In 2005, Mr. Jobs gave an opening address at Stanford, citing Mr. Brand as a major influence in his life and explaining what “Whole Earth” was to a younger generation: “It was a bit like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along,” he said. “It was idealistic and packed with useful tools and great ideas.”
mr. Brand coined the term “personal computer” in 1974, several years after writing an article for Rolling Stone that painted a picture of the future of the digital world. Computers, he predicted, would be the next major trend after psychedelic drugs: “That’s good news, perhaps the best since psychedelics. It is far from the trail of the ‘Computers – Threat or Threat?’ school of liberal criticism, but surprisingly in line with the romantic fantasies of the ancestors of science,” he wrote.
Now mr. Brand, considered by many to be one of the nation’s preeminent futurists, is working to help build that 10,000-year clock — a path to what he believes will be a long-term future for civilization.
Mr. Brand has long had an uncanny knack for spotting trends early on or appearing in the middle as a high-IQ Forrest Gump, then off to the next big thing just when everyone else is catching up.
For example, in 1967, just as many of his friends were returning to the country to establish communes, Mr. Brand arrived right in the middle of the region soon to be called Silicon Valley. In his journal at the time, he wrote that he lived in Menlo Park “with the intention of making my technology happen here.”
His “Whole Earth Catalog” was subtitled “Access to Tools”, and recently, as the national zeitgeist soured in Silicon Valley, a wide variety of authors, including Franklin Foer in “World Without Mind”, Jill Lepore in “These Truths” and Jonathan Taplin in ‘Move Fast and Break Things’ all have to Mr. Brand referred to as the original technological utopian. His words and ideas, they argue, seduced and inspired the engineers who created the modern digital world.
Mr. Brand, who considers himself a ruthless pragmatist, shudders at the label. “All utopias are dystopias,” he said this month during a conversation in the dilapidated office he has lived on the waterfront in Sausalito, California, since the early 1970s.