Future Tense Newsletter: “You Can’t Live off the Basic”

Read Lee Konstantinou's “Burned-Over Territory.”
Doris Liou

Greetings, Future Tensers,

This weekend, we published “Burned-Over Territory,” the latest installment of our Future Tense Fiction series. In it, author Lee Konstantinou brings us the story of a near-future where mass automation has supplanted most human jobs, and the universal basic income system put in place to make up for it has failed to stem the tide of rising social inequality. In fact, in some ways, the UBI has exacerbated economic woes. “You can’t live off the Basic,” as the protagonist says. In his response essay to the story, UBI advocate Sebastian Johnson writes that while real-world proposals for guaranteed income systems may not bring about the fully automated luxury communism we all might hope for, they certainly don’t portend a new American dystopia.

This week in news, Future Tense has been focused on election-related manipulation and security. Ciara Long wrote about Jair Bolsonaro’s victory in Brazil’s presidential election and how the campaign leading up to his victory represented a high-water mark of false news and other misinformation on Brazilian social media. Lawrence Norden listed the things we Americans can do to better safeguard ourselves from potential voting glitches and election interference as we cast our ballots for the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential race. And Jeremy Epstein explored how the lack of tech savvy among our mostly elderly poll workers poses a serious threat to our election security.

Other things we read while reminiscing about the old days of Twitter’s 140-character limit:

Off the rails: While it’s easy for science fiction to depict a collapsing America, it can be more difficult to imagine a livable world where everything is still going wrong. Michael Burnam-Fink marks the 20th birthday of Bruce Sterling’s novel Distraction and explains how it offers us a unique brand of hope in today’s political climate.

Lest we forget online: William Vaillancourt argues that putting a Vietnam Veterans Memorial education center online instead of building a physical one will make the history more accessible.

I spy: Aaron Mak recaps the recent New York Times report alleging that Chinese and Russian spies are surveilling President Trump’s unsecured personal iPhone—and explains how the foreign eavesdropping on the commander in chief’s calls might work.

Virtual visits: While video calls can facilitate faster and easier communication, many prison facilities are using it to replace in-person visits. Emma Coleman explains how this robs people in prison of much-needed human contact and saddles them with privacy risks and financial burdens.

Proud to be an American?: April Glaser reports on how Iranian propagandists have gotten better at impersonating Americans, making it easier for their foreign troll farms to sow political and racial divides on Facebook.

The perfect storm: Alexander C. Kaufman writes about how climate change will only increase the number of refugees and asylum-seekers at America’s doors.

To letting Gmail write our emails for us,

Anthony Nguyen
For Future Tense

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