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Future Tense Newsletter: What Exactly Is Synthetic Biology?

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J. Craig Venter is one of the people we’ll be discussing in our package on synthetic biology.

Greetings, Future Tensers,

It’s a new month, which means a new Futurography—the series in which we at Future Tense introduce you to the technologies that will define tomorrow. Each month, we choose a new tech topic and break it down, and April’s topic will be synthetic biology. Jacob Brogan gets us started with a conversational introduction explaining what synthetic biology is exactly and a cheat sheet to guide us through the key players, the big debates, and the lingo we should know.

In the past week, we also wrapped up the Futurography unit on the new space race, with pieces on why the United Arab Emirates is building a space program from scratch and how international collaborations in space reflect politics on Earth. Once you’ve read everything from the unit, you can test your knowledge by taking our quiz and then share your thoughts on the topic by completing our reader survey.

Other stories we read this week while imagining what fun could be had with a Cards Against Humanity expansion pack inspired by members of Congress’ browser histories:

  • Internet censorship: Future Tense fellow Emily Parker writes that Russian authorities want to mimic China’s approach to the internet—but it may be too late.
  • Patent law history: Charles Duan takes us back to the early days of the motion picture industry to teach tech companies a lesson on what not to do when trying to control how the public uses their products.
  • Twitter replies: Twitter didn’t ruin itself by changing how replies work—it improved how people engage on the platform, says Will Oremus.
  • Internet privacy: This week President Trump made it easier for internet service providers to collect, mine, and sell customer information. Sharad Goel and Arvind Narayanan explain why we shouldn’t be comforted by ISPs’ promises to protect customer privacy.

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.

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Anne Hathaway in Colossal.

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