Sunday, March 02, 2008

Extinction Timeline

Extinction usually makes me think of odd looking fish, once pristine forests now used for crops, and Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi (video). It usually evokes images of natural things that mankind has wiped out.

Ross Dawson has an extinction timeline of things man has wiped out or will soon wipe out. The difference is that his timeline consists of things man first created, and is about to wipe out - such as libraries, newspapers, petrol-fueled vehicles, blogging, and coins. You can download the timeline here.

This kind of timeline is an interesting device for donors and foundations - extinction is one thing if your funding is intended to prevent it (wildlife, flora, seeds, etc.) but what if you are planning for it? Or at least factoring in the likelihood of massive institutional shifts (including extinction) into your strategy development?

How does it change your thinking about funding something if you first consider whether or not the institution will last? How would education funders change their work if they seriously considered whether or not schools will continue in the digital age? What about health funders if wellness care replaced urgent care? Or art funding in an age of transient performance pieces that are designed to happen once and be gone, never to be preserved in a museum or by dance notation?

What does transience mean for philanthropy? What about planned obsolescence? Or extinction? Or simply the idea that institutions have lifespans and so they will end...?

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