• Isn’t It Time We Designed An Election For The 21st Century?

    The civic ritual of voting in America is an act of nostalgia. The act of casting a ballot, unlike most things in our society, doesn’t ever seem to change. It’s the same as it was when you accompanied your parents to vote, or when they accompanied their parents. This deference to tradition would be worth celebrating if our elections weren’t riddled with hanging chads, imperfect counts, long lines and confusion over who’s registered to vote (not to mention when and where), and if our voter experience didn’t compare so poorly to other, less important 21st century customer experiences. Countries like Canada, Brazil, and Germany use electronic voting that offers accurate and instantaneous results. Why not the United States? Why not design an election for the 21st Century?

    Join Future Tense in Washington, D.C., for a happy hour and brainstorm on how to create a better, more efficient, and more just election system.

    Learn more at NewAmerica.org

  • Happy 30th Birthday to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

    The 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act remains one of the most controversial federal tech-regulating laws on the books. It was meant to be an "anti-hacking" measure to protect against a range of online crimes, but thirty years later there is still little consensus about what a computer crime is, and what the law actually covers. The drafting was so imprecise, it's conceivable we are all breaking the law all the time. Courts across the country have interpreted the CFAA in a variety of contradictory ways. Meanwhile, high-profile examples of its enforcement, such as the case against Aaron Swartz for downloading millions of academic articles, have prompted the passage of new state laws as well as proposed changes to the CFAA itself. An upgrade is sorely needed.

    Join Future Tense and New America’s Open Technology Institute on Thursday, Sept. 29, in Washington, D.C., to reflect on the legacy and future of the law—and what lessons it offers for those crafting tech-related legislation.

    Learn more at NewAmerica.org

  • Will North America Become the Next Saudi Arabia?

    Not long ago Washington policymakers spent a great deal of time bemoaning our ever increasing dependence on foreign (especially, alas, Middle Eastern) oil. Rarely has such pessimistic groupthink proven so misguided. North America is blessed with a number of comparative advantages when it comes to producing energy at a low cost, and Canada's increased oil production, innovation in alternative energy research, Mexico's historic energy reforms, and the shale revolution across the region have only accentuated North America's potential to become the world's dominant energy superpower.

    On the heels of the North American Leaders Summit, Future Tense and the Wilson Center's Canada Institute invite you to join them for a conversation on what it will take for North America to fulfill its energy potential. People tend to obsess over the monthly gyrations of oil prices and the latest regulatory battle over shale or pipeline-building, but we want to look forward to 2050. With the new North American Climate, Energy, and Environment Partnership what concerted steps should Canada, Mexico, and the United States be taking to ensure that North America will become the world's leading energy power for generations? And how can this region lead the world not only in output and economic growth, but also in setting new standards of environmental responsibility and sustainability?

    Lunch will be served.

    Learn more at NewAmerica.org

  • My Favorite Movie: E.T. with Surgeon General Vivek Murthy

    Since its release in 1982, Steven Spielberg’s E.T., the Extraterrestrial has become a classic. The film tells the story of a young boy’s connection with an unexpected visitor, exploring the depths of our universe and the importance of friendship.

    On Thursday, June 9, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy will host a Future Tense screening and discussion of E.T. as part of our “My Favorite Movie” series, which features tech and science thought leaders hosting their favorite movies, and short conversations about them. The screening will begin at 6:30 p.m. on June 9 at Washington, D.C.’s Landmark E Street Cinema, 555 11th Street NW.

    If you would like to attend, please RSVP to futuretensedc@gmail.com with your name, email address, and any affiliation you’d like to share. You may RSVP for yourself and up to one guest. Please include your guest’s name in your response. Seating is limited.

  • It’s So Hard to Get Good Digital Help These Days!

    You don’t have to be a CEO to have an executive assistant anymore. Meet Siri, Alexa, Jibo, and Cortana, just four of the new artificially intelligent digital assistants from prominent technology companies designed to make your life easier. By a simple voice command they will answer your every question, restock your groceries, order lunch, remind you of your next appointment, and fire up the latest episode of your favorite TV show.

