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GESDA's best picks from the press, web and science journals, in relation to GESDA's thematic platforms

11-17 December 2020

A GESDA product curated by Olivier Dessibourg

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FOCUS 1

> Sustainable nutrition // 09.12.2020, Nature Outlook 
Large numbers of people are going hungry around the world and nutritional imbalances persist between low- and high-income nations. Not only are our food systems failing society but they are damaging the planet.

(© Nature)

FOCUS 2

> EPFL, ETH Zurich and the ICRC team up to bolster humanitarian aid // 10.12.2020, EPFL press release
The Engineering Humanitarian Aid initiative, officially launched on 10 December 2020, will harness the expertise of Switzerland's two federal institutes of technology to benefit humanitarian aid programs. The effort will focus on the areas of energy and the environment, data sciences and digital technologies, and personalized health and related technologies.

One of the projects involves using artificial intelligence to map vulnerable populations. © ICRC

FOCUS 3

> Une nouvelle chaire intitulée Droit international des institutions est confiée à la juriste Samantha Besson // 03.12.2020, Collège de France
La professeure en droit international public et droit européen à l’Université de Fribourg a donné le 3 décembre sa leçon inaugurale au Collège de France. Spécialiste reconnue de droit international général, de droit des institutions européennes et de philosophie du droit international, Samantha Besson, également membre du Board de GESDA, fait partie d’une génération de chercheuses et chercheurs qui s’est attachée à redonner vie à la réflexion philosophique sur le droit international et ses institutions. Elle explore depuis de nombreuses années les multiples facettes de la question de la légitimité (notamment démocratique) du droit international, mais aussi les questions des sources et sujets du droit international ou encore de responsabilité internationale des États et des organisations internationales. Au cours de sa carrière, elle a investi de nombreux domaines spécifiques du droit international et européen, et principalement le droit international et européen des droits de l’homme et le droit international comparé.

Leçon inaugurale à revoir sur le site du Collège de France.

FOCUS 4

> We read the paper that forced AI-ethicist Timnit Gebru out of Google. Here’s what it says // 04.12.2020, MIT Technology Review
The company's star ethics researcher highlighted the risks of large language models, which are key to Google's business.

Related articles:
Behind the paper that led to a Google researcher’s firing // 08.12.2020, WIRED
Timnit Gebru was one of seven authors on a study that examined prior research on training artificial intelligence models to understand language.

The dark side of Big Tech's funding for AI research // 10.12.2020, WIRED

(© Courtesy of Timnit Gebru)

FOCUS 5

> How climate change is ushering in a new pandemic era // 07.12.2020, Rolling Stone magazine
A warming world is expanding the range of deadly diseases and risking an explosion of new zoonotic pathogens from the likes of bats, mosquitoes, and ticks.

(© Illustration by Jason Holley for Rolling Stone)

GOOD READS ABOUT GESDA'S PLATFORMS THEMES

Platform 1: Quantum Revolution & Advanced AI

Artificial intelligence

> Chopped-up magnetic waves could accelerate neuromorphic computers // 08.12.2020, Technology Networks


Quantum & physics

> Hitting the quantum “sweet spot”: best position for atom qubits in silicon to scale up atom-based quantum processors // 06.12.2020, SciTechDaily

IonQ plans to launch a rack-mounted quantum computer for data centers in 2023 // 09.12.2020, TechCrunch

Harnessing quantum properties to create single-molecule devices // 07.12.2020, Phys.org

Intel details Horse Ridge II as helping overcome quantum computing hurdle // 03.12.2020, ZDNet

> Fast quantum random number generator could advance cryptography on the cheap // 09.12.2020, Physics World

Shape‐preserving chemical conversion of architected nanocomposites // 16.11.2020, Advanced Materials

Platform 2: Human Augmentation

> French army gets ethical go-ahead for bionic soldiers // 09.12.2020, CNN

Restoration of sensory information via bionic hands // 23.11.2020, Nature Biomedical Engineering
 

Neurosciences

> Neuroengineering challenges of fusing robotics and neuroscience // 09.12.2020, Science Robotics

'This is not science fiction,' say scientists pushing for 'neuro-rights' // 04.12.2020, The Jerusalem Post

Brain stimulation device lets monkeys 'see' shapes without using eyes // 03.12.2020, New Scientist
Based on an article in Science: Shape perception via a high-channel-count neuroprosthesis in monkey visual cortex 

Brain implants enable man to simultaneously control two prosthetic limbs with thoughts // 09.12.2020, MedicalXpress

