Bezos is Building a 10,000-Year Clock that Will Tick Once a Year
Sun, April 18, 2021

Bezos is Building a 10,000-Year Clock that Will Tick Once a Year


Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is building on his Texas property a 10,000-year clock that will tick once per year. / Photo by dennizn via Shutterstock


Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is building on his Texas property a 10,000-year clock that will tick once per year reports Popular Science magazine.

While the installation of the giant mechanical clock started in 2018, the completion date has not yet been scheduled. Bezos invested $42 million in the construction of the clock.


Symbol of long-term thinking

In a Twitter post, Bezos said that the 500 ft tall clock is powered by day and night thermal cycles and will be synchronized at the solar noon. It will also serve as a symbol of long-term thinking. Engineers and contractors have been working together to make sure that the clock will tick once a year.

The huge mechanical clock is the brainchild of computer scientist, polymath inventor, and entrepreneur Danny Hillis, who first thought of the 10,000-year clock in 1986. Hillis is now a visiting professor at the Media Lab of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As a research institute, the Media Lab has gained a reputation for creating autonomous dinosaur robots and supercomputers.

Hillis previously explained that he wanted to build a clock that ticks once a year, with its century hand that advances every 100 years, and the cuckoo every millennium. He said that although he cannot imagine the future, he does care about it. “I plant my acorns knowing that I will never live to harvest the oaks,” he added. Hillis started the Long Now Foundation in 1996 so that it will serve as administrative support for the project. The Long Now Foundation also seeks to start and promote a long-term cultural institution.


The Clock is a big project as many partners are helping to make it a reality. / Photo by zhao jiankang via Shutterstock


The big engineering challenge

The big engineering challenge of building the 10,000-year clock, however, is the longness of time itself. Bezos said that clock will serve as a reminder for people to think that a far-future does not just exist but will eventually happen to their descendants.

There is also no guarantee that anyone will be allowed to see the monument as it is being built in Bezos’ land along a hollowed-out mountain. However, the official 10,000 Year Clock website provides a mailing list for people who want to visit the clock when it is complete “many years into the future.” The site also reads that “the nearest airport is several hours away by car, and the foot trail to the Clock is rugged, rising almost 2,000 feet above the valley floor.”

The Clock is a big project as many partners are helping to make it a reality. Aside from the prime genius of the Clock, Hillis, research and prototyping company Penguin Automated Systems Inc. guided the underground site development. Custom-design stone experts Seattle Solstice also developed the saw that will cut the spiral staircase out of the stone in the clock’s chamber while metal fabrication specialist Machinists Inc. delivered many of the clock parts.



Bezos’ unconventional ventures

Philanthropy may not be Bezos’ strong suit unlike Bill and Melinda Gates but there are bizarre things he has spent his money on, including the giant clock. For example, a huge part of his wealth goes to a venture capital called Bezos Expeditions. The firm helped recover the remains of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission from the seafloor. The massive engines that helped launched astronauts to the moon were thought to be lost forever on the ocean floor but were discovered by Bezos’ team using state-of-the-art deep-sea sonar. “We have seen an underwater wonderland,” Bezos said.

In 2016, the Amazon CEO also bought an old museum and renovated it into a house. He paid $23 million for the museum, the priciest real estate sale of the year in Washington DC.  The exhibitions of the Washington Textile Museum are now housed in a new museum at the George Washington University and Bezos helped in the transfer of the exhibits. The man also invested heartily in the creation of aerospace company Blue Origin. This may not be as bizarre as his other investments, though.

Bezos is also the proud owner of one of the fastest commercially plying jets called Gulfstream G-650ER. The jet seats eight people and cost $65 million.

While others may view the clock as an art installation and an inspiration to be mindful of their place in history, others see it as a “waste of time.” David Karpf of American magazine Wired wrote that it will be a testament that “social chaos is never evenly distributed.” He added that the art is for the ultrarich.


Billionaires Index

As of April 28, 2020, Bezos remains the richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. His total net worth is $144 billion. The second richest person in the world is Bill Gates ($105 billion), followed by Bernard Arnault (79.5 billion), Warren Buffet ($73.9 billion), Mark Zuckerberg ($71.6 billion), Steve Ballmer ($63.3 billion), Larry Page ($61.5 billion), Larry Ellison ($60.0 billion), Sergey Brin ($59.7 billion), and Rob Walton ($56.3 billion).

The index is a dynamic measure of personal wealth based on the economy and changes in the market. Included also in the top 500 richest of Bloomberg’s billionaire’s index is Sumet Jiaravanon from Thailand with $3.85 billion net worth.



Measuring billionaires’ generosity

In 2018, the world’s richest were also ranked on their philanthropic score on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most philanthropic. Based on the New Forbes 400 Philanthropy Score that measures the billionaires’ generosity, Bezos is ranked 2 out of 5.  Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg, and Michael Bloomberg earned 5 scores while Larry Ellison, Larry Page, Charles Koch, David Koch, and Sergey Brin scored 4.

Bezos is not a part of the Giving Pledge movement and it may be the reason why he has a relatively lower philanthropy score than the next three richest billionaires in 2018. Nevertheless, there are major donations he has given to charity since he became a billionaire in 1997. Among his latest philanthropic efforts is the launching of the Bezos Earth Fund worth $10 billion to fight climate change. In November 2019, he also donated $98.5 million to 32 organizations in 23 states to fight homelessness. In 2018, Bezos pledged $97.5 million to support educational programs for homeless families through Bezos Day One Fund.

Bezos’ philanthropy may fall short compared to other modern tech moguls but his venture on building the giant clock inside a mountain may play its role in reminding humans to have an expanded sense of time, be more responsible in protecting the Earth, and consider the generational impact of our decisions.