Future Tense Newsletter: Even Homer Uses That GIF

No Moon and Flat Calm
Lisa Larson-Walker

Greetings, Future Tensers,

Last week, we published “No Moon and Flat Calm,” the latest installment in our Future Tense Fiction series. In it, author Elizabeth Bear imagines a crew of safety engineers on a routine trip to a space that are thrown into sudden disaster onboard the station. How will real future humans react to calamity when we’re millions of miles away from home? And how much can training for such potential crises override our natural instincts? In a response essay to the story, Amanda Ripley, journalist and author of The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes—and Why, tackles these questions—and what they might mean for those striving to send humans to Mars and beyond.

Elsewhere on Future Tense, we’ve been tackling recent turns down slippery slopes in issues related to data privacy and cybersecurity. Natalie Ram looks at how GEDMatch, the open-data genetic genealogy database made famous for helping to track down the alleged Golden State Killer, is now opening its doors to law enforcement hoping to solve less-serious crimes.

What could go wrong with selling your personal data? Garrett Hazelwood examines a new breed of tech startups called “data exchanges,” which promise to let individuals cash in by letting companies track their every digital move in real time. And Josephine Wolff argues that Baltimore, which has been battling a major ransomware attack on its city government’s online systems, should back off considering paying the ransom.

Other things we read between contemplating the spread of “freedom gas” around the world:

Emergency alert: With growing numbers of people turning to streaming services as their primary source entertainment, will platforms like Netflix start featuring emergency weather warnings?

Flying saucers: Did Navy pilots see unidentified flying objects? Yes. Did they see aliens? Unknown! Shannon Palus explains how a recent string of mystery sightings demonstrates that we need a new term for “UFO.”

War zone: Aaron Mak takes us into the veritable battlefield of Donald Trump’s Wikipedia page, where editors are waging brutal, petty fights over every word choice and section.

On-call: Two emergency room pediatric doctors who treated an immigrant child who had been separated from her mother write about the emotional devastation and infuriating medical implications of the government’s family separation policy.

The new meter: The definition of a kilogram just changed. Wait, what?


Join Future Tense and the New America Cybersecurity Program on June 4, in Washington, D.C., for the launch of the Data & Great Power Competition project and a discussion on how data is an essential element of national power. RSVP here.

To the trippy, mind-bending rise of GIFs on TV,

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.