    But before you welcome them into your home, you might want to ask where that friendly (why do they all tend to be female?!) voice is really coming from. Behind this technology are companies vying to bring you into the conversation age. Whoever succeeds will know us more intimately than ever before—our needs, thoughts, and desires—allowing them to exert even more influence over our lives. Which begs the question: will they help keep our secrets?

    Join Future Tense for a happy hour conversation in Washington, D.C. on June 8th to discuss the technology behind our new helpers and their cultural implications for society.

    Refreshments will be served. 

    Learn more at NewAmerica.org

  • Why Does It Still Take 5 Hours To Fly Cross-Country?!

    In the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy pledged that Americans would go to the moon and develop a supersonic commercial airliner. By the end of that decade, the country witnessed in awe Neil Armstrong’s “small step for man...” It was the idea of supersonic intercity travel that proved the unattainable “moonshot.” A half-century after Kennedy’s promise, with the European Concorde in retirement and no American supersonic plane ever cleared for takeoff, airliners still travel at the same speed as did President Kennedy’s 707 Air Force One.

    We like to talk about the dizzying rate of technological change these days, but when it comes to intercity travel, we’re stuck back in 1959, when the 707 made its inaugural trans-continental flight. Why is that? And are we now on the eve of startling innovations in flying, or will it still take five hours to fly across the country in 2059? Join Future Tense for lunch in Washington, DC on Wednesday, May 11 to discuss these questions, and the future of aviation.

    Learn more at NewAmerica.org

  • The Terminator: A Futurography Film Screening

    Since The Terminator came out in 1984, Arnold Schwarzenegger has become a respected politician and people have begun carrying computers in their pockets. But one thing is the same: We’re still thinking about the existential threat posted by rapidly evolving artificial intelligence.

    Join Future Tense from 6:30 till 8:30 pm on Tuesday, April 26, at Landmark’s E Street Cinema in Washington, D.C., to watch The Terminator with our experts Kevin Bankston, director of the Open Technology Institute at New America, and Sean Luke, director or the Autonomous Robotics Laboratory at George Mason University.

    This is part of the April installment of Futurography, a series in which Future Tense introduces readers to the technologies that will define tomorrow. This month, we’re discussing “killer artificial intelligence.”

    If you would like to attend, please RSVP to futuretensedc@gmail.com with your name, email address, and any affiliation you’d like to share. You may RSVP for yourself and up to one guest. Please include your guest’s name in your response. Seating is limited.

  • Trust But Verify : The Crisis in Biomedicine

    Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on scientific research? Research studies investigating other research studies – yes, it’s very meta – have diagnosed a “reproducibility” crisis in biomedicine. Simply put, it’s shockingly difficult to reproduce the results of many laboratory research studies relied upon as authoritative and definitive.

    As a result, the reliability of a large share of the research published about medicine and the biology of medicine is in question. The reasons vary from poor training of young scientists engaged in ever more complex and esoteric inquiries to perverse incentives that reward researchers for flashy findings but don’t penalize them for being wrong. Some errors are inevitable—in fact, it’s a part of science. But today’s reproducibility crisis is challenging the very idea that scientific knowledge expands by research studies that build upon each other. Is a transformation of the underlying culture of biomedical research necessary? How difficult will it be to accomplish?

    Reliable studies show you should join Future Tense on Thursday, April 21, in Washington, DC, to explore this crisis in biomedicine.

    Learn more at NewAmerica.org

  • Are eSports The Future of Entertainment?

    Stadiums across the world are filling with fans eager to cheer on their favorite teams competing in the world's fastest growing sport. But it may not be a sport at all.

    Competitive video-gaming, or eSports, is a growing cultural phenomenon tied to a shift in the way people socialize video games and consumer technology. It has all the trademarks of professional athletics – TV deals, teams, sponsorships, fans, big prize money, and cults of celebrity for top players. The cultural reach of eSports extends far beyond the stadiums they fill with fans. It's a fast-growing form of global popular culture that serves as a case study on how society leverages new technologies to satiate its age-old appetite for public spectacle and competition. The question isn't whether electronic sports are the future of sports, but rather, are eSports the future of entertainment?

