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Fact Check: Reportedly, Jeff Bezos Is Building a '10,000 Year Clock' Costing $42M. Here's the Full Story

Getty Images/The Long Now Foundation
Getty Images/The Long Now Foundation

Claim:

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is building a $42 million clock that will keep time for 10,000 years.

Rating:

Rating: True
Rating: True

For years now, claims that Amazon founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos is building a "10,000 Year Clock" that cost him $42 million have been posted to social media sites like Reddit and X (formerly Twitter). A 2020 post on Reddit obtained 5,100 upvotes and 1,100 comments:

The Long Now Clock
The Long Now Clock


(Reddit Screenshot)

The X post below, dated March 30, 2023, was seen 5.3 million times:

Jeff Bezos 10,000 year clock, X post
Jeff Bezos 10,000 year clock, X post


(@DailyLoud / X)

The claim also showed up on TikTok. One video explaining the project gained 154,000 views.

'The Long Now'

The story of the 10,000-year clock began in 1995, when computer scientist and inventor Danny Hillis published an essay in Wired magazine's issue titled "Wired Scenarios: The Future Future." In it, he wrote:

I want to build a clock that ticks once a year. The century hand advances once every one hundred years, and the cuckoo comes out on the millennium. I want the cuckoo to come out every millennium for the next 10,000 years. If I hurry I should finish the clock in time to see the cuckoo come out for the first time.

Ten thousand years — the life span I hope for the clock — is about as long as the history of human technology. We have fragments of pots that old. Geologically, it's a blink of an eye.

Hillis also explained that he discussed the idea of the clock with several people, including artist and musician Brian Eno, who gave it a name: "The Clock of the Long Now." Attempting to lay out his motivation for building the clock, Hillis added:

Here is a part of me that I want to preserve, and maybe the clock is my way of explaining it to you: I cannot imagine the future, but I care about it. I know I am a part of a story that starts long before I can remember and continues long beyond when anyone will remember me. I sense that I am alive at a time of important change, and I feel a responsibility to make sure that the change comes out well. I plant my acorns knowing that I will never live to harvest the oaks.

The following year, in 1996, Hillis and his friend Stewart Brand, who used to edit The Whole Earth Catalog, founded The Long Now Foundation, which aims to "foster long-term thinking." The founders define "the long now" as a span of 20,000 years and "hope to help each other be good ancestors" and "preserve possibilities for the future."

Hillis and Bezos had been friend for years, according to Wired. Bezos, like Hillis, was used to thinking about the long term. He had already lent his backing to another Long Now project, known as Long Bets, which encourages people to make long-term predictions (Warren Buffett, among others, participated).

In 2005, the two friends began to discuss the idea to build this clock.

The Clock

In December 2011, Bezos published a first update on the construction of the 10,000 Year Clock. He explained a team of engineers had bored a 500-foot-deep hole into the Sierra Diablo mountain range in Texas, on land that he owns.

Sierra Diablo mountain range land owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos
Sierra Diablo mountain range land owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos


A view of Sierra Diablo mountain range land owned by Amazon.Com founder Jeff Bezos. (James Nielsen / Houston Chronicle via Getty Images)

On the 10,000 Year Clock website, Bezos provided more details about the conception of the clock, explaining that he and The Long Now Foundation were hoping to make it a collaborative project with people in the future:

Carved into the mountain are five room-sized anniversary chambers: 1 year, 10 year, 100 year, 1,000 year, and 10,000 year anniversaries. The one year anniversary chamber is a special orrery. In addition to the planets and the Earth's moon, it includes the interplanetary probes launched during the 20th century. The Clock will activate and run the orrery once a year on a pre-determined date at solar noon. We aren't planning to build the animations for the 100, 1,000, and 10,000 year anniversary chambers, but will instead leave those to future generations. We are providing a mechanical interface into those chambers that provides those future builders with power and the correct Clock triggering events.

In 2018, Bezos announced on X (archived) that the installation of the clock mechanism had begun inside the shaft, adding a video:

$42 Million?

In June 2011, Bezos told Wired that he would invest $42 million in the clock. This is the number that has been used in successive reporting on the project, up to December 2023. As of this writing, no updates to this figure have been reported.

Sources:

10,000 Year Clock. https://www.10000yearclock.net/learnmore.html. Accessed 15 Mar. 2024.

Gartenberg, Chaim. 'Construction Begins on Jeff Bezos' $42 Million 10,000-Year Clock'. The Verge, 20 Feb. 2018, https://www.theverge.com/tldr/2018/2/20/17031836/jeff-bezos-clock-10000-year-cost.

How to Make a Clock Run for 10,000 Years | Gadget Lab | WIRED. 23 June 2011, https://web.archive.org/web/20140331133819/https://www.wired.com/2011/06/10000-year-clock/.

Karpf, David. 'The 10,000-Year Clock Is a Waste of Time'. Wired. www.wired.com, https://www.wired.com/story/the-10000-year-clock-is-a-waste-of-time/. Accessed 15 Mar. 2024.

Papadopoulos, Loukia. 'Jeff Bezos Will Soon Bring Us a 10,000 Year Clock Inside a Mountain'. Interesting Engineering, 11 Nov. 2021, https://interestingengineering.com/innovation/jeff-bezos-will-soon-brings-us-a-10000-year-clock-inside-a-mountain.

Singh, Rimjhim. 'The $42 Mn Clock Set to Tick Once a Year, Keep Time for next 10,000 Years'. Business Standard, 7 Dec. 2023, https://www.business-standard.com/world-news/the-42-mn-clock-set-to-tick-once-a-year-keep-time-for-next-10-000-years-123120700435_1.html.

'The Clock of the Long Now'. Long Now, 24 Nov. 2021, https://longnow.org/clock/.

Wired Magazine. Wired Scenarios: The Future of the Future. 1995. Internet Archive, http://archive.org/details/wired-scenarios.