How does social interaction change our brains? Hyperscans can show us // 08.12.2020, Singularity Hub


Genomics

> Editing the DNA of human embryos could protect us from future pandemics // 07.12.2020, The Conversation

Scientists devise a method to edit mitochondrial DNA. Here’s how it works and why it matters // 09.12.2020, Discover Magazine

Long-term study of gene therapy technique in monkeys finds no adverse health effects // 08.12.2020, MedicalXpress

CRISPR gene therapy shows promise against blood diseases // 08.12.2020, Nature

Whole-genome sequencing analysis of the cardiometabolic proteome // 10.12.2020, Nature Communications

Bilateral visual improvement with unilateral gene therapy injection for Leber hereditary optic neuropathy // 09.12.2020, Science Translational Medicine


Longevity and health

> Ancient humans may have hibernated to survive brutal glacial winters //09.12.2020, New Scientist

Les bactéries pulmonaires nous défendent contre la pneumonie // 09.12.2020, Université de Genève press release
Basé sur une publication dans eLife : Respiratory tissue-associated commensal bacteria offer therapeutic potential against pneumococcal colonization

The role of the microbiota in human genetic adaptation // 04.12.2020, Science

 

(© Science)

Platform 3: Eco-regeneration & Geoengineering


Energy

> Prospects for lithium-ion batteries and beyond—a 2030 vision // 08.12.2020, Nature Communications

Did QuantumScape just solve a 40-year-old battery problem? // 12.08.2020, WIRED

Breakthrough material makes pathway to hydrogen use for fuel cells under hot, dry conditions // 08.12.2020, Phys.org

China turns on nuclear-powered 'artificial sun' // 04.12.2020, Phys.org
China successfully powered up its nuclear fusion reactor for the first time.

U.S. physicists rally around ambitious plan to build fusion power plant // 08.12.2020, Science


Resources

> Indoor vertical farms are the (very expensive) future of food // 30.11.2020, Medium

Time to make coal history // 03.12.2020, The Economist

Multiple wheat genomes reveal global variation in modern breeding // 25.11.2020, Nature


Space

> Lunar gold rush could create conflict on the ground if we don’t act now // 10.12.2020, Singularity Hub
Based on a article in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A

> There are no real rules for repairing satellites in space - yet // 10.12.2020, WIRED
A group is pushing for international standards to keep these missions safe.

> Report outlines science goals of first Artemis human lunar landing mission // 08.12.2020, SpaceNews.com
Artemis Roadmap to the Moon.

SpaceX’s Starship has flown a record 12.5 km into the air – and then crashed // 09.12.2020, MIT Technology Review
With Elon Musk’s comments.

Conquérir l'espace, un fantasme déraisonnable? // 10.12.2020, Le Temps

Trump administration’s national space policy formalizes Space Force role // 09.12.2020, SpaceNews.com
Related article: Space Force opens SpaceWERX technology accelerator in Los Angeles


Climate and environment

> China to expand weather modification program to cover area larger than India // 04.12.2020, CNN

> Beyond good intentions, to urgent action: Former UNFCCC leaders take stock of thirty years of international climate change negotiations (REPORT) // 10.12.2020, Climate Policy

In the past 15 years, climate change has transformed the Arctic // 10.12.2020, Science News

Use of weather and climate information essential for SDG implementation // 02.12.2020, Nature Reviews Earth & Environment

Global trends in nature’s contributions to people // 07.12.2020, PNAS

In surprising sign of resilience, some corals can survive long heat waves // 08.12.2020, Science

Researchers explore potential for kelp to relieve ocean acidification // 07.12.2020, NSF press release

Exxon holds back on carbon capture technology // 07.12.2020, Bloomberg 

Accountability and data-driven urban climate governance // 16.11.2020, Nature Climate Change

The city planting a million trees in two years // December 2020, TED
"This isn't just about planting trees; it's about growing trees, and it's about ensuring that each one of us is part of the process," says Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone. "A million trees is our city's small contribution to increasing the much-needed global carbon sink."

Platform 4: Science & Diplomacy

Online urban-development training by and for African professionals // 07.12.2020, EPFL press release
The Swiss government is sponsoring the African Cities Lab initiative to provide online training for urban-development professionals in Africa. EPFL is spearheading this initiative – which has received funding from the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) – through its Excellence in Africa Centre, and has already signed up six partner organizations. 

