Future Tense Newsletter: Fully Automated Luxury Surveillance

A close-up shot of a surveillance camera, with a pedestrian in a blue hoodie in the background.
A video surveillance camera hangs from the side of a building in San Francisco.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Greetings, Future Tensers,

With cameras a ubiquitous presence in many cities, the market for video analytics technology has sharply risen. Companies are competing to develop software that can comb through thousands of hours of footage for specific triggers, for advertising and law enforcement purposes. However, as is increasingly clear, this software can be prone to making mistakes, such as often misidentifying people of color. April Glaser explains how the use of A.I. to sift through surveillance footage is both more widespread and more dangerous than you might think.

Elsewhere on Future Tense, we’ve been writing about cybersecurity and censorship. Josephine Wolff asks whether insurance companies should pay ransomware demands as more and more cities are being held hostage by hackers. Ron Lyons Jr. describes how President Donald Trump’s sanctions have led to the cutting off of Syrian and Iranian players from the popular online game League of Legends. And Mark Joseph Stern explains why Sen. Josh Hawley’s plan to stop internet censorship would actually require censorship.

Other things we read between rewatching Disney’s 1999 classic Smart House:

Justice for all: What should an extraterrestrial judicial system look like? Astronomer Erika Nesvold describes the challenges that would face a would-be space legal system.

“Wind” surfing: Ever on the cutting edge of development, SpaceX recently launched a “solar sail” that uses the pressure from light particles to propel itself through space.

iFarming: Automating agriculture isn’t a new idea, but introducing A.I. into farming might just perpetuate existing, systemic problems, says B.R. Cohen.

Blackout: Chip Brownlee explains what was behind Monday’s internet outage and the fragility of our internet services.

For the ’gram: Instagram influencers, online bloggers, YouTubers, and curious onlookers are destroying flower fields and orchards in the name of snapping a pic.

Mistrial: In what might be a step too far, France is moving to ban “judicial analytics,” the use of machine learning or analytics to predict judicial behavior.


How will we govern ourselves in space? Join Future Tense and the JustSpace Alliance on July 10 in Washington to consider how we might ensure that our “next frontier” is one that reflects our most humane and democratic values. Stick around after the event to continue the conversation with a happy hour reception. RSVP or watch online here.

To smartphone bone spurs,

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.