Episode 31 of The Informed Life podcast features Nicholas Paul Brysiewicz, the director of development of the Long Now Foundation. The Foundation was created to foster long-term thinking, and in this conversation Nick and I talk about how a broader time perspective can help us understand difficult times and lay the groundwork for a better future.
Much of our conversation centered on the coronavirus situation, which had emerged as an important and urgent topic in early March of 2020, when we recorded our conversation. In particular, I wanted to understand the long-term take on urgent issues. Nick’s position — which I agree with — was that even as we’re dealing with the near-term effects of the situation, we should be looking for ways of strengthening our infrastructure and institutions so we can better meet such challenges in the future:
And so, the question is, sure, we can go and clean the local bodega out of hand sanitizer and that might solve the problem today. But that’s addressing a certain symptom of a larger issue, which is, do we have the institutions, the infrastructure, that will allow us to weather these kinds of things as they come along? Which they will, you know. Again, this isn’t going to be the last epidemic that we face. Probably not the last epidemic we face even in my lifetime, right? So, are there ways that we can pick our heads up from this one situation and look at the more general, more open space around, when this is going to happen again, and can we do things to attend to that?
As I mentioned above, we recorded this interview a couple of weeks before the coronavirus had been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization and a national emergency by the U.S. government. I’m certain our tone would’ve been more somber if we were discuss this subject closer to the date of publication. In particular, medical experts are now recommending that we avoid crowded social spaces. Please don’t heed the invitation to visit The Interval — the Foundation’s cocktail bar — at this time.
Still, even under the current conditions, I thought it worthwhile to share our conversation. I find that adopting a broader perspective helps me make more level-headed decisions, especially in difficult times. I hope you find this interview valuable, and that you stay safe during this extraordinary period of disruption.