Future Tense Newsletter: The All-Seeing Eye

An extreme closeup of a human eye

Greetings, Future Tensers,

We like to think that dystopian movies about totalitarian surveillance serve as warnings for policymakers and scientists. But an engineer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was so inspired by the surveillance technology in the 1998 Will Smith movie Enemy of the State that he decided to make it a reality. The Department of Defense has created similar systems that use wide-area motion imagery to look at wide swaths of territory at a time, tracking thousands of vehicles and individuals on the ground. And now, this tech is being developed for domestic law-enforcement use. Arthur Holland Michel, author of the new book Eyes in the Sky, argues that the cross-pollination of ideas from Hollywood to government deserves more scrutiny.

Elsewhere on Future Tense, Stephen Harrison asks what Wikipedia should do when brands try to manipulate their entries on the site. Chip Brownlee describes how a pro-Trump social media site saw a huge influx of (mostly Saudi) users fed up with Twitter’s “censorship.” And Subramaniam Vincent explains the differing content policies between Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Other things we read between trying out at-home medical tests:

Viral like me: A digital media and tech lawyer who tweeted about the Manhattan helicopter crash describes how his tweets were swept up by media organizations following the tragedy.

Cheapfakes: Deepfakes—very convincing fake video and audio made with artificial intelligence—have captured the attention of the public and policymakers. But cheapfakes, more simply modified graphics and videos, can be as damaging as their higher-tech cousins. Whether deep or cheap, the legal avenues to take these videos down aren’t clear cut.

Bored, Lonely, Angry, Stupid: While some experts warn we’re in a “loneliness epidemic” exacerbated by social media, a new book by Luke Fernandez and Susan J. Matt addresses how the rollout of new tech has long affected our collective mental state, becoming the impetus and cure for isolation. Read an excerpt and Rebecca Onion’s review.

Back-seat driving: How close are we to self-driving cars? Chris Urmson, who pioneered the tech at Google, tells April Glaser on If Then that it might still be decades away.

Great power competition: Treating data as the “new oil” risks seriously undermining our future technological competitiveness and democratic protections.

Taking flight: Will a “Flying-V” airplane really make flying more environmentally friendly? Christopher Schaberg explains why the design isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

To Facebook’s new cryptocurrency,

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.