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What Next: TBD | Tech, power, and the future


Every Friday, Slate’s popular daily news podcast What Next brings you TBD, a clear-eyed look into the future. From fake news to fake meat, algorithms to augmented reality, Lizzie O’Leary is your guide to the tech industry and the world it’s creating for us to live in.

Every Friday, Slate’s popular daily news podcast What Next brings you TBD, a clear-eyed look into the future. From fake news to fake meat, algorithms to augmented reality, Lizzie O’Leary is your guide to the tech industry and the world it’s creating for us to live in.


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Every Friday, Slate’s popular daily news podcast What Next brings you TBD, a clear-eyed look into the future. From fake news to fake meat, algorithms to augmented reality, Lizzie O’Leary is your guide to the tech industry and the world it’s creating for us to live in.




A Historic Case Against Google

It’s been 22 years since the federal government last brought a meaningful legal challenge to a big tech company. Back then, when the Justice Department sued Microsoft, the outcome changed the direction of the company for years to come. Now, the Department of Justice is coming for Google. Can the search giant resist this challenge to its role as the gatekeeper of the internet? Guest: Tony Romm, technology reporter at the Washington Post Host Lizzie O’Leary Learn more about your ad choices....


Facebook Flips on Holocaust Denial

Two years ago, Mark Zuckerberg held up Holocaust denial as an example of the type of speech that would be protected on Facebook. The company wouldn’t take down content simply because it was incorrect. This week, Facebook reversed that stance. Is this decision the first step toward a new way of policing speech on the social network? Guest: Evelyn Douek, Lecturer at Harvard Law School and affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society Host Lizzie O’Leary Learn more about your ad...


What Landlords Have on You

Over the last decade, born from the chaos of the 2008 financial crisis, automated tenant screening has grown into a billion-dollar industry. Now, nine out of 10 landlords rely on automated tenant-screening reports, scraped from eviction history, criminal background records, and terror watchlists, to decide if they can trust potential renters. The problem? Often, the reports contain major errors, mistaken identities, and criminal records that are supposed to be expunged. Can these reports...


The Attack on Florida’s Latino Voters

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Spanish-speaking voters in Florida have been exposed to a steady uptick in falsities and conspiracy theories. This misinformation is shared in WhatsApp groups, Facebook groups, and YouTube channels, then amplified by enormously popular local radio stations. Now there are signs that the flood of misinformation is having an effect. Groups that voted Democrat in 2016 seem to be leaning to the right. Will this onslaught of misinformation tilt the Latino vote...


A Vaccine Won’t Be the End

As of Sept. 24, there are 42 vaccines in clinical trials on humans. At least 92 others are being developed but have not yet gone to trial. For months, the world has tracked the progression of these vaccines closely, with the expectation that once one arrives on the market, we can finally start to go back to normal. But, is that true? Does the world really look much different with an effective vaccine? Guest: Dr. Paul Offit, professor of pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia....


Did the Internet Doom a Pregnancy?

For pregnant women in the U.S., there are plenty of reasons to mistrust the medical establishment. Mortality rates are high compared to other western countries, and one-third of women in the U.S. give birth by C-section. It’s no wonder that many women turn to the internet for alternatives. This week, the story of one woman who was drawn into a network of private Facebook groups dedicated to the idea of ‘freebirth,’ or unassisted birth. And what happens when the misinformation shared in these...


The Great Climate Migration Begins

As the planet warms in the coming decades, many parts of the planet that millions now call home will become uninhabitable. At first, people in these areas will move to the cities, then across international borders. This mass migration is already underway in the hottest parts of the world, and it is likely to accelerate in coming years. Just how many people will be forced to move? And where will they go? Guest: Abrahm Lustgarten, senior reporter at ProPublica Host Celeste Headlee Learn more...


The Limits of Filming Police Brutality

In the wake of the killing of Michael Brown in 2014, and the national protests that followed, many believed that video shared on social media, along with footage from body cameras, would reshape the relationship between police and citizens. Six years later, one thing is clear: It didn’t work. Can viral videos really hold power to account? And why do we so often put our faith in technological solutions to solve societal problems? Guests: Bijan Stephen, reporter at the Verge Ethan Zuckerman,...


QAnon Goes Mainstream

Not long ago, the QAnon conspiracy theory seemed to have lost momentum. Social media mentions had decreased. 8chan had gone offline. But since March, fueled by the pandemic and social media giants, the conspiracy has taken on new life. What’s responsible for the rapid uptake of the movement? And now that QAnon has spilled over to the mainstream, how far can it go? Guest: Ali Breland, reporter at Mother Jones Host Celeste Headlee Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


What Went Wrong With Contact Tracing Apps

In the early days of the pandemic, countries around the world invested heavily in new technologies that would help track the movement of the virus. Now, six months later, contact tracing apps are all but an afterthought in the fight to contain COVID-19. What happened? The U.K. provides some answers. The country put its faith in technology to contain the virus, and paid the price. Guest: Gus Hosein, executive director at Privacy International Host Celeste Headlee Learn more about your ad...


