Greetings, Future Tensers,
Today, we published “A Brief and Fearful Star,” the latest installment of our Future Tense Fiction series. In it, author Carmen Maria Machado brings us the story of a daughter who experiences echoes of her mother’s memories as if they were her own, as if they were “seared into [her] cells.” In reality, parents do not pass down fully-formed memories to their children in a biological sense. But, as science journalist Erika Hayasaki explores in her response essay, the nascent field of epigenetic inheritance is looking into the controversial question of whether a parents’ or grandparents’ life experiences might influence the traits their offspring inherit—and what those findings might say about what really makes us who we are. Machado’s tale caps off our trio of stories about memory. But we’ll be back next month with more fiction, starting our series on the theme of sport.
This week in news, the nation has been fixed on the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, which led to the forcible separation of migrant children from their parents. On last week’s episode of our podcast If Then, hosts April Glaser and Will Oremus discussed tech companies’ responses in the face of a humanitarian emergency. Elsewhere, we’ve got the story an unusual source of information about immigration policy: a Twitter bot. Slate’s Sofie Werthan has more on @Abolish_ICE_Now, the automated account that’s devoted to posting the names, locations, capacities, inspection ratings, other details about all 212 prisons and detention centers that are holding immigrants across the United States. And, in case you assumed these policies were just a terrestrial concern, Lucianne Walkowicz warns us that Trump’s desire to create a Space Force shows his obsession with borders doesn’t stop on earth.
We also have more stories from our Update or Die series, which focuses on how companies and other organizations adapt to technological change—or get left behind. Vivian Graubard, a founding member of the U.S. Digital Service, reflects on how her attempts to improve the federal government’s approach to technology proved much harder than expected. Sara Hudson brings us the unusual story of the city of New Orleans, which realized nobody was using its new road-closure-map website—and then decided to actually fix it. And Felix Salmon tells us about an affordable, portable ultrasound device that is transforming healthcare in countries like South Sudan.
Other things we read between establishing internet fiefdoms:
Google’s poster child: Rachel Withers helps us understand what it feels like when your face becomes Google Image’s definition of “crying liberal” or “bitcoin bro.”
Brakes off in Beantown: Last week, Boston gave the autonomous vehicle company nuTonomy the green light to start testing its self-driving fleet on its streets. Amy Pollard writes about the ways city will make for a congested and confusing proving ground.
Tech behind bars: When they’re released, former prison inmates are expected to use tech to reintegrate. What if we taught them how to do that while they were incarcerated?
City of stars: Sixty years ago, smog from London forced the closure of the U.K.’s Royal Observatory. Now, thanks to technological advances that aid urban astronomy, the observatory is reopening.
For Future Tense
Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.