Future Tense Newsletter: Body Politic(s)

Caster Semenya runs.
Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images

Greetings, Future Tensers,

Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya has long been subject to intense scrutiny. Rumors. Sex verification testing. False, racist, and sexist hysteria from sports commentators and fellow athletes. (“For me, she is not a woman. She is a man,” said one competitor.) Rule changes from international competition regulators—seemingly directed at her—that began requiring women with excessive production of androgens to undergo medical treatment to bring testosterone levels to within the regular female range if they wanted to compete. And, in a recent blow last week, a ruling that upheld such rules, meaning that if Semenya wants to continue to compete, she must take hormonal therapy to reduce her natural testosterone levels. Sports historian Victoria Jackson dives into the decadeslong humiliation of Semenya and other athletes who have had their gender identities challenged—and what it means when elite international sport governing bodies force us to place natural bodies that exist along a spectrum into such rigid categories.

This week, Future Tense has also been eyeing surveillance tech. April Glaser looks at the city of San Francisco’s move to ban the use of facial recognition technology by its local government, making it the first municipality in the U.S. to do so. Former police officer Katie Miller writes about how body cameras force cops to do everything by the book—even when doing so may not always be in the community’s best interest. And Jane C. Hu explores the recent “defection” of an alleged Russian spy whale by giving us a history of how militaries around the world have used marine life for espionage.

Other things we read while going to war with our lawns:

The buzz: As delivery drones and other types of small flying craft become more commonplace, so, too, will the noise they bring.

Edible fairy tales: Though they’ve been heralded as environment and animal saviors, the spread of lab-grown meat alternatives could still end up creating some of the same problems we see in our industrial agriculture system.

Cosmic fire drill: What should humanity do if it learns an asteroid is hurtling toward Earth? At a weeklong conference, scientists tried to game it out.

Insert card: Microchipped credit cards were supposed to cut down on fraud. Instead, they may have simply shifted it online.

Phantastic: Philly’s public transit system is piloting a program where users have to watch ads before buying tickets (as if SEPTA wasn’t frustrating enough).

Virtual couch: Shannon Palus explains how video therapy is not as terrible as it may seem.


TONIGHT: Will slaughter-free meat change the way America eats? Join Future Tense and the New America Fellows Program tonight in New York City for a happy hour conversation about the future foods that may dramatically transform the American way of eating. We’ll be joined by food journalists, culinary historians, and experts on lab-grown meat, and we’ll even have some samples of some next-generation plant-based meat offerings. RSVP here.

To the dam great beaver emoji,

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.