How Google Search Sold Out

In the early days of internet search engines, Google set itself apart by providing a simple service. A list of links, inviting you to explore the websites that best matched your query. It was a portal to the rest of the internet. But over the last two decades, that mission has changed. Does Google search still take you to the best result for your query? Or does it point users back to its own suite of products? Guest: Adrianne Jeffries, investigative journalist at The Markup. Host Celeste...


How One Block Got Through It

Over the past five months, city blocks have been slipping away. Bars are closed; restaurants are half-empty; retail is shuttered. As the country returns to varying states of lockdown, how long can these blocks hold on? This week: how one commercial strip on Chicago’s South Side is weathering the pandemic. Guests: Nedra Sims Fears, executive director of the Greater Chatham Initiative Brian d'Antignac, The Woodshop Jaidah Wilson-Turnbow, Frances Cocktail Lounge Zoie Reams, Brown Sugar Bakery...


When America Can’t Pay the Rent

For the last four months, federal and state eviction moratoria have kept Americans in their apartments, even if they couldn’t pay rent. Now, with financial relief in question, and moratoria set to expire, the first of the month might look very different for millions of Americans. Guests: Emily, a resident of Chicago’s Northwest Side Mark Durakovic, principal at Kass Management Peter Hepburn, analyst at Princeton’s Eviction Lab Host Henry Grabar Learn more about your ad choices. Visit...


New Orleans Without Music

More than any other U.S. city, New Orleans banks on its culture. From music to restaurants to parades, the city relies on a steady stream of tourists to support its many artists and institutions. In March, those tourists stopped visiting. And without them, the fragile infrastructure of clubs, venues, and performances is starting to collapse. Can New Orleans survive the coronavirus? Guests: Patrick Williams, harmonica player Jesse Paige, owner of the Blue Nile Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes,...


Cities Are Running Out of Money

After months of coronavirus lockdowns, cities are taking stock of their finances. The situation is bleak. With plummeting sales and property tax revenue, American cities of all sizes may be facing a budget crisis. What happens when local governments have to cut their budgets by double-digit percentages? Will the federal government learn from the Great Recession and intervene? Guests: Minh Nguyen, owner of Cafe TH in Houston Chris Brown, Houston City Controller Mildred Warner, professor of...


Is “Covid Flight” a Thing?

Tens of thousands of people leave American cities every year. Normally, they’re replaced by new arrivals seeking jobs, education, and opportunity. But in a world transformed by the coronavirus, what happens if nobody arrives to replace them? Guests: Emily Badger, reporter at the New York Times Natalie Moore, reporter at WBEZ Amanda Kolson Hurley, editor at Bloomberg Businessweek Host: Henry Grabar Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


What's a City Without the Office?

Since March, white-collar offices in major cities across the United States have stood empty. Now, with growing evidence that the workforce is equally effective at home, companies and designers are starting to rethink the office—what it looks like, what it’s used for, and if it’s really needed at all. But this wholesale reimagining of office life comes at a cost. How will the severe reduction of commuters transform American cities? Guests: John Capobianco, principal at IA Interior Architects...


A Hidden Side of Police Abuse

Responding to protests around the country, the New York City Council passed the POST Act: Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology last week. The bill will require the NYPD to reveal the extent of their surveillance technology deployed within the city. For the first time, New Yorkers will get a clear picture of the technology being employed to watch and trace them. Experts say to expect the worst. Guest: Ángel S. Díaz, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. Learn more about your ad...


Why Remote Learning Failed

In March, when schools across the country shut down, few people could have guessed that students wouldn’t return until the fall. Schools weren’t equipped to deploy remote-learning curricula, technology was in short supply, and most parents weren’t free to guide their children through lessons during the day. Three months later, little has changed. And all that time out of the classroom has taken a toll on students. Can they recover in time for the fall? Guest: Dana Goldstein, national...


Is This the End of Facial Recognition?

This week, three of the leading developers of facial-recognition technology announced they would stop, or at least pause, selling this technology to police. The decision stems from evidence of racial bias inherent in these tools. For the researchers who first uncovered the deep-seated issues with these tools, it’s a watershed moment. Will facial-recognition technology continue to grow unchecked? Or will this week’s announcements result in lasting change? Slate Plus members get bonus segments...