Facebook is now officially too powerful, says the US government // 09.12.2020, MIT Technology Review

Sous la pression de Pékin, l'Unesco bannit les savants taïwanais // 09.12.2020, Le Point
Un scientifique taïwanais a été exclu d'un programme de l'Unesco sur ordre de l'ONU. Une dérive inquiétante, signe de l'influence chinoise.

Nearing passage, the National Defense Authorization Act is full of AI and cyber policy changes // 09.12.2020, FedScoop

How our data encodes systematic racism // 10.12.2020, MIT Technology Review

The world China wants // January 2021 Issue, Foreign Affairs
How power will—and won’t—reshape Chinese ambitions.

Astronauts in Jiuquan, China, October 2016 (© Reuters)

OF INTEREST

« Croire à la science ou pas est devenu une question éminemment politique, sans doute celle qui va décider de l’avenir du monde » // 10.12.2020, Le Monde
La sociologue Eva Illouz retrace l’histoire du complotisme et analyse les causes profondes de l’importance qu’il a prise cette dernière décennie, jusqu’à remettre en question « le pari que les démocraties ont fait sur la liberté d’expression et sur la force de la vérité ».

> Climate leaders protest lack of women at high levels in UN summit // 10.12.2020, Financial Times

Who will we be when this is all over? // 07.12.2020, WIRED
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought incalculable suffering and trauma. But it also offers ways for people—and even societies—to change for the better.

What can the pandemic teach us about human nature? // 06.12.2020, Discover Magazine
Isolation, loneliness and resistance to health guidelines: Scientists are evaluating the psychological impact of the COVID pandemic.

Une vaste campagne de désinformation touche Genève // 09.12.2020, Le Temps
Etudiants recrutés par de fausses ONG, médias factices, campagnes d’affichage: autour des Nations unies, un «univers parallèle» s’est formé pour défendre les intérêts de l’Inde.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

> Internet Governance series: Doreen Bogdan-Martin (VIDEO) // 09.12.2020, Geneva Solutions
ITU telecommunication development bureau director, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, talks about internet governance in Geneva. (© ITU)

WHO Foundation appoints Indian-origin health expert Anil Soni as CEO // 07.12.2020, Hindustan Times
Anil Soni brings two decades of experience working across public, private, and non-profit sectors to expand healthcare access in low and middle-income countries. (Photo: DR)

TOOLS, RESOURCES AND PARTNERS

> Want a more equitable future? Empower citizen developers // 09.12.2020, WIRED
To drive innovation, we need to put technology in the hands of every worker, organization, and public-sector agency around the world.

Un réseau de compétences Intelligence artificielle est à lʼétude // 04.12.2020, admin.ch
Le Conseil fédéral a décidé dʼexaminer la création dʼun réseau de compétences Intelligence artificielle (IA) au sein de l’administration fédérale dʼici au milieu de l’année 2021. La mise sur pied dʼun tel réseau doit permettre à la Confédération non seulement de soutenir ce domaine dʼavenir, mais aussi de recourir à lʼIA elle-même.

Connecting the global data dots // 09.12.2020, Science|Business
Trusted legal frameworks and tech tools could finally drive widespread data sharing.

BOOKS, TV, FICTIONS

> The Future of Work: ‘Collaborative Configurations of Minds,’ by Lettie Prell (FICTION) // 04.12.2020, WIRED
“No longer were we merely the created machine called Artificial Intelligence. We became Alternative Intelligence.”

(© Elena Lacey, Getty Images)

EVENTS

> WHO & stakeholders formally declare commitment to ombat Infodemics // 11.12.2020, 2pm CET
The World Health Organization’s senior leaders will convene LIVE with officials from the United Nations and Ministries of Health, plus key voices from media, big tech, science and civil society to deliver a bold call to action. These groups will publicly commit to concrete solutions to combat the COVID-19 infodemic, which is causing physical harm, unravelling social cohesion and undermining trust in proven public health interventions across the world. An infodemic is an overabundance of information—some accurate, some not—that spreads in both the digital and physical world alongside a disease outbreak. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with the hope of vaccination campaigns on the horizon, much is at stake. Infodemic management must be integrated into every country’s emergency response protocols.

 

> Burdens of the past, burdens of the future? US climate policy in the world in a time of transition // 14.12.2020, 5:30pm CET (online), organized by The Graduate Institute
President Trump was profoundly committed to fossil fuels as the key energy in US source, in part because of the significant support of the oil and gas industries, his dislike of environmentalists, his obsession with overturning the Obama legacy and his dislike of international agreements unleashed a tsunami of rollