Stewart Brand Quotes

Born December 14, 1938

Who on Earth is Stewart Brand?

Stewart Brand is an American writer, best known as editor of the Whole Earth Catalog.

Brand is the author of several books, most recently 'Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto'.

Books by Stewart Brand

Best Quotes by Stewart Brand

“A building is not something you finish. A building is something you start.”

Stewart Brand
How Buildings Learn

“A library doesn't need windows. A library is a window.”

Stewart Brand
How Buildings Learn

“A realm of intimate, personal power is developing - power of the individual to conduct his own education, find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested.”

Stewart Brand
Whole Earth Catalog

“A realm of intimate, personal power is developing – power of the individual to conduct his own education, find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested.”

Stewart Brand

“Against the flow of constant entropy, maintenance people must swim always upstream, progresses against the current like a watchful trout. The only satisfaction they can get from their work is to do it well. The measure of success in their labors is that the result is invisible, unnoticed. Thanks to them, everything is the same as it ever was.”

Stewart Brand
How Buildings Learn

“All buildings are predictions. All predictions are wrong.”

Stewart Brand
How Buildings Learn

“Art flouts convention. Convention became convention because it works.”

Stewart Brand
How Buildings Learn

“Art must be inherently radical, but buildings are inherently conservative. Art must experiment to do its job. Most experiments fail. Art costs extra. How much extra are you willing to pay to live in a failed experiment?”

Stewart Brand
How Buildings Learn

“As you gain elevation on the mountain your IQ goes down - but your emotional affect goes up, which is great for having a mythic experience, whether you want to or not.”

Stewart Brand

“At present, the best low-carbon source is nuclear.”

Stewart Brand
Whole Earth Discipline

“Buildings keep being pushed around by three irresistible forces—technology, money, and fashion.”

Stewart Brand
How Buildings Learn

“California was a great place to get over mysticism in the 1960s and 1970s. Such an endless parade of gurus and mystics came through, peddling their wares, that they canceled each other out. They couldn't compete with the drugs, and the drugs canceled each other out as well. Fervent visions, shared to excess, became clanking clichés. All that was left was daily reality, with its endless negotiation, devoid of absolutes, but alive with surprises.”

Stewart Brand
Whole Earth Discipline

“Carbon tax has the advantage of basically being able to subsidize one set of activities that you want with another set of activities that you don't want. It's like a cigarette tax.”

Stewart Brand

“Certain knowledge of what to fight for, and what to fight against, gives meaning to life and provides its own version of discipline: never give up. That kind of meaning is illusory, I now believe, and blinkered. Fealty to a mystical absolute is a formula for disaster, especially in transformative times.”

Stewart Brand
Whole Earth Discipline

“Civilization’s shortening attention span is mismatched with the pace of environmental problems.”

Stewart Brand
The Clock of the Long Now

“Climate change. Urbanization. Biotechnology. Those three narratives, still taking shape, are developing a long arc likely to dominate this century.”

Stewart Brand

“Climate is so full of surprises, it might even surprise us with a hidden stability. Counting on that, though, would be like playing Russian roulette with all the chambers loaded but one.”

Stewart Brand
Whole Earth Discipline

“Do what's good for humans, modeled on how humans already do things; ignore what's convenient for computers.”

Stewart Brand

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

Stewart Brand

“Eternity is the opposite of a long time.”

Stewart Brand
The Clock of the Long Now

“Every interview with a public figure should include the question 'What have you been wrong about, and how did that change your views?' The answer will tell us if the person is intellectually honest or a tale spinner with delusions of infallibility.”

Stewart Brand
Whole Earth Discipline

“Everything looks like a failure in the middle.”

Stewart Brand

“Excessively precise economic analysis can lead to assessing everything in terms of its easily measurable melt value - the value that thieves get from stealing copper wiring from isolated houses, that vandals got from tearing down Greek temples for the lead joints holding the marble blocks together, that shortsighted timber companies get from liquidating their forests. The standard to insist on is live value. What is something worth when it's working?”

Stewart Brand
Whole Earth Discipline

“Favor moves that increase options; shy from moves that end well but require cutting off choices; work from strong positions.”

Stewart Brand
How Buildings Learn

“For artists diving into a new technology, it is a triple short-cut to mastery: you get a free ride on the novelty of the medium; there are no previous masters to surpass; and after a few weeks, you are the master. Try that with the violin.”

Stewart Brand

“Function reforms form, perpetually.”

Stewart Brand
How Buildings Learn

“Historians will consider this a dark age. Science historians can read Galileo's technical correspondence from the 1590s but not Marvin Minsky's from the 1960s.”

Stewart Brand
The Clock of the Long Now

“How can I throw my life away in the least unhappy way?”

Stewart Brand

“Humans have made a huge hole in nature in the last 10,000 years. With de-extinction, we have the ability now, and maybe the moral obligation, to repair some of the damage.”

