Future Tense

Future Tense Newsletter: An A.I. Cold War?

A screen shows an artificial intelligence news anchor introducing himself at the Light of Internet Expo during the 5th World Internet Conference in Wuzhen in China's eastern Zhejiang province.
STR/AFP/Getty Images

Greetings, Future Tensers,

While it may not lead to the next Cold War, the growing rivalry between the United States and China has certainly led to some frosty competition between the great powers. This is especially true of the tech sector, where some analysts liken the U.S. and China’s heavy strategic investments in cybersecurity, quantum computing, 5G, and artificial intelligence to a digital arms race, one that, because of China’s long-term positioning and access to vast amounts of data to train on, that country will win. But Anne-Marie Slaughter argues that when it comes to the world-shifting technology of artificial intelligence, the narrative isn’t so simple. She explains why she is putting her money on the United States.


Great power conflict isn’t the only thing we at Future Tense have been fretting about this week. We’ve also been looking at digital privacy. Sarah Esther Lageson looks at the movement to end the mug-shot digital economy. Ari Ezra Waldman contends that Facebook’s so-called pivot to privacy sure seems to take a self-servingly narrow view of user privacy. And Aaron Mak explores the ethical ramifications of the use of facial recognition technology in a surprising place: pig farms.


Other things we read while cursing Standard Time:

Fatal flaw: Jeff Wise explains how a bad business decision may have made Boeing’s 737 Max more vulnerable to crashes.

Self-driving wrecks: Henry Grabar argues that the Boeing 737 Max crashes should serve as a warning to drivers who are increasingly vulnerable to similar “autonomous surprises.”


Spin us round: Wikipedia’s editors are finding that citationless “facts” from the platform are taking on a life of their own—and becoming a real problem as the free encyclopedia grows, Stephen Harrison reports.

(Cyber) spy vs. spy: Josephine Wolff explains how a secretive Russian trial is straining the already fraught U.S.-Russia relationship on cybercrimes.

Audience of one: Some lobbying groups have been boasting that they can use geofencing to plant hypertargeted client ads in the president’s beloved Twitter feed. Aaron Mak investigates the claim.

Frightening results: Could anti-tobacco–style shock campaigns scare parents into vaccinating their children?


Could your at-home DNA test be used to crack a cold case? Join Future Tense on March 20 in D.C. for a happy hour conversation on how genetic genealogy—the use of DNA testing in conjunction with family-tree mapping—has become the new cutting-edge technology for solving decades-old crimes. We’ll be joined by the hosts of the hit true crime podcast Bear Brook and experts on DNA, law enforcement, and privacy. RSVP here.

To all of the “Tim Apples” in our phones,

Anthony Nguyen

For Future Tense

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

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society.