Bezos's 10,000 Year Clock Is More Important Than Curing Cancer, Says Guy Building It

danny hillis

Photo: Flickr/Esther Dyson

Jeff Bezos is spending $42 million to build a 10,000 year clock in a cave in Texas.The original idea for the project came from Danny Hillis, a real-life mad-scientist tinkerer who has helped developed products used or bought by NASA, Sun, Intel, and Google to name a few.

Hillis is working on the clock for Bezos as a personal project.

While writing about the clock, Wired reporter Dylan Tweney asked Hillis why he was working on a clock instead of putting his full effort into bigger projects like fighting cancer?

After all, one of Hillis’s companies — Applied Proteomics — is working on protein analysis to do early stage cancer detection.

Hillis’ response in short: The clock is more important for humanity.

Here’s the full response:

Wired: That’s all very nice for Hillis, but what about the rest of the world? I ask him how he can justify spending time on the clock instead of, say, Applied Proteomics, which is helping fight cancer.

“I think this is the most important thing I can work on. More than cancer. Over the long run, I think this will make more difference to more people,” he says.

He hopes people will become interested in the idea of the clock, as I have. They’ll want to see it, and they’ll start thinking about why someone would make it.

“Then they’ll start thinking more skeptically,” Hillis says. They’ll start thinking about what the world might look like in 10,000 years, whether the country will still be here, what the climate will be like, what kinds of tools people will be using, whether our cities will look the same. “As soon as you start thinking that way, you open up a whole new field of thought,” Hillis continues.

“If it just does that for a tiny percentage of the people who hear about it, then I think that’s worth it,” he says.

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