    Step away from your screens, turn off your consoles, and join Future Tense on Tuesday, April 5 to explore the future impact of eSports.

    Learn more at NewAmerica.org

  • Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War

    How vulnerable are we as a nation to a cyber attack? Does the United States in turn possess the cyber power to bring foreign adversaries to its knees, obviating the need for traditional warfare? And what is a cyber attack anyway?

    Many of us throw around the term "cyber war" without really understanding what it entails, and what our government has or hasn't been doing in the shadows to develop both our offensive and defensive cyber capabilities.

    But a better understanding is upon us. Future Tense is bringing together two of the nation's foremost national security reporters and thinkers, Pulitzer Prize winners Steve Coll and Fred Kaplan, to discuss the future of warfare and Kaplan's latest book, Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War, an authoritative history of the nation's cyber war efforts and assessment of our current capabilities and future scenarios.

    Join us for a conversation on the potential of cyber attacks to wipe out our financial system, power grid, and other infrastructure and what it means for the fate of our national security apparatus.

    Learn more at NewAmerica.org

  • Engineering Away Disease

    In a matter of weeks, the Zika virus has gone from being a virtually unknown phenomenon to a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.” And for good reason: The virus – for which there is no treatment – is spreading quickly through the Americas, carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

    Human development, climate change, and droughts will only make mosquitos more widespread, allowing them to carry diseases like dengue and malaria to new places. Around the world, researchers are trying to genetically engineer mosquitoes so that they can’t transmit dangerous viruses. But anyone who has seen Jurassic Park knows that a little change to the ecosystem can have serious effects. What might be the consequences of messing with the world’s deadliest animal? Are there other diseases that we may want to engineer away? If so, how should we proceed?

    On Tuesday, Feb. 23, join Future Tense for a lunchtime conversation on Zika as a case study in potential technical solutions to deadly diseases. Lunch will be served.

    Learn more at NewAmerica.org

  • Can You Be an Environmentalist Without Embracing Nuclear Energy?

    Thirty-nine years after the meltdown at Three Mile Island and almost five years post-Fukushima, nuclear power seems to be emerging from its long funk as a promising alternative to the carbon economy. Innovative new designs are changing the landscape of nuclear power and have the potential to redefine affordable, emission-free, and carbon-free clean energy. So why, is it still a hotly contested issue?

    The need for “urgent and concrete action” to cut greenhouse-gas emissions is fresh in our minds post-Paris and there will never be a better time to employ new and old sustainable solutions to the threat of climate change.

    Will proliferation of nuclear energy be among the solutions the world seeks or will our long memory of the fallout from first and second generation reactors prevent us from embracing the promise of clean energy that new models provide?

    Join Future Tense on Monday, Feb. 22, at 12:15 p.m., for lunch and conversation in Washington, D.C., to consider whether you can truly be an environmentalist without embracing nuclear energy. Lunch will be served.

    RSVP Now

  • The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change the World

    Geoengineering, the deliberate hacking of Earth’s climate, might be one of the most promising potential responses to climate change, especially in the absence of significant carbon emission reductions. It’s also one of the most controversial. We engineered our planet into our environmental crisis, but can we engineer our way out with a stratospheric veil against the sun, the cultivation of photosynthetic plankton, or fleets of unmanned ships seeding the clouds?

    In his new book, The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change the World, Oliver Morton argues that the risks of climate change merit serious action. According to Morton, geoengineering is not a simple or singular solution to the problem, but it is worth exploring, even if it’s never actually deployed.

    On Monday, Feb. 1, at 12:15 p.m., Future Tense will host a lunch in Washington, D.C., where Oliver Morton and Future Tense Fellow Katherine Mangu-Ward will discuss geoengineering’s potential as a climate change fix and the many challenges that would come with it.

    Learn more at NewAmerica.org

  • Deploying Technology To Rescue the Past

    As ISIS campaigns to eradicate non-Islamic cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria and developers throughout the world encroach on sites where antiquities are found, it seems as though the relics of our past have never been at greater risk of being lost to history.

