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10,000 Year Clock
Workers install components of the 10,000 Year Clock in an underground chamber in Texas. (Jeff Bezos via Instagram)

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos is highlighting the start of installation of the 10,000 Year Clock, a $42 million project that’s arguably as way-out as his Blue Origin space venture.

Today Bezos posted a time-lapse video to Twitter and Instagram showing workers setting up steampunk-style assemblies of gears and sprockets deep inside a mountain in West Texas.

The project is the brainchild of Danny Hillis, an engineer-inventor who started up the Long Now Foundation in the year 01996 with the vision of fostering long-term thinking — and creating a timepiece that gives humanity a cosmic sense of scale for generations to come.

“I want to build a clock that ticks once a year,” Hillis wrote. “The century had 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.”

Bezos was taken with the idea, and agreed to fund the project and provide the land.

“Over the lifetime of this clock, the United States won’t exist,” Bezos told Wired back in 2011. “Whole civilizations will rise and fall. New systems of government will be invented. You can’t imagine the world — no one can — that we’re trying to get this clock to pass through.”

Seattle science-fiction author Neal Stephenson picked up on the idea of having a millennium-measuring clock, tended by the equivalent of a monastic order, in his 2008 novel “Anathem.” (Stephenson also contributed ideas to the Long Now clock project, and worked for Blue Origin in that company’s early days.)

In addition to the Texas installation, a second clock is being planned for a site in Nevada. Some of the work of machining the clock parts is being done in Seattle.

There’s no precise completion date, but on a scale of 10,000 years, maybe it’s sufficient to have the first clock ready within the mere tick of a century.

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