Future Tense Newsletter: A Theory of Conspiracy

Julian Assange gestures to the media from inside a police vehicle.
Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Greetings, Future Tensers,

Hours after authorities arrested Julian Assange in London last week, the U.S. government unsealed an indictment against the WikiLeaks founder. Many free speech advocates waited warily to see what crimes the U.S. might try to bring against the man whose website had published hundreds of thousands of classified and sensitive government documents, worried that the U.S. may try to get him on violations of the Espionage Act (among the charges levied against Edward Snowden—and with grave implications for journalists who use classified information or documents given to them by sources). But many were relieved to find that, for now, he faces just one count: conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. Josephine Wolff dives into the government’s case against Assange and explains why the Justice Department’s seemingly cautious strategy might still have a tough time in court.

When we’re not analyzing U.S.-U.K. extradition treaties, we at Future Tense have been examining questions of morality in tech and science. Stephen Harrison writes that we have an ethical duty to leave businesses we like reviews on Yelp. Gregory E. Kaebnick and Michael Gusmano argue that “because science” won’t persuade parents to vaccinate their children, but engaging them on values might. And Ruth Graham reports on the ways a new statement from the Southern Baptist Convention shows how that church is grappling with the potential ramifications A.I. might have on faith, bias, the workplace, sex, and God.

Other things we read while scanning our Airbnbs for hidden cameras:

Blackouts: Even democracies can have streaks of digital authoritarianism. Subhodeep Jash writes about how India became the world leader in intentional internet shutdowns and how these shutdowns became a favored tool of online repression.

Calendar invite: Jane C. Hu congratulates the spammers and scammers who managed to infiltrate Google Hangouts and Calendar to reach their marks.

Notoriety: How Katie Bouman, the scientist famous for her role in capturing the black hole image, started a massive debate on Wikipedia.

Sans serif: Jane C. Hu argues that, to break up the sameness of the internet, platforms should stop making us use the same designs—and bring back the MySpace era of custom fonts and colors.

Party line: Some younger Republicans are breaking with President Donald Trump to try to get their party to confront the issue of climate change.

Deep clean: Molly Olmstead explains how hospitals are ripping out floor tiles, reconfiguring pipes, and deploying hydrogen peroxide–spraying robots to try to halt the spread of drug-resistant superbugs.

To the close relationships on Game of Thrones,

Anthony Nguyen
For Future Tense

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