    Or are they? Technology like geospatial sensing, satellites, drones, 3D imaging, and the like can be deployed to restore what might otherwise be destroyed forever.

    Join Future Tense for an evening discussion of how present technologies are being used to deliver the past to the future.

    Learn more at NewAmerica.org

  • How Human Do We Want Our Robots To Be?

    Robots are starting to look suspiciously familiar. Increasingly sophisticated robots designed to resemble us are striking up more and more symbiotic relationships with humans, at home as our companions, and at our workplaces as colleagues.

    Human-robot interactions will continue to evolve as robotic technology transforms the way we see our creations, and the way they react to us. But as machines cease acting like machines and become more integrated into our lives, how will we feel about them? And, dare we ask, how will they feel about us?

    Join Future Tense for lunch in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, January 20th to explore the future of human robot interaction.

    Learn more at NewAmerica.org

  • The Tyranny of Algorithms

    Algorithms are learning more and more about us while we seem to understand them less and less. Somewhere in the past few years we ceded some of our individual autonomy to ostensibly life-enriching algorithmic intelligence. Computational systems regularly tell us where to go, whom to date, what to be entertained by and what to think about (to name just a few examples). With every click, every app, every terms of service agreement, we buy into the idea that big data, ubiquitous sensors and various forms of machine-learning can model and beneficially regulate our lives.

    Algorithms drive the stock market, compose and curate our music, approve loans, drive cars, write news articles, and make hiring and firing decisions. Are they in charge?

    Join Future Tense for lunch in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015 to explore the underlying tensions between law, technology, and culture in a moment where algorithms are beginning to define the boundaries of our own personal media bubbles.

    Learn more at NewAmerica.org

  • Afrofuturism: Imagining the Future of Black Identity

    Afrofuturism emphasizes the intersection of black cultures and imagination, liberation, and technology. Rooted in works like those of science fiction author Octavia Butler, avant-garde jazz legend Sun Ra, and George Clinton, Afrofuturism explores concepts of race, space and time and asks the existential question posed by critic Mark Dery: "Can a community whose past has been deliberately erased imagine possible futures?"

    Will the alternative futures and realities Afrofuturism describes transform and reshape the concept of black identity? Join Future Tense for a discussion on Afrofuturism and its unique vantage on the challenges faced by African-Americans and others throughout the African diaspora.

    Learn more at NewAmerica.org

  • My Favorite Movie with Dr. France Córdova, Director of the National Science Foundation

    Dr. France Córdova, Director of the National Science Foundation, wants you to join her to watch October Sky, the 1999 film that skyrocketed Jake Gyllenhaal’s career and is about how the Soviet Union’s launch of the first Sputnik satellite triggered a new era of scientific innovation and basic research in America. Gyllenhaal plays a West Virginia miner’s son eager to reach for the stars as a rocketeer. An inspirational tale of determination and ingenuity, October Sky captures the human side of the space age.

    Future Tense and the National Science Foundation will be screening October Sky at 6:30 p.m. on December 2nd at Washington, D.C.'s Landmark E Street Cinema at 555 11th Street NW. This is the latest installment of our “My Favorite Movie” series in which leaders in technology and science fields host their favorite movie, and a short discussion about it.

    If you would like to attend, please RSVP to futuretensedc@gmail.com with your name, email address, and any affiliation you’d like to share. You may RSVP for yourself and up to one guest. Please include your guest’s name in your response. Seating is limited.

  • Will Libraries Outlive Books?

    Despite their reputation for dusty book jackets and silence, libraries aren’t simply repositories of the already read—they offer gathering places and community resources, and even serve as battlegrounds for civil liberties battles. Nevertheless, it can be difficult to imagine the library’s role in a world in which everyone can carry Google with them at all times.

    Join Future Tense in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015 as we explore some of the most important questions facing libraries: Are physical libraries still necessary in a digital age? How should they serve communities glued to smartphones and tablets? And how can they prepare themselves for tomorrow without losing their souls today?

