Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Species

“Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” is a book by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras, published in 1994. Like many other management books, even if well-intentioned, it is misguided. Companies are not built to last, companies are built to die, like us. But then, if not companies, how do we build an organisation to last 10.000 years? This is the question Alexander Rose is trying to answer:

in a way, the easy project was engineering a machine to last for 10,000 years; the difficult project is figuring out how you make an institution that lasts for 10,000 years. We have 10,000-year objects and artifacts that have lasted this long, but we know that there are no institutions or organizations that have lasted on this timescale.

How to Create an Institution That Lasts 10,000 Years

Alexander Rose is the executive director of The Long Now Foundation. He is building a clock, one designed to keep time for 10,000 years. The idea was conceived by Danny Hillis:

I want to build a clock that ticks once a year. The century hand advances once every 100 years, and the cuckoo comes out on the millennium. I want the cuckoo to come out every millennium for the next 10,000 years.

The 10,000 Year Clock
Danny Hillis The Clock of the Long Now

The Long Now Foundation is an American public, non-profit organisation that seeks to become the seed of a very long-term cultural institution.

The Long Now Foundation was established in 1996 to develop the Clock and Library projects, as well as to become the seed of a very long-term cultural institution. The Long Now Foundation hopes to provide a counterpoint to today’s accelerating culture and help make long-term thinking more common. We hope to foster responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years.

Do we actually need institutions that last 10.000 years? I doubt there is anyone able to figure out whether this is at all required to increase our chances to succeed as a long term species. I do not know, but it’s nice to see someone is asking this kind of question. (And rich donors to fund an institution to look for an answer.)

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