Future Tense

Future Tense Newsletter: Scary DIY Gun Kits, a History of Facial Recognition Tech, and More

A facial recognition system for law enforcement on display during the NVIDIA GPU Technology Conference in 2017.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Greetings, Future Tensers,

Were you among the many Facebook users who received a notification introducing the platform’s facial-recognition features last week? That’s because, after years of using the software, lawsuits have finally pressured the social network into being more transparent about how it collects and employs this biometric data. Slate’s Jaime Dunaway explains what the features mean for you and your privacy.

Facial-recognition technology isn’t just an issue of our high-tech times either. For centuries, creators promised earlier versions of the tech (bertillonage anyone?) would bring about a golden era of accuracy and objectivity in identification. Instead, it gave us questionable police profiling and dubious methods of personality assessment, writes José Ragas.

The obsession with using technology to address social problems finds its way into other parts of our culture too. Karen Levy explains how apps meant to help domestic abuse victims fall short by assuming digital abuse is merely a technical issue. Deborah Todd writes about how we need to drop the thoroughly debunked idea that video games cause gun violence. And Slate’s April Glaser chronicles the booming sales of DIY gun kits in unregulated online marketplaces post-Parkland.

Other things we read while ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ :

Asleep at the wheel: Uber may have capped worker shifts at 12 hours to prevent drowsy driving, but Alex Rosenblat explains why the policy won’t be enough to keep drivers safe.

War of the roses: You might have been mad about how this season of The Bachelor ended, but not as mad as these fans who took to Wikipedia in an editing war to dunk on this season’s titular bachelor.

Better than gravity blankets: A new type of spacesuit could help prevent astronaut depression, writes Jacob Brogan.

Sneaking a peak: Governments with strict internet censorship are trying to limit VPN use. So why is the technology growing?

Environmental wins: Congress recently approved a new tax incentive that could boost carbon-capture tech. Ryan Edwards and Kasparas Spokas explain how it could help in the fight against climate change.

Reddit reckoning: While Facebook, Twitter, and Google have gotten the most heat for spreading Russian propaganda during the 2016 election, April Glaser looks into how Reddit is starting to reconcile with its own involvement.

Your clicks are my ASMR (whatever that means),

Tonya Riley

For Future Tense

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