Stewart Brand

“If all of your electricity in your lifetime came from nuclear energy, the waste from that lifetime of electricity would go in a Coke can.”

Stewart Brand

“If the Net is so crucial, what happens if the Net goes down? It may have to go down a few times before we learn how to defend it properly, before we catch on that civilization depends on it for survival.”

Stewart Brand

“If you don't like bacteria, you're on the wrong planet.”

Stewart Brand
Whole Earth Discipline

“Imagine a world in which time seems to vanish and space becomes completely malleable. Where the gap between need or desire and fulfillment collapses to zero.”

Stewart Brand
The Clock of the Long Now

“In our researches on the likely economic apocalypse it's become clear what is the prime survival tool for hard times: friends. Good friends. Lots of them.”

Stewart Brand

“In the genre of science fiction it is more important to be fruitfully mistaken than dully accurate. That’s why we are science fiction writers, not scientists.”

Stewart Brand

“Information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time.”

Stewart Brand

“Institutional buildings act as if they were designed specifically to prevent change for the organization inside and to convey timeless reliability to everyone outside. When forced to change anyway, as they always are, they do so with expensive reluctance and all possible delay. Institutional buildings are mortified by change.”

Stewart Brand
How Buildings Learn

“It seems there is an ideal degree of aging which is admired. Things should not be new, but neither should they be rotten with age (except in New Orleans, which fosters a cult of decay).”

Stewart Brand
How Buildings Learn

“Many of my contemporaries in the developed world see subsistence farming as soulful and organic, but it is a poverty trap and an environmental disaster.”

Stewart Brand
Whole Earth Discipline

“More and more I find I want to be living in a Big Here and a Long Now.”

Stewart Brand
The Clock of the Long Now

“On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.”

Stewart Brand

“Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the steamroller, you're part of the road.”

Stewart Brand
The Media Lab

“One advantage of a solar collector in space: It would be some kind of origami thing that would unfold and be relatively light because it doesn't have gravity to deal with.”

Stewart Brand

“Over the next ten years, I predict, the mainstream of the environmental movement will reverse its opinion and activism in four major areas: population growth, urbanization, genetically engineered organisms, and nuclear power.”

Stewart Brand
Environmental Heresies

“Programming (or making music) at night is dreamtime, a period exclusively mental, utterly absorbed, sustained and timeless, placeless, disembodied.”

Stewart Brand

“Redefine the possible.”

Stewart Brand

“Redundancy of function is always more reliable than attempts at perfect, which time treats cruelly.”

Stewart Brand
How Buildings Learn

“Reinventing beats inventing nearly every time.”

Stewart Brand
The Clock of the Long Now

“Science has long informed the environmental movement. Now it must take the lead, because we are forced to enter an era of large-scale ecosystem engineering, and we have to know what the hell we’re doing.”

Stewart Brand
Whole Earth Discipline

“Science is the only news. When you scan a news portal or magazine, all the human interest stuff is the same old he-said-she-said, the politics and economics the same cyclical dramas, the fashions a pathetic illusion of newness; even the technology is predictable if you know the science behind it. Human nature doesn't change much; science does, and the change accrues, altering the world irreversibly”

Stewart Brand

“Seize the century. We’re facing multidecade, multigeneration problems and solutions. Accomplishing what is needed will take diligence and patience—a sustained bearing down, over human lifetimes, to bridge the long lag times and lead times in climatic, biological, and social dynamics, and to work through the long series of iterations necessary for any apparent solution to become practical. At the same time, we need a professional caregiver’s sense of urgency. Here’s how that works.”

Stewart Brand
Whole Earth Discipline

“Starting anew with a clean slate has been one of the most harmful ideas in history. It treats previous knowledge as an impediment and imagines that only present knowledge deployed in theoretical purity can make real the wondrous new vision.”

Stewart Brand
The Clock of the Long Now

“Style is time’s fool. Form is time’s student.”

Stewart Brand
How Buildings Learn

“Talk of 'saving the planet' is overstated. Earth will be fine, no matter what; so will life. It is humans who are in trouble. But since we got ourselves into this fix, we should be able to get ourselves out of it.”

Stewart Brand
Whole Earth Discipline

“The amusements of broadcast consist mainly of songs, stories, and games, just as in tribal life. The songs and stories are mostly about courtship, the games mostly played by men, just as in tribal life.”

Stewart Brand

“The fashion game is fun for architects to play and diverting for the public to watch, but it’s deadly for building users. When the height of fashion moves on, they’re the ones left behind, stuck in a building that was designed to look good rather than work well, and now it doesn’t even look good.”

Stewart Brand
How Buildings Learn

“The great problem with the future is that we die there. This is why it is so hard to take the future personally, especially the longer future, because that world is suffused with our absence.”

Stewart Brand

“The house and its occupants mold to each other twenty-four hours a day, and the building accumulates the record of that intimacy.”

Stewart Brand
How Buildings Learn

“The main problem with solar on the Earth's surface is that it is so intermittent, and we don't have decent storage yet.”

