Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society. I rode in my first self-driving car in the summer of 1997, as part of a demonstration to display the technology in "the real world" on a stretch of Interstate 15 in San Diego. The organizers took great pains to carefully regulate the separate HOV lanes of the highway to ensure that there were barriers preventing all other cars--and pedestrians--from interfering. Everyone involved knew there was a significant amount of work to get from that demonstration to having self-driving cars safely navigate normal city streets. In the 20 years since, I've continued to study automated vehicles, particularly their history, and the technology has continued to develop.
Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society. Stephen Hawking, renowned physicist and best-selling author, died on March 14 at the age of 76. Hawking is well-known as one of the greatest scientists of our time, whose discoveries transformed our knowledge of black holes and whose popular science texts inspired millions. He is also well known for having amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that left him almost completely paralyzed, and for losing his ability to speak after a bout of pneumonia that required a tracheotomy. Fortunately for us all, Hawking refused to let his disabilities prevent him from sharing his brilliant ideas and insights with all of us.
Aleksandr Kogan, the Russian-American academic at the center of the Cambridge Analytica controversy, has been relatively vocal yet strikingly calm in public since news broke that the company had acquired personal information from more than 50 million Facebook accounts and later used it to boost Donald Trump's presidential campaign. Cambridge Analytica and Facebook have both blamed Kogan for the imbroglio, though he's denied any wrongdoing. In Facebook's first statement disclosing Cambridge Analytica's activities on Friday, the company accused Kogan of lying and breaking its policies. According to its narrative, Kogan gave data he had gathered from users and their friends through his personality prediction Facebook app to the political consulting firm. Developers are not allowed to give such data to third parties.
The galaxy of extremely niche dating sites has gained a new star--one that promises to help you find someone who loves you like Kanye loves Kanye. That's right, lonely singles are no longer confined to finding each other based on interests like farming or the goth aesthetic. With the release of Yeezy Dating, fans of Kanye West are one step closer to finding someone to argue with about the proper breakdown of their Kanye madness bracket. Slated to launch sometime later this month, the Yeezy Dating website is pretty sparse at the moment, featuring a brief explainer noting that the site is "for fans of the genius Mr. Kanye West." However the site, created through a crowdfunding campaign launched by 21-year-old Yeezus stan Harry Dry, has a relatively active Instagram presence.
On Wednesday afternoon, police in Tempe, Arizona, released footage from the crash on Sunday in which a self-driving Uber hit and killed a woman crossing a street in the dark. The victim, Elaine Herzberg, is the first pedestrian to be killed by an autonomous vehicle. The video comes from two cameras. One shows the roadway in front of the car, which is followed by footage showing the supervising driver. The video ends just before the collision, but some viewers may find it disturbing.
Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society. It sounds like the stuff of spy novels. A secretive company backed by an eccentric billionaire taps into sensitive data gathered by a University of Cambridge researcher. The company then works to help elect an ultranationalist presidential candidate who admires Russian President Vladimir Putin. Oh, and that Cambridge researcher, Aleksandr Kogan, worked briefly for St. Petersburg State University.
Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society. "When I was 16, I took a 30-minute test, someone gave me a license, someone else gave me a car. In hindsight, that doesn't seem like the most prudent thing," said Tekedra Mawakana, vice president of global government relations and public policy for Waymo, at a recent Future Tense event when asked how Waymo, which was founded as a Google X moonshot project in 2009 to combat road fatalities, could already have driverless cars on the roads of cities like Phoenix. "There will always be highly unanticipated scenarios, but that's what we're building for." But even with millions of miles (billions if you count simulations) and billions in investment funding, the driverless future being unleashed by companies like Waymo, Lyft, and Uber still raises more questions than answers for the city planners who will be responsible for incorporating the technology into existing urban-transit infrastructures.
With revelations emerging since last Friday that political data company Cambridge Analytica obtained private info from more than 50 million Facebook accounts beginning in 2014 and later used it to boost the Trump presidential campaign, Facebook's data collection and use has again come under scrutiny. For many users, it's been an abrupt wakeup call about how much data they've been sharing with the company and the third-party apps that it hosts. Cambridge Analytica, for example, reportedly had access to users' locations, "likes," and other personal details and used it to develop psychographic profiles of voters' behavioral traits. The recent news should give users pause about the privacy configurations of their own accounts. If you are one such user, here's a quick tutorial on how to minimize the amount of data available on your Facebook account.
Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society. It was bound to happen. With autonomous vehicles on the streets across the country, one of them--through computer error, supervisor carelessness, or a pedestrian's mistake--was going to hit someone. On Monday morning, a self-driving Uber with a supervising driver struck and killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg as she tried to cross eight lanes of traffic in Tempe, Arizona. Herzberg's death was the first recorded fatality caused by a self-driving car.