The truth is that there are two ways in which the future can become obsolete. One is through the inability to imagine the New: in this model, the idea of building a Tower never occurs to us; we are content to stay on the ground. The other happens when the New becomes so perpetual and unrelenting, when the construction of the Tower becomes so consuming, that we no longer have the luxury or the inclination to look up… You cannot have a future without a sense of the past, and there is no quicker way to make both obsolete than by insisting on the urgency and the singularity of the present.”

Meghan O’Gieblyn on deep time
and Long Now’s 10,000-year clock

Inevitable catastrophe

Future-mindedness is as much the distinctive mental habit, and intellectual corruption, of this century as the history-mindedness that, as Nietzsche pointed out, transformed thinking in the nineteenth century. Being able to estimate how matters will evolve into the future is an inevitable byproduct of a more sophisticated (quantifiable, testable) understanding of process, social as well as scientific. The ability to project events with some accuracy into the future enlarged what power consisted of, because it was a vast new source of instructions about how to deal with the present. But in fact the look into the future, which was once tied to a vision of linear progress, has, with more knowledge at our disposal than anyone could have dreamed, turned into a vision of disaster… Anything in history or nature that can be described as changing steadily can be seen as heading towards catastrophe. (Either the too little and becoming less: waning, decline, entropy. Or the too much, ever more than we can handle or absorb: uncontrollable growth.) Most of what experts pronounce about the future contributes to this new double sense of reality—beyond the doubleness to which we are already accustomed by the comprehensive duplication of everything in images. There is what is happening now. And there is what it portends: the imminent, but not yet actual, and not really graspable, disaster.”

-Susan Sontag, 1989
AIDS and Its Metaphors