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Introducing Futurography

Our new guide to the technologies that will define tomorrow.

Photos by iStock.

It’s difficult to talk about the future. So many of the technologies and scientific breakthroughs that appear to be on the horizon may never come to fruition or will be markedly different than we imagined them. (Hoverboards, anyone?) And the conversations about any development with a sci-fi flavor tend to be polarized: A new technology will save the planet and make us all rich! No, it will doom the environment and dislodge women’s uteruses

That’s why Future Tense—a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University—has created Futurography. Future Tense is conceived as the citizen’s guide to the future; for six years now, we’ve been exploring emerging technologies and their implications for policy and society. But we decided it was time to get a little more fundamental. Futurography will combine the storytelling techniques of journalism and the instructive capacity of a massive open online course, or MOOC, in an effort to educate readers about the technologies that will define tomorrow. Each month from January through May, we’ll choose a new technology and break it down. What is the actual state of the science? Who are the scientists and thinkers leading its development? What are the primary ethical and policy debates? What’s the best piece of pop culture about the topic? We’ll also ask you what you want to know and will host at least one meetup—be it a live happy-hour debate in Washington, D.C., or a live chat with an expert—each month. At the end of the month, we’ll give you a quiz so you can see how much you’ve learned. And if you like it, we’ll keep doing it after May.

We’re kicking off Futurography with geoengineering—the concept of tinkering with the atmosphere to fix climate change. Our introduction and cheat sheet will help you get the lay of the land, and over the rest of the month we’ll introduce you to more ideas and questions about geoengineering. Other topics Futurography will explore include cyberwar, driverless cars, artificial intelligence, and more.

If you have suggestions or ideas, please feel free to email them to me at or tweet them @FutureTenseNow. You can also sign up for the weekly Future Tense newsletter, which will round up the Futurography content and let you know about upcoming events. Happy learning!