I somehow missed Bruce Sterlingâ€™s take on The Clock of the Long Now when it was first published eight years ago:
One extremely effective method of cheap, lasting timelessness comes immediately to mind. We might call this the "Now He Belongs to the Ages" syndrome.Â In other words, some dead people. Live people are very unhappy and uneasy about disturbing graveyards.Â A newly established cathedral becomes accepted by the public when it begins burying the community. Cathedrals also make do with the relics of saints: holy shinbones and skulls, and so on.
[Let...] me offer another strikingly morbid alternative: the tontine.
What is a tontine?Â Well, the tontine was invented by an Italian banker named Lorenzo Tonti, as a kind of seventeenth-century New Economy investment scheme.Â A group of investors starts a mutual fund.Â They get dividends from the investments.Â Every time someone in the tontine dies, their share gets split up among the surviving members.Â Until finally, the last guy standing inherits everything.Â Interestingly, this tontine process was often used in France to fund public buildings.
In our case, of course, the Long Now Clock is always the last guy standing. Always. So a Long Now Clock tontine survives by measuring out peopleâ€™s lifespans.Â When they perish, their chunk of the money is given to maintain the clock.Â I would strongly urge that the members of the tontine be buried on the site of the Clock.Â Or at least, they should memorialized on it on some very public, macabre, memento-mori way.
I guarantee that it would sober up trendy gawkers immediately, if they saw this sinister device prepared to reap its way through ten thousand years of future humanity, scythe first. I would suggest seeding the project with a few dead guys, already attached to the clock at its first unveiling.Â The sincerity of this gesture speaks for itself. Because after all, the future is where we go to die.Â Some of us in the Long Now tontine would be very public about our intention to be immolated with this clock.Â As a further spice, there would be *secret* members of the Long Now tontine.
A "sinister device prepared to reap its way through ten thousand years of future humanity, scythe first." Brrr….
[Via Beyond the Beyond]