Future Tense newsletter: Why the State Department needs a cyber office.

Future Tense Newsletter: Why the State Department Needs a Cyber Office

Future Tense Newsletter: Why the State Department Needs a Cyber Office

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
July 26 2017 3:02 PM

Future Tense Newsletter: Why the State Department Needs a Cyber Office

Secretary-Of-State-Rex-Tillerson-Meets-With--Lebanese-Prime-Minister-Saad-Hariri-At-State-Department
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Getty Images

We’re on Day 187 of Trump’s presidency and still there’s no shortage of important jobs in the federal government that remain unfilled. The State Department appears poised to add a new vacancy to the USAJOBS website as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly considers shutting down the State Department’s cyber office. Josephine Wolff explains why this is a horrid idea, writing, “cybersecurity for a global internet requires international perspectives and engagement—requires, in other words, the involvement of high-level State Department officials.” At a time when the FBI is warning parents about internet-connected toys spying on their kids and even data from a pacemaker presents privacy concerns, international debates and decisions about internet security and internet freedom—two important areas for the State Department cyber office—are more important than ever.

If news about toys spying on kids has inspired you to search the web for more information on cybersecurity, you might be surprised to see some disconcertingly specific news recommendations from Google’s news feed. Last Wednesday, Google launched an expanded version of “the feed,” a feature in its mobile search app that draws in news stories and blog posts from around the web based on your search history. The result, said Will Oremus, is an almost creepy level of personalization. Yet Oremus noted that even with Google’s records of your online behavior, the feature remains fundamentally impersonal compared with Facebook’s newsfeed. Where Google’s feature falls short by comparison, Oremus writes, “It delivers the topics you care about but not the people you care about.”

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Other things we read this week while bracing ourselves for the app-ocalypse:

  • War on science: Lawrence Krauss warns us that the Trump administration’s censorship of government scientists, appointment of unqualified officials to senior scientific posts, and underfunding of scientific research programs are all part of a dangerous trend.
  • Apocalyptic thinking: Though there are risks to embracing pessimism and fear, Tommy Lynch explains how both are a necessary aspect of confronting the threat of climate change.
  • Radio dramas: While it can feel like we’re moving toward immersive forms of storytelling with the advent of virtual reality, the podcast boom has created something of a golden age of radio dramas, writes Angelica Cabral.
  • Fake images: As it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish real images from computer-generated ones, Nick Thieme explores how we can start using technology to tell the difference.
  • Libyan robotics team: The all-female robotics team from Afghanistan wasn’t the only team to struggle to get to the U.S. for the FIRST Global Challenge robotics competition—the team from Libya faced major obstacles, too.

RIP Microsoft Paint,
Emily Fritcke
for Future Tense

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Emily Fritcke is a research associate for Future Tense.