Future Tense newsletter: We need greater diversity in futurism.

Future Tense Newsletter: We Need Greater Diversity in Futurism

Future Tense Newsletter: We Need Greater Diversity in Futurism

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Oct. 4 2017 1:57 PM

Future Tense Newsletter: We Need Greater Diversity in Futurism

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Thinkstock.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Thinkstock.

Greetings, Future Tensers,

Welcome to October! On Saturday, we wrapped up our monthlong Future of the Future series about the art of, and limitations to, prediction. Part of the trouble with predicting the future is that no two people imagine the same tomorrow. That’s why Alida Draudt explains we need greater diversity in the futurism field. “A more diverse futurism industry could provide the alternate modes of thinking and experiences that are necessary for us to enable both true innovation and our own human survival,” she writes.


Having a broader perspective is important because relying on data and statistics misses an important part of the picture. Julia Rose West writes that Silicon Valley and corporations’ obsession with data feeds into the myth that everything can be broken down and quantified. Although it can provide valuable insights, West writes, “this moneyball-ization assumes that all information is reliable information, algorithms are unbiased magic, and big data can also paint the big picture.” If you’re comfortable with making projections about the future based on potentially unreliable evidence, you might as well consult a psychic app to see what’s coming next.

Make sure you didn’t miss any articles from the series this month by checking the Future of the Future page here. And don’t miss this video of how depictions of the future changed over 80 years.

  • Twitter’s Russia problem: While Twitter says that it’s been working hard to combat the spread of misinformation on the platform, experts who have been studying how bots and counterfactual news is weaponized on Twitter say that the company could be doing much more.
  • National surveillance: Congress is quietly laying groundwork to take travel surveillance much further with the TSA Modernization Act, which would give the Trump administration a green light to begin using biometrics to identify people in airports nationwide. Laura Moy and Harrison Rudolph explain what could go wrong.
  • Lovejoys vs. Frinks: Ciarán Mc Mahon provides a guide to exploring public and academic discourse with regard to mental health and technology through two Simpsons characters, Helen Lovejoy and Professor Frink.
  • Autonomous vehicle policy: Henry Grabar reports that Congress is considering autonomous vehicle bills that would hamper states and local jurisdictions from regulating the technology’s design and deployment in their own communities.
  • Last human job: While machines may outdo humans at repetitive, predictable, production-heavy jobs, they still lack the emotional intelligence to provide care. Elizabeth Weingarten suggests this might cause us to re-evaluate how society values caregiving.
  • Mental health technology: Did you miss our event last week on the ways technology is changing approaches to psychiatric study and care? Tonya Riley has you covered with her recap of the conversations.

Upcoming events:

  • Tech companies like Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook have revolutionized our lives, connecting us in ways that were once unimaginable. Join Future Tense in New York on Oct. 4 (tonight!) and in Washington on Oct. 5 (tomorrow night!), when Franklin Foer will discuss his book, World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech, and the role these big tech companies play in our lives. RSVP to attend the event in New York or RSVP to attend the Washington event in person or online.
  • During World War II, more than 10,000 American women were recruited to take part in the United States’ massive codebreaking initiative. In her latest book, Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II, author Liza Mundy tells the secret history of these women. Join Mundy and contemporary technologists to discuss her book in Washington on Oct. 17. RSVP to attend in person or online here.
  • Need a break from news about data breaches and election meddling? Join Future Tense and Alvaro Bedoya, founding executive director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law, for a screening and discussion of the 1992 film Sneakers on Oct. 18 in Washington. RSVP for yourself and up to one guest.

Planning my trip to Mars,
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.