Future Tense Newsletter: This Is Not a Test of the Presidential Alert System

A phone is seen in Grand Central Station as it receives an emergency test presidential-alert message.
Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images

Greetings, Future Tensers,

This week, California and the federal government officially went to war over net neutrality. Hours after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that enshrines protections against internet companies slowing down or blocking content, the Justice Department sued the state for creating regulations that run counter to the Federal Communications Commission’s deregulation on this issue. April Glaser explains how the fight over net neutrality didn’t end with the Trump administration’s repeal of Obama-era rules, and how California’s case might allow for a patchwork of state-by-state internet rules across the country.

Suing California isn’t the only thing the FCC’s been up to. Today, cellphones across the country sounded an alarm at 2:18 p.m. EDT as the FCC and FEMA conducted a national test of the Emergency Alert System and the very first test of the presidential alert of the Wireless Emergency Alert system. No, you can’t opt out. And no, don’t worry, there are layers of bureaucracy to protect you from Trump using it to send you a middle-of-the-night missive.

Elsewhere on Future Tense, we’ve been covering the other players that shape our digital lives. Ed Finn and Andrew Maynard argue that Google’s dominance over the global web-search market has its users questioning, “If it’s not on Google, does it really exist at all?” Tech expert Matthew Green tells us why he’s increasingly wary of trusting the internet giant. And Emerson T. Brooking and P. W. Singer describe how a chain email about science fiction authors gave birth to social media as we know it today.

Other things we read between changing our Facebook passwords:

In it to win it: Read our new Future Tense Fiction story from Hannu Rajaniemi, “Lions and Gazelles,” about competition and betrayal among biohacked athletes.

Morality pill: Evolutionary biologist Rowan Hooper responds to “Lions and Gazelles” by looking at whether we can—and should—replicate the burning desire to win that drives superhuman athletes.

Muzzled: This week, the SEC ordered Tesla to put in place “controls and procedures to oversee [Elon] Musk’s communications,” including his tweets. Rachel Withers explains what that means for the future of the tech CEO’s infamous social media presence.

Cybersleuths: Josephine Wolff explores a partnership between the University of Notre Dame and St. Joseph County, Indiana, that enlists undergraduate students as sworn officers of the local government’s Cyber Crimes Unit.

Edit wars: Stephen Harrison argues that the debate over “Devil’s Triangle” shows Wikipedia at its best.

Can you take a message? When constituents went to call their congressional representatives about Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination this week, some ran into a problem: full voicemail inboxes. Heather Schwedel explains how Congress’ outdated communication technology is preventing their voices from being heard.

To quitting Microsoft Word,

Anthony Nguyen

For Future Tense

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