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The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.

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Open Dialogue

Evan Selinger in conversation with Kate Darling from MIT Media Lab

The text “Open Dialogue” as a graphic next to a photoshopped image of a standing biped robot holding a cardboard box.
The text “Open Dialogue” as a graphic next to a photoshopped image of a standing biped robot holding a cardboard box.

This is Open Dialogue, an interview series from OneZero about technology and ethics.

A few years ago, I read a fascinating paper by Kate Darling, a research specialist at the MIT Media Lab, that left a lasting impression. In “Extending Legal Protection to Social Robots: The Effects of Anthropomorphism, Empathy, and Violent Behavior Towards Robotic Objects,” Kate clarifies how easy it is, given the way the human mind works, for us to become emotionally attached to all kinds of robots — robots that have humanlike, animal-like, or even basic lifelike features. Given this tendency, she proposed a radical idea: granting…


To mark the web’s 32nd birthday, Sir Tim Berners-Lee calls for internet access for all, a fight against abuse and misinformation, and more

Last year, we marked the web’s birthday just one day after the World Health Organization declared the Covid-19 crisis a pandemic. In the 12 months since, the web — like so many of us — has been tested like never before. Today, as the web turns 32, it has proven to be a lifeline that allows us to adapt and carry on.

Now, as we repair and rebuild, we have an opportunity to reimagine our world and create something better. The web’s power to catalyze change can and must help shape the world we want.

Across the globe, young people…


Knowledge is power

Today in news you can use: a brief guide to killing those quadrupedal robots that you’ve seen in countless viral videos, bounding across the landscape like nightmare spider-horses.

Twitter user, uh, “sleep paralysis demon” published a viral thread on Wednesday about what to do “if you or someone nearby are being brutalized by a police Spot robot.” Here’s the meat of it:

We haven’t had occasion to test these tactics, given that an authoritarian robotic uprising has yet to occur. …


A Q&A with the acclaimed science fiction author and inventor of better futures

Insurrection. Global pandemic. Cascading climate crises. Never-ending Zooms. We seem to be living through the dystopia Hollywood has always dreamed of, sans a satisfying narrative arc.

In times like these, nihilism beckons. Just give up, history seems to be saying. There’s nothing you can do. The best you can hope for is to protect your own as you watch the world burn.

Fuck that.

Some novelists begin a new story by identifying a central theme, and then let the characters, plot, setting, tone, pace, and all the rest unspool from there. That’s never worked for me. Instead, theme is usually…


These 21 books about technology and its impact on society are crucial to understanding our fractious future

A square graphic with the text “OneZero Best Tech Books 2020” placed over a background image of stacks of books.
A square graphic with the text “OneZero Best Tech Books 2020” placed over a background image of stacks of books.

There was a quiet but serious shift in mainstream thought about technology underway this year, even before everything went to hell. Most years, the release schedule for tech books is brimming with startup hagiographies, founder profiles, tech guru memoirs, and business and management tomes, with a few “critical” titles thrown in — your exposés and polemics and kids-are-using-their-phones-too-much tirades.

This year, which I observed from my high and mighty perch as editor of OneZero’s books department, the ratio seemed to be firmly reversed — the blow-by-blow accounts of tech world goings-on, like Steven Levy’s Facebook: The Inside Story, were considerably…


If anyone has any ideas about what the hell is going to happen this week, it’s speculative fiction writers

Seemingly infinite branching futures lay before us, most of them bad-shaped. Will the pandemic and wildfires leave us in withered, blasted ruins? Will the new Supreme Court finally transform us into a full-blown theocracy? Will voter suppression continue unabated until election day? Will the militias show up? Will the election — I’ll just stop it there.

Who knows! About any of it! Now is a moment in which everything seems possible, especially crippling anxiety. But while we all wait with bated breath for our hoped-for outcomes, perhaps we can take some solace in considering a few of those infinite futures…


From ‘Parable of the Sower’ to ‘Sorry to Bother You,’ these works of visionary fiction will help you conceptualize and create a more just world

This piece is part of a series on visionary fiction we’re running on OneZero to examine how future culture can affect change now. In her companion feature about the growing genre, Walidah Imarisha, author, educator, and co-editor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, explains how stories about the future are imperative to helping us build a better one. (Stories like Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild, which we also published in full.) Here, Imarisha gives us a reading and viewing list of works of visionary fiction that will help us get our minds into gear.

Visionary fiction is fantastical…


This peerless short story by visionary fiction writer Octavia Butler examines the legacy — and future — of colonization and human bondage

By Octavia E. Butler

If there has ever been a moment for visionary speculative fiction — stories that imagine worlds that show us how our own might be better and more just, it is now. OneZero is dedicated to exploring the ideas and technologies that move the now-world toward those nascent future ones — ideas like those found in Octavia E. Butler’s masterwork of short fiction “Bloodchild.” As Walidah Imarisha, editor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, writes in a companion piece about visionary fiction, “We can’t build what we can’t imagine, so it is imperative…


A strain of science fiction called visionary fiction empowers activists, artists, and organizers to seed a better future

Science fiction is still regarded as the province of space opera and high technologies run amok — but at its best, it shines a light on the problems and possibilities of our world as it is. Visionary fiction, a practice developed by Walidah Imarisha, author and editor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, goes a step further, and actively asks practitioners to build better futures from the ground up. (We’re also publishing Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild, a prime example and inspiration for the form, in its entirety.) Given the rise of the police abolition movement and the…


Letter From the Editor

Debugger and Future Human serve readers thoughtful stories on the forces shaping our future

Dear Readers,

The OneZero family is expanding. Today, we’re launching two new publications, Debugger and Future Human, to serve readers new perspectives on consumer technology and science.

Debugger explores how we use gadgets, apps, and services. Future Human is all about the science that will shape our survival as a species. And OneZero will continue to explore what we call the undercurrents of the future; technology topics like surveillance, automation, and platform moderation.

A publication can’t be all things to all people. Yet many try. Boxed in by the business imperatives of online advertising — how many pageviews, how many…

OneZero

The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.

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