Future Tense

Future Tense Newsletter: Welcome to the Twitter Presidency

President Donald Trump delivers his inaugural address on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Friday.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Greetings, Future Tensers,

Though the country witnessed an immense transfer of power on Friday—by which I mean the handoff of the @POTUS account from President Barack Obama to President Donald J. Trump, of course—it seems the new leadership may not quite have a handle on all of the government’s handles. This week, Lauren Wagner wrote about the Badlands National Park account tweeting, then deleting, facts about climate change. (Apparently the posts came from a former, unauthorized employee.) Slate also covered the kerfuffle on Friday over the National Park Service’s “mistaken” retweets, including one featuring side-by-side aerial photos comparing crowd size at Obama’s ’09 inauguration to Trump’s ’17 affair.


Though a few Department of Interior accounts went rogue, Jacob Brogan explains that it’s unlikely that @DeptofDefense was throwing similar shade. That Monday message about social media posts providing “an important window into a person’s #mentalhealth”? Probably not a snarky subtweet.


In the latest installments of our Futurography series, we’re continuing our conversation about the enduring legacy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Joey Eschrich describes why it’s telling that modern adaptations of the story transform the Franken-creations from something hideous into something sexy (looking at you, Westworld). Charlotte Gordon highlights what real-life artificial intelligence researchers can learn from the fictional Dr. Frankenstein’s big mistakes. And professor Kevin Esvelt explains how the novel helps him think about his own cutting-edge genetic research.


Here’s some other pieces we read between checking to see if @NASAClimate is still online:

  • Another Facebook CEO?: Anna Lauren Hoffman writes that no, hiring a “chief ethics officer” won’t fix Facebook’s problems. So long as it and other Silicon Valley megacompanies still prioritize profits over nuanced moral thinking, not much will change at these epicenters of social and political activity.
  • Commander in tweets: As Donald Trump assumed the presidency this week, he sacrificed something dear in the process: his Android phone. Jacob Brogan explains why his presumably more secure replacement device may mean fewer 3 a.m. tweets
  • Know your rights!: Is the massive Women’s March last weekend (or Trump’s reaction) inspiring you to take to the streets again? Check out Future Tense’s updated guide on how protesters should be protecting their mobile devices.



Why are we still talking about Frankenstein? Nearly 200 years after the debut of Mary Shelley’s novel, its themes of scientific advancement and moral consequences still resonate. So what does it tell us in an age where creating life in the lab—through artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, robotics—seems more plausible than ever? Join Future Tense for a live event on Feb. 2 in Washington exploring the spawn of Frankenstein. RSVP to attend in person or watch online here.

Paying no attention to the man with the flying car,
Kirsten Berg
for Future Tense

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.