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em Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles /em Is Unexpectedly Cathartic Pandemic Viewing

Slate

Despite being a childless, science-fiction-loving grad student with nothing but time on my hands back in 2008, I somehow missed Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles when it was on TV. Created by Josh Friedman, The Sarah Connor Chronicles was canceled after two seasons and 31 episodes, despite mostly-positive critical reception. Binging it under pandemic conditions, as I have been recently, has been unexpectedly cathartic. This is a show about people living in a sunny, beautiful, Southern Californian present day while haunted by the knowledge that a grim future might be coming, unless they change it by their actions. It's also about parenting under stress and feeling constantly under siege by inescapable circumstance, which--well, if that's too real, you can always focus on the nifty killer cyborgs instead.


Future Tense Newsletter: The Four Master Switches

Slate

I reach out to you still contemplating the profundity of what Mark Zuckerberg told his congressional inquisitors on Wednesday: "The space of people connecting with other people is a very large space." So large, it even includes newsletters in your inbox. Three clear winners and one loser emerged from Wednesday's Big Tech hearing in Washington. The winners were Rep. Pramila Jayapal, our new "eviscerator in chief"; Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai's future career as an anger-management therapist; and Tim Wu. When the going gets tough in coming weeks, I will close my eyes and picture the Google CEO soothingly saying "congressman" with infinite patience, as he did at the beginning of all his answers. The more irate the congressional questioner, the more patient, measured, and empathetic his "congressman" sounded.


The World's Highest and Fastest Cell Service Could Have Geopolitical Implications

Slate

While most of China was quarantined and Mount Everest was closed to climbers due to COVID-19, a herd of nearly 50 yaks made their way up the snowy north slopes of the world's highest mountain in temperatures that dipped below zero degrees Fahrenheit. On their backs were loads of equipment--metal beams, cables, and solar panels strapped down with cord--that would be used to build 5G antennas on rocky moraines scattered across the mountainside. Chinese tech giant Huawei and state-owned network provider China Mobile teamed up for this project to bring the latest in wireless data to Everest, which previously had very little cell coverage above base camp. Now, data speeds in the "death zone" on Everest, where the altitude is too high and the air is too thin to support life, are faster than in most American neighborhoods. In a press release, Huawei stated that the new super-fast data speeds on Everest will be used for "smart tourism"--with high-definition video streaming and virtual reality experiences for digital tourists to "visit" Everest from anywhere in the world.


Rite Aid Used Facial Recognition Technology in 200 U.S. Stores

Slate

This week, Reuters reported that the American drugstore chain Rite Aid has deployed facial recognition systems in 200 stores nationwide over the past eight years. And the story gets very, very hairy. Since Rite Aid refused to disclose where it used such technology, Reuters reporters took it upon themselves to visit 75 locations in the central Los Angeles metropolitan area and Manhattan. Of these, 33 had "easily recognizable" facial recognition cameras. According to Reuters, storefronts in low-income areas were almost three times as likely to have facial recognition cameras present than those in wealthier neighborhoods.


No Student Should Have to Sit Through a Zoom Lecture

Slate

On a Thursday afternoon in February, I watched my students at the whiteboard. Gaby was drawing a series of cartoons and a list of the kinds of animals that had been sent into space by different countries across the decades. She didn't look at her notes: She drew from memory. Next to her, Olan was drawing images and words about the major groupings of physiological questions researchers had been trying to answer, including the effects of microgravity on heart and lungs, and the intensity of the stresses of launch. With my co-instructor professor Evgenya Shkolnik, I teach a class called "Inquiry," where the subject matter changes every semester, but what's really being taught is ways of independent learning and problem-solving.


How Can an A.I. Develop Taste?

Slate

Kate Compton, an expert in artificial intelligence, responds to Holli Mintzer's "Legal Salvage." I've begun collecting vintage brooches. I started after reading a theory that Queen Elizabeth was communicating secret political shade through her choice of accessories. They also reminded me of my grandmother, a woman with that refined 1950s hostess style that I learned to associate with being an adult. I can wear one to feel like the sort of formidable grand dame that I imagine myself growing into as I age.


The Pandemic Is Proving the Bar Exam Is Unjust and Unnecessary

Slate

Twice a year, recent law school graduates nationwide prepare for the bar examination, the biggest test of would-be attorneys' lives. "Bar prep," the shorthand for the two months of exhausting 12-hour days of study, costs upward of $3,000 and culminates in thousands of applicants filing into convention and conference centers in major cities for two days. The spread of COVID-19 has made this traditional arrangement unsafe and, frankly, unethical. Nonetheless, 23 states are still opting for in-person bar exams next week, placing applicants at risk for contracting COVID-19 while mandating that applicants sign liability waivers releasing state bars of all legal culpability should the applicant become ill as a result of an in-person exam. The sad reality is that many will need to risk their lives to take an exam that some have called "an unpredictable and unacceptable impediment for accessibility to the legal profession" that does nothing to protect the public.


Topless Beach Drone Scandal!

Slate

The isolated Twin Lake beach outside of Minneapolis is known as a haven for freewheeling summer behavior, a place where sunbathers feel comfortable socializing, drinking, and occasionally taking their tops off. According to local authorities, the beach has also been the site of sexual assaults, drownings, drunk driving, and other illicit behavior, drawing regular complaints from nearby homeowners. On July 10, police decided to take action. But instead of sending on-foot officers to the scene to hunt for rule-breakers, they flew their zoom camera–equipped DJI Matrice drone over the beach, in hope of catching them in the act. Police reasoned that the drone could help them deescalate things by avoiding unnecessary personal interaction, in light of the pandemic and the police brutality protests that had ignited over the death of George Floyd at the hands of an officer in late May, in nearby Minneapolis.


Why Anything Is Possible on HBO's em Los Espookys /em

Slate

The three comedians talk about what it was like to craft a bilingual TV show with dialogue in both English and Spanish and why the show isn't set in a particular country. They also discuss the show's supernatural elements, which intentionally lack specific rules and logic. After the interview, June and co-host Isaac Butler help a listener who's feeling unproductive in her new workplace. Send your questions about creativity and any other feedback to working@slate.com.


We Need Dystopian Fiction Now More Than Ever

Slate

On Tuesday, July 21, at 4 p.m. Eastern, P.W. Singer, co-author of the new book Burn-In: A Novel of the Real Robotic Revolution, and Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent series and Chosen Ones, will join June Thomas, senior managing producer for Slate podcasts, to discuss the role of speculative fiction in the real world. It hits you every so often. When you when you tug on a face mask to go pick up food for your family. When you witness the powerless suffer casual violence by a man with a sneer. When you see riot police surround the Lincoln Memorial and protesters snatched off the streets by masked soldiers in unmarked cars.