Algorithms Are Like Kirk, Not Spock

Future Tense Project

Future Tense is a partnership between ASU, the New America Foundation and Slate magazine to explore emerging technologies and their transformative effects on society and public policy. Future Tense hosts events and public conversations, and publishes original content from policymakers, scientists, humanists and journalists, including many ASU scholars, on Slate

Algorithms Are Like Kirk, Not Spock

When technologists describe their hotshot new system for trading stocks or driving cars, the algorithm at its heart always seems to emerge from a magical realm of Spock-like rationality and mathematical perfection. Algorithms can save lives or make money, the argument goes, because they are built on the foundations of mathematics: logical rigor, conceptual clarity, and utter consistency. Math is perfect, right? And algorithms are made out of math.

What Algorithms Want

We spend an awful lot of time now thinking about what algorithms know about us: the ads we see online, the deep archive of our search history, the automated photo-tagging of our families. We don’t spend as much time asking what algorithms want.

The Internet of Slow Things

Higher education is obsessed with 3-D printing. Makerspaces and fab labs are sprouting like extruded weeds on college campuses, and everyone from business school deans to librarians are asking how 3-D printing and fabrication can be implemented in teaching.

Apocalypse Moon: Neal Stephenson on his new novel, Seveneves, and the future of humanity

An interview with Neal Stephenson about his new novel, Seveneves, humanity’s resilience, and more.

Maroon Square with a the word slate in the center of the square.

Take a picture. It’ll last longer

An experimental philosopher’s project to document 100 or even 1,000 years of change with a single photograph.
Joey Eschrich
Slate – Future Tense

Headshot of Jonathon Keats

A Crazy Experiment Attempts to Document Change With a Photo Taken Over 1,000 Years

A new project by experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats at Arizona State University involves creating simple, incredibly durable pinhole cameras that will slowly create a single image over the course of a century or a millennium.

An Interview With Margaret Atwood

Climate fiction, or “cli fi,” can be a dreary genre. Storytellers like to make a grim business of climate change, populating their narratives with a humorless onslaught of death, destruction, drowned monuments, and starving children. Margaret Atwood is the conspicuous exception, somehow managing to tackle the subject, including these familiar elements, with deadpan wit and an irreverent playfulness, making it both more interesting and believable. The flood is coming, her MaddAddam trilogy promises, but there is hope.

Cover of Science and science fiction. An interview with Paul Davies. Statement reads Ed Finn sat down to discuss project Hieroglyph with physicist and cosmologist Paul Davies, director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University.

An Illuminated Manuscript About Space Exploration, Science Fiction, and Physics

You just don’t see many illuminated manuscripts these days. There’s a good reason why: They take a long time to make. I learned this recently when I set out to commission a thoroughly modern illuminated manuscript: not a religious text, but an interview with theoretical physicist and cosmologist Paul Davies, a professor at Arizona State University and the author of books like How to Build a Time Machine.

Future Tense: Can We Imagine Our Way to a Better Future?

On October 2, 2014, Future Tense and Issues in Science and Technology hosted an event in Washington, DC inspired by Project Hieroglyph.

Maroon Square with a the word slate in the center of the square.

Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation

Humankind has lots of great ideas for the future. We need people to carry them out.
Neal Stephenson
Slate – Future Tense

Maroon Square with a the word slate in the center of the square.

Don’t Diss Dystopias

Sci-fi’s warning tales are as important as its optimistic stories.
Ramez Naam
Slate – Future Tense

Maroon Square with a the word slate in the center of the square.

The Dystopian City and Urban Policy

Science fiction has inspired scientists and political activists, but it should be an inspiration for municipal governments too.
Annalee Newitz
Slate – Future Tense

Maroon Square with a the word slate in the center of the square.

Meeting My Protagonist

When I wrote a novel about a Nigerian space program, I didn’t expect it to be so close to the truth.
Deji Bryce Olukotun
Slate – Future Tense

Maroon Square with a the word slate in the center of the square.

Project Hieroglyph Story: “The Day It All Ended”

A short story from Hieroglyph, a new science fiction anthology.
Charlie Jane Anders
Slate-Future Tense

Maroon Square with a the word slate in the center of the square.

Only Science Fiction Can Save Us!

What sci-fi gets wrong about income inequality.
Lee Konstantinou
Slate – Future Tense

Logo for Slate.com.

The Inspiration Drought

By Ed Finn, Slate/Future Tense

Maroon Square with a the word slate in the center of the square.

Forget the Tricorder

Why gadgets aren’t the coolest part of science fiction.
Joey Eschrich
Slate – Future Tense

An Aerialist, Two Clowns, and a Robot Walk Into a Carnival …

In his 1984 film The Terminator and its sequels, James Cameron imagines a dystopic future in which armies of intelligent robots move with startling suddenness from positions of servility to utter and violent dominance, destroying civilization and driving humankind to the brink of extinction.

This, of course, is pure science fiction. There’s little reason to believe things will unfold that way. First, they would take all our jobs and wreck our economy.

This is the nightmare narrative of our future with robots and artificial intelligence. The utopian version of this tale—one accepted by many powerful people in industry and government—involves a …read more

Confess Your Digital Sins

A voice cries out in the desert:

“Know thyself, not thy selfies!”

“Digital media will not save you!”

“The zero is not whole and the one is not The One!”

Technically, we’re not in the desert—we’re in a dusty parking lot in downtown Phoenix. And the voice is not coming from the Prophet Isaiah, but from professor Ron Broglio, whom I’ve ordained as a Minister of the Digital Tabernacle. As people wander into the massive circus tent at Arizona State University’s Emerge: Carnival of the Future, they are greeted by a pair of shifty evangelists preaching the analog Word. (Disclosure: …read more

How to Make Music With Drones

The good thing about performing music with drones is that they always show up for rehearsal on time. The bad thing is that they might suddenly drop out of the air and onto your head.

I learned all this while putting together a piece called “Drone Confidential” for Arizona State University’s Emerge, a “Carnival of the Future” that was held in Phoenix recently. Emerge is an annual circus of cool new technologies in performance, dedicated to showing how artists and machines can work together to create something awesome. …read more