Brand writes...


‘Time and responsibility.’ What a prime subject for vapid truisms and gaseous generalities adding up to the world's most boring sermon. To spare us both, let me tie this discussion to a specific device, some specific responsibility mechanisms, and specific problems and cases. The main problem might be stated, "How do we make long-term thinking automatic and common instead of difficult and rare?" How do we make the taking of long-term responsibility inevitable?

The device is a Clock, very big and very slow. For the purposes of this book it is strictly notional, a Clock of the mind, an instrument for thinking about time in a different way. As it happens, such a Clock is in fact being built. The builders are finding that the very idea of the Clock---why to build it, how to build it---forces their thinking in interesting directions; among other things, toward long-term responsibility. Since it works for them, please consider yourself one of the Clock's builders. It won't take long to catch up. Here's how the project summary read in late 1998, complete with preamble:


Civilization is revving itself into a pathologically short attention span. The trend might be coming from the acceleration of technology, the short-horizon perspective of market-driven economics, the next-election perspective of democracies, or the distractions of personal multi-tasking. All are on the increase.

Of HOW BUILDINGS LEARN (1987) Michael Schrage wrote in Wired magazine:

A stunning exploration of the design of design.… How Buildings Learn will irrevocably alter your sense of place, space, and the artifacts that shape them.

In the London Times Stephen Bayley called it
a hymn to entropy, a witty, heterodox book dedicated to kicking the stuffing out the proposition that architecture is permanent and that buildings cannot adapt.

Jane Jacobs called it “a classic and probably a work of genius.

Penetratingly original,” said Philip Morrison at Scientific American.

In 1996-1997 I co-wrote and presented “How Buildings Learn”—a 6-part TV series for the BBC, aired in July-August 1997 on BBC2.  The series was directed by James Runcie, with music by Brian Eno. The 6 parts may now be viewed online—segments 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.  Short sample below:


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