Future Tense Newsletter: Winning the 5G Race

A man wears a VR headset in front of a big neon sign that says "5G VR."
A man plays a virtual reality game at a 5G store in Hangzhou, China.
STR/Getty Images

Greetings, Future Tensers,

The promise of 5G conjures visions of smart cities, self-driving cars, and other futuristic luxuries. Before any of that can become a reality, 5G networks need spectrum for use, and it won’t be easy to find. Many bands on the spectrum are already in use, and we can’t make more of it. The American Meteorological Society, NASA, and other organizations and agencies are warning that the rollout of 5G networks on bands close to ones already in use might disrupt services we depend on, like storm tracking and weather forecasting. Jane C. Hu explains how full the electromagnetic spectrum is becoming.

In China, a slick, sci-fi-ish ad campaign boasts that 5G will help law enforcement use facial recognition to catch the bad guys. Kyle Mullin examines how the ad illustrates China’s relationship with privacy. April Glaser explains how Apple’s new secure login feature is a boon for some users and not all. And Lawrence Norden writes about why bipartisan efforts to shore up our election security are being stalled in Congress.

Other things we read between binging HBO’s Chernobyl:

Alexa: What happens when smart speakers develop personalities, like in the Miley Cyrus episode of Black Mirror? They already have some personality, but how much personality they should have is still up for debate, both in the new season of Black Mirror (premiering on Netflix today) and at the U.N.

Burial requirements: Jane Maienschein explains the problem behind laws requiring the burial or cremation of miscarried or aborted fetuses.

Doomsday: Would an electromagnetic pulse attack spell the end of civilization as we know it? Conservative pundits seem to think so.

Light speed: Elon Musk’s transportation system of the future is borrowing a lot of ideas from the past.

Off limits: Jane C. Hu delves into the use of YouTube videos and tweets by researchers and how it’s raising new ethical questions about data collection.

Tornado warning: Is climate change making extreme weather events even worse? Some evidence is suggesting just that.

To our old, curated iTunes playlists,

Anthony Nguyen
For Future Tense

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society.