The Future Tense Newsletter Is Back

Illustration of a woman holding a digital device, surrounded by chains, and making opinions.
Lisa Larson-Walker

Hi Future Tensers,

Did you detect a ripple in the space-time continuum? Oh wait, that was just the Future Tense newsletter coming back to bring our “citizen’s guide to the future.” In the months since we hit pause on the newsletter, we published Future Tense Fiction: Stories of Tomorrow, the first anthology of our fiction, and continued to ask you, dear reader, to consider how emerging technologies are transforming the way we live. Now that we’re back, we’ll be sending out the newsletter on Saturdays, every other week.

Speaking of fiction: Last Saturday, we published our latest short story, “The Truth Is All There Is,” by Emily Parker. Blockchain cheerleaders say that the technology can revolutionize everything from spotting fake news to tuna conservation (seriously—check out this long list Future Tense published a while back). But Parker’s story, about a future in which the blockchain provides perfect transparency, shows the folly here. In the response essay, blockchain expert Jill Carlson writes, “We can record false claims on a blockchain. We can omit data. Suddenly, that source of truth does not appear so honest.”

Here are some other pieces we published recently:

Wish We’d Published This

The U.S. Is Losing Its Fight Against Huawei,” by Garrett M. Graff, Wired. For more on Huawei, listen to this week’s episode of What Next TBD.

Three Questions for a Smart Person

Josephine Wolff is an assistant professor of cybersecurity policy at Tufts Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a fellow at New America.

Margaret: What’s the area of data vulnerability we don’t talk about enough? 
All the different forms online extortion can take —not just ransomware but also using bits of information about people (e.g., stolen passwords or personal files/photos) to make online extortion demands and all the possible ways that can be used to compromise individuals. 

What will the future of elections look like for politicians that have been online their entire lives? 
We’ll get much more accustomed to seeing embarrassing types of personal information coming out around the time of elections, and I think we’ll see more people taking into consideration what they have online. 

Should we all get a backup clamshell or other analog backup to the cloud?
Yes, I think even a USB drive is a good idea for things that are special to you to have somewhere unplugged.

Want to learn more? Check out this Future Tense story by Josephine that asks: “Do more patients die at hospitals that experience data breaches?

Future Tense Recommends

Besides The Crown, which is sorely lacking in sci-fi, my latest Netflix binge has been Ad Vitam, a fascinating French show about the downside of life extension. Thanks to a process called regeneration, people can live in perpetual health, looking like they’re in their 30s. But out of fear of overpopulation, the country begins pondering restrictions on child-bearing. Meanwhile, young people–considered minors until they’re 30–are angry at a world that refuses to make space for them. (They can’t even drink or do drugs to kill time, because it would mess up their future regeneration.) Despite the French angst, a sinister conspiracy, and the dystopian premise, it doesn’t feel as joyless or didactic as Black Mirror.—Torie Bosch, Future Tense editor

Upcoming Future Tense Events

If you’re in Washington, join us on Feb. 5 for “Kickstarting the Digital Heartland,” a lunchtime discussion of how to bridge the digital divide in America. And if you can’t make it in person, we’ll have a livestream. For more information and to RSVP, visit the New America website, where you can also watch the event from afar.

We’ll see you again in two weeks!
—Margaret from Future Tense

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