Future Tense Newsletter: Back to the Future (Tense)

It’s finally here!

Photo by Universal Pictures

Dear Slate-liens,

This is no imaginary story! No hoax! It’s Oct. 21, 2015, the day that Marty McFly and Doc Brown travel to in Back to the Future Part II. Though its vision of tomorrow remains influential, it’s really a movie about the dangers of trying to predict the future. But that’s not going to stop us from wondering when we’re going to get those hoverboards. If you really want to understand how the movie constructed its version of 2015, listen carefully to its slang. And if you’re still not sated, check out these other time terrific time-travel movies.

Here in the actual 2015, we spent more of our week than we’d like to admit playing video games, one of them as irredeemable as it is impossibly addictive. David Auerbach looked into Prison Architect—a game that is actually good—and investigated the peculiar path its developers took to success. And on an even more affirmative front, Emmanuel Felton discussed whether games could help students learn the Common Core.

Here are some of the other stories that had us contemplating dark secrets:

  • Counterterrorism: Can we use A.I. chatbots to distract ISIS?
  • Star maps: For reasons of national security, the U.S. Naval Academy has started teaching celestial navigation again.
  • Puppy love: A new device promises to report on pet emotions.
  • Drone warfare: A company has developed a prototype “radio rifle” to knock drones out of the sky.
  • Digital rights: In a landmark decision, a U.S. appeals court found that the massive scanning project Google Books falls under fair use.

Traveling at 88 mph,

Jacob Brogan

for Future Tense