Future Tense

Future Tense Newsletter: “Undue Risk of Sabotage”

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media prior to his departure from the White House April 10, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump will sign an executive order on energy and infrastructure. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Greetings, Future Tensers,

Last week, President Donald Trump’s administration fired its latest salvos in its market-rattling trade war with China. First, it announced heavy trade restrictions that will hobble the Chinese telecom giant Huawei’s ability to do business with U.S. suppliers like Google, potentially cutting Huawei’s booming smartphone business off from the Android operating system its devices run on. Then, the president issued an executive order that gives officials broad authority to restrict U.S. tech purchases deemed risky to national security and linked to a “foreign adversary.” The moves represent a major effort to take Beijing to task for the various ways the U.S. says China creates unfair tech playing field. But, as Samm Sacks and Graham Webster explain, the plan may have some serious unintended consequences—and risk repeating some of China’s most costly protectionist mistakes.

In between watching the markets, Future Tense has also been exploring other issues in cybersecurity. Jane C. Hu investigates the mysterious disappearance of many popular Facebook groups—and the alleged Indonesian plot behind their mass removal. Josephine Wolff reports on how the FBI cracked the GozNym malware case when they found the cybercriminals were advertising their services online. And Stephen Harrison explains why China recently started blocking Wikipedia in all languages (hint: a certain anniversary is coming up).

Other things we read between brushing up on the effectiveness of Plan B:

Palate cleansing: Would you try 3D-printed virtual reality sushi? Sophie Haigney brings us into the weird race between scientists and entrepreneurs trying to disrupt the dining experience by hacking our senses.

Chasing waterfalls: In 1969, engineers shut off the water on Niagara Falls. Really. And the little-remembered episode helps show how the “natural wonder’s” naturalness has slowly diminished.

Extra credit: The College Board is rolling out an algorithm to calculate an “adversity score” to add to its larger suite of test results. Jane C. Hu explains how the move to even the playing field is another algorithmic black box.

Breaking up: April Glaser explains how an antitrust-style breakup of Facebook could actually be done.

Peer review: Shannon Palus explains why researchers decided to retract a paper concluding that Jon Stewart’s departure from The Daily Show helped Trump get elected.


TONIGHT: The original Jurassic Park did something few other movies have managed to do: It delivered the entertaining drama of dinosaurs wreaking havoc while giving viewers new ways to think about ethics in science.

Join Future Tense tonight in Washington, D.C., for a screening of the 1993 sci-fi classic and a brief discussion on the ways it helped inform—and misinform—the public imagination. We’ll be joined by the president of the National Academy of Sciences, Marcia McNutt, and Daniel Sarewitz, co-director of the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes. RSVP here.

To hologram Whitney Houston, who will always love you,

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.