    Learn more at NewAmerica.org

  • How Can Science Help with Diplomacy—and Diplomacy Help with Science?

    Diplomacy is an art, not a science. But science is increasingly playing an important role in diplomacy. Some of our future’s biggest challenges—like climate change—can’t be contained within borders, which means that nations around the world need to get on the same page. Meanwhile, science itself can be used as an olive branch: Even when two countries' political leaders aren’t on good terms, their scientists can exchange ideas, paving the way for more communication down the road. It happened during the Cold War and more recently before U.S.-Cuba relations normalized. So how should science be used in diplomacy?

    Join us in Washington, D.C., at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 21, for a happy hour event at the Arizona State University Washington Center with Frances Colón, deputy science and technology adviser to the secretary of state, and Marga Gual Soler, project director at the Center for Science Diplomacy and assistant research professor at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at ASU. While you enjoy drinks and snacks, Slate staff writer Joshua Keating will discuss science as a platform for diplomacy with Colón and Soler.

    Learn more at Slate.com

  • Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing

    Today we carry around an almost infinite amount of information in our pockets, allowing us to instantaneously search for answers to almost any question. We hardly ever feel in the dark anymore, and we naturally tend to think that is a good thing. But is it always?

    In his provocative new book, Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing, Future Tense Fellow Jamie Holmes argues that our informational instant gratification isn't necessarily making us wiser. He explores the positive role of ambiguity and uncertainty in forcing us to see the world from a fresh perspective, and to think more deeply about the questions before us.

    Join Future Tense for the launch of Nonsense with a conversation between Jamie Holmes and Maria Konnikova, contributing writer for The New Yorker, on the downside of having the answer to every question at our fingertips.

    Learn more at NewAmerica.org

  • Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age

    We text, tweet, snap, and chat all day but are we ever engaging in meaningful conversation that surpasses 140 characters? Our constant social digital engagement can prevent us from feeling alone, but are we truly connected? In her new book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age, media scholar Sherry Turkle deplores the consequences of our excessive reliance on tech devices to communicate with each other.

    Learn more at NewAmerica.org

  • My Favorite Movie: District 9 with Francis Fukuyama

    The critically acclaimed 2009 film District 9 from South African director Neill Blomkamp takes the classic alien-invasion genre in a radically different direction. Like all of the best science fiction, the film tackles very real, very pressing social questions by imagining a possible future. The New York Times considered the film’s takeaway to be that the “only way to become fully human is to be completely alienated.”

    What will Francis Fukuyama say about it? Fukuyama, a senior fellow at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute and the author of The Origins of Political Order and The End of History and the Last Man, serves as host for this Future Tense “My Favorite Movie” night.

    Learn more at Slate.com

  • My Favorite Movie: The Perfect Storm with NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan

    perfect storm.jpg.CROP.promovar-medium2

    Based on a book by Sebastian Junger, The Perfect Storm follows the crew of a fishing boat who braves devastating weather conditions in an effort to make it home. Nominated for two Academy Awards, it is a story of hubris and heroism on the high seas, one that provides a stirring reminder of the power of the ocean. 

    Future Tense will be screening The Perfect Storm on Tuesday, July 28, at 6:30 p.m. at Washington, D.C.'s Landmark E Street Cinema at 555 11th Street NW. Our host for the evening will be Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration administrator, and former astronaut. Dr. Sullivan's research has encompassed biological, oceanographic, and climatological topics.

    Learn more at Slate.com

  • Designing the Future

    "We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us." - Winston Churchill

    Churchill's observation can easily be extended beyond buildings to all things—from the phone in your pocket to the largest city. Good design is about making the world a beautiful, functional, safe, equitable, and sustainable place—now and into the future. Through creative problem solving, purposeful design tackles such challenges as poor healthcare, substandard housing, urban development, environmental degradation, and disaster mitigation.

    Prasad Boradkar, Director of InnovationSpace at Arizona State University, and Mark Chichester, Director of Design Development at Ammunition Group ("Beats by Dre" and "Kindle") join Future Tense to consider the role of design in enhancing our lives, and those of generations to come.

    Learn more at NewAmerica.org