Future Tense

Future Tense Newsletter: No Predictions Here

A crystal ball floats over a hand against a backdrop of greenery.
Let the crystal ball go. Shunsuke Ono/Unsplash

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The other day, I was scanning the Simpsons subreddit, as one does, when I came across a meme of one of my favorite moments from the show.

It’s from “Lisa the Greek,” a Season 3 episode in which Homer keeps losing money gambling on professional football, despite the guidance of Mr. 52 Percent, Smooth Jimmy Apollo, who every Sunday offers a “Lock of the Week” pick. After one bum pick, Smooth Jimmy says, “Well, folks, when you’re right 52 percent of the time, you’re wrong 48 percent of the time,” and Homer wails.

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“52 percent” is a perfect note for this time of year, when we are overwhelmed with predictions about the year to come. One reason for prediction articles: You can write them ahead of time, which adds up to some easy content to publish over the holidays, when newsrooms are shorter-staffed. They are also, of course, fun—and no one really gets held to account for them, as Dan Gardner’s excellent 2011 book Future Babble details. There are far more December pieces offering predictions for the upcoming year than December pieces evaluating the previous year’s predictions.

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So Future Tense is offering you the gift of no predictions this year, besides a promise that whatever happens at the intersection of tech, policy, and society in 2022, we’ll continue to cover it with  forward-looking analysis from a variety of perspectives. And we will continue engaging your imagination with lots more Future Tense Fiction, of course.

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The newsletter is going to take the rest of the year off, but we’ll be back going to take the rest of the year off, but we’ll be back on Saturday, Jan. 8. Happy new year!

Here are some stories from the recent past of Future Tense.

Wish We’d Published This

Delivery Failed: How an EV startup and its charismatic CEO nearly cornered the market for electric delivery vans—until it all fell apart,” by Sean O’Kane, the Verge

Future Tense Recommends

Most of know about a few female scientists from the past, like Ada Lovelace. But there are so many more whose stories have gone untold. Enter Lost Women of Science, a new podcast devoted to the women whose tremendous contributions to science have gone untold. In the first season, which is just four episodes long, the show introduces us to Dorothy Andersen, the fascinating pathologist who first identified cystic fibrosis. In addition to telling us about Andersen’s impressive (and a little intimidating) life, host and executive producer Katie Hafner looks at the sea change in treating cystic fibrosis, how walls of portraits of white men in hospitals and medical schools distort history, and much more. I can’t wait for Season 2.

Upcoming Events

Your winter holiday reading assignment is Malka Older’s Infomocracy, the selection for our second Science Fiction/Real Policy Book Club, presented in partnership with Issues in Science and Technology. Read the novel and then join us on Wednesday, Feb. 2, at 6 p.m. Eastern for a discussion. RSVP here.

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