera, I deliberately made the duration of the exposure longer than a camera also to be experienced by those alive today. The experience will not be visual, but conceptual. The process of seeing change will be internalized, prompted by the awareness that we're being watched.
One reason for extending the exposure time is that the camera can potentially serve as a think in deep time.
Deep time is geological time, a timeframe that's imperceptible to us because it's thousand years or more: to see ourselves from the perspective of the far future.
3) What advice would you give me if I wanted to do my own personal millennium camera project in my own town or city?
If I may, allow me to start by discussing the century camera. Anyone can easily make a the pinhole. The technology is completely open source and free for anyone to adapt.
That said, I think we can be much more ambitious. What would happen if the century exhibition of the photos. Every day, starting 100 years from now, a new worldwide deep time panorama would be revealed.
The millennium cameras could also be overseen by UNESCO. Imagine a millennium camera intensely personal experience of privately hiding a century camera.
If it's spatiotemporally possible for you, catch these upcoming events with Jonathon Keats:
- 4/7/15 — a lecture about the project at the Long Now Foundation, San Francisco, CA: http://theinterval.org/events/
- 4/15/15 — Keats unveils a similar project at Amherst College, Amherst, MA: https://www.amherst.edu/museums/mead/exhibitions/2015/-jonathon-keats-photographing-deep-time-
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