At Future Tense, I helped curate a wide variety of technology-focused events from full day conferences to happy hours in New York and Washington, DC. We hosted everyone from bitcoin experts and best-selling science fiction authors to the chief scientist of NASA. A few examples:
The Future of Reproduction
November 20, 2014
Human reproduction has long been a preoccupation of ethicists, scientists and science fiction, from the lab-reared children ofBrave New World to the artificial uteri shown in The Matrix. And as the recent furor over Facebook and Apple’s proposal to offer to fund the freezing of their female employee’s eggs indicated, we’re far from settled about how emerging reproductive technologies will affect the way we live. At a time when the science of genotyping, uterus transplants, and the design of artificial sperm and eggs continues to evolve, it’s worth pausing to consider what is within the realm of the possible when it comes to human reproduction, and which questions we should be asking before we get there.
@War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex
November 11, 2014
New York, NY
The future of American warfare is already here. From government agencies joining with tech giants like Google and Facebook to collect vast amounts of user data, to the use of hacker teams as part of the Iraq “surge”, cyber space has become the “fifth domain” of American warfare. Join Future Tense and New America NYC for a conversation with Shane Harris, author of the new book @War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex, and NewYorker.com editor Nicholas Thompson, about America’s military-internet complex and its implications for our security and privacy.
Will Amazon Lead Us to the Golden Age of Books?
October 29, 2014
New York, NY
We've been saying that Amazon has revolutionized books ever since the company first enabled us to order a book late at night in our pj's ... and at a discount. But Amazon's impact is increasingly being felt not only by readers, but by authors, publishers, and editors as well. Once merely an online book retailer, Amazon is arguably becoming the most influential arbiter of publishable content, and a threat to the traditional author-publisher-reader intermediation. There is no disputing that Amazon will play an outsized role in shaping the future of books, but only time will tell whether its endgame is a desirable destination for book culture.
Can we Imagine Our Way to a Better Future?
October 2, 2014
It’s 2014 and we have no flying cars, no Mars colonies, no needle-less injections, and yet plenty of smartphone dating apps. Is our science fiction to blame if we find today’s science and technology less than dazzling? Inspired by Neal Stephenson’s 2011 article “Innovation Starvation,” in which he argues that science fiction is failing to supply our scientists and engineers with inspiration, and the new anthology Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, this event will explore a more ambitious narrative about what’s coming. From the tales we tell about robots and drones, to the narratives on the cutting edge of neuroscience, to society’s view of its most intractable problems, we need to begin telling a new set of stories about ourselves and the future.
The Future of Getting Lost
July 15, 2014
New York, NY
In this era of near constant tracking and data gathering by cellphones, sensors, CCTV cameras, or even social media, it feels as if anyone, anywhere, should be easily findable at any moment. But as Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has demonstrated, it is still possible for significant, and tragic, disappearances to occur. What is the future of finding lost people in this time of exponentially increasing data? What can data offer us in terms of anticipatory and real-time disaster relief? And can we balance this measurable need—one that saves lives—with our desire to sometimes stray and purposefully lose ourselves?
Hacking the University: Will Tech Fix Higher Education?
April 30, 2014
If 2012 was the year of the Massive Open Online Course, according to the New York Times, 2013 was something of a reality check. MOOCs were meant to give people all over the United States (and the world) access to the best lecturers and classes from some of America's top universities. But their first iterations have been beset with problems--lack of student engagement, high dropout rates--leading critics to question their long-term value. MOOCs highlight the usual trajectory of new technologies that are supposed to transform education: big promises, followed by the trough of disillusionment, and a return to the status quo. So, what's next for technology in higher education in 2014 and beyond? Should we just give MOOCs some room to grow? Does big data have the answers? And anyway, is college even the best option in the tech economy?
From Nowhere to Nobels: Pathways to Success for Women in STEM
March 27, 2014
Women now hold more than half of all American jobs, but they still make up less than twenty-five percent of the science, technology, engineering, and math or STEM workforce. Yet women are graduating in increasing numbers with STEM degrees, so why does this gender gap persist? And what can we learn from the trail-blazing women and institutions who have succeeded in reversing this trend?
Breaking the Heart Into Bits
February 20, 2014
New York, NY
In 2013, one in ten Americans used a dating website or app. While looking for love online is a relatively recent phenomenon, it’s given us the first hard statistics on the dating habits and idiosyncrasies of modern Americans. One site, OkCupid, crunched the numbers and discovered that users who tweeted frequently were more likely to have short romantic relationships. And a 2011 study showed that people would rather say ‘I’m fat’ than ‘I’m a conservative’ on their dating profiles. But does all this data really make love more attainable? Can there ever be a fool-proof algorithm for love?
Cryptocurrencies: The New Coin of the Realm?
February 11, 2014
In 2009, the mysterious and pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto launched Bitcoin, the world’s first online cryptocurrency. Backed by no government or hard assets, the currency’s value has skyrocketed and plunged repeatedly. And yet, a diverse group of entrepreneurs, businesses and would-be money launders has followed Bitcoin’s trajectory avidly. The receptivity indicates a real demand for an Internet-centric medium of exchange, without banks and without fees. Yet the rise of “criminal eBays” like the Silk Road, which allow for the anonymous purchase of illegal items with the cryptocurrency, have also brought the digital cash to the attention of government authorities. Beyond monitoring illicit activity, should regulators have a role in this new financial system? Could Bitcoin-or another cryptocurrency-become a universal alternative currency? Will we ever be able to use a cryptocurrency at our local bodega?