Stewart Brand

“The one garment in the world with the greatest and longest popularity—over a century now—is Levi’s denim blue jeans. Along with their practical durability, they show age honestly and elegantly, as successive washings fade and shrink them to perfect fit and rich texture. Ingenious techniques to simulate aging of denim come and go, but the basic indigo 501s, copper-riveted, carry on for decades. This is highly evolved design. Are there blue-jeans buildings among us?”

Stewart Brand
How Buildings Learn

“The point is to explore whatever may be helpful for thinking, understanding, and acting responsibly over long periods of time.”

Stewart Brand
The Clock of the Long Now

“The sociologist Elise Boulding diagnosed the problem of our times as 'temporal exhaustion': If one is mentally out of breath all the time from dealing with the present, there is no energy left for imaging the future.”

Stewart Brand
The Clock of the Long Now

“The technology of synthetic biology is currently accelerating at four times the rate of Moore's Law. It's been doing that since 2005, and it's likely to continue.”

Stewart Brand
The dawn of de-extinction. Are you ready?

“The temptation to customize a building around a new technology is always enormous, and it is nearly always unnecessary. Technology is relatively lightweight and flexible—more so every decade. Let the technology adapt to the building rather than vice versa, and then you’re not pushed around when the next technology comes along.”

Stewart Brand
How Buildings Learn

“The urgent finds you; you have to find the important. Importance is not fast. It is slow. It is not superficial. It is deep. And as a result, it's extremely powerful. When important matters go wrong, they undermine everything. When they go right, they sustain everything.”

Stewart Brand

“There should always be in sight the draw — a kind of a beacon that draws you on through the labyrinth.”

Stewart Brand

“There's no unemployment in squatter cities. Everyone works. One-sixth of humanity is there. It's soon going to be more than that.”

Stewart Brand

“This is pretty much the infrastructural stuff that comes along with large quantities of energy. Whichever technology we are looking at has serious hazardous issues.”

Stewart Brand

“To change is to lose identity; yet to change is to be alive.”

Stewart Brand
How Buildings Learn

“Tool - something with a use on one end and a grasp on the other end.”

Stewart Brand

“Want to know where the action in a culture is? Watch where new language is turning up and where the lawyers collect, usually in that sequence.”

Stewart Brand

“We are as gods and might as well get good at it.”

Stewart Brand
Whole Earth Discipline

“We can influence the future but not see it.”

Stewart Brand
The Clock of the Long Now

“We finesse climate, or climate finesses us.”

Stewart Brand
Whole Earth Discipline

“We have wished, we eco-freaks, for a disaster or for a social change to come and bomb us into Stone Age, where we might live like Indians in our valley, with our localism, our appropriate technology, our gardens, our homemade religion-guilt-free at last!”

Stewart Brand

“We seem trapped in the Short Now. The present generation enjoys the greatest power in history, but it appears to have the shortest vision in history. That combination is lethal.”

Stewart Brand

“When a fantasy turns you on, you're obligated to God and nature to start doing it right away.”

Stewart Brand

“When a generation talks just to itself, it becomes more filled with folly than it might have otherwise.”

Stewart Brand

“When Brian Eno approached the father of Anthea Norman-Taylor for permission to marry her, he was told, “What you have to ask yourself is, ‘Would I wish this woman to be the grandmother of my grandchildren?'”

Stewart Brand
The Clock of the Long Now

“When environmentalists are wrong, it is frequently technology that they are wrong about, and they wind up supporting parochial Green goals at the cost of comprehensive ones. That happened with space technology, nuclear technology, and genetic engineering. If your default position on a new technology is suspicion, you forfeit the ability to deploy it for your own purposes. "The environmental movement has so far concentrated its attention upon the evils that technology has done rather than upon the good that technology has failed to do," says Freeman Dyson. But focusing on Green technological opportunity requires a shift in attitude toward novelty.”

Stewart Brand
Whole Earth Discipline

“When faced with a problem that is difficult to solve, it may be fruitful to ask ourselves: 'What would a microbe do?'”

Stewart Brand

“When the government tries to run innovation, sometimes it does it well and sometimes it doesn't. So setting up a situation where the market runs innovation, which is a cap-and-trade idea, may well have more flexibility.”

Stewart Brand

“Whenever I hear the word 'share' I would reach for a gun if I had one. 'Share' is frequently followed by the word 'feelings', and I have enough of my own thank you; please do us both a favor and repress yours.”

Stewart Brand

“Wind energy takes a very large footprint on the land, five to 10 times what you'd use for nuclear, and typically to get one gigawatt of electricity is on the order of 250 square miles of wind farm.”

Stewart Brand

“With solar, especially here in California, we're discovering that the 80 solar farm schemes that are going forward want to basically bulldoze 1,000 sq. mi. of southern California desert. Well, as an environmentalist, we would rather that didn't happen.

Stewart Brand

“You own your own words, unless they contain information. In which case they belong to no one.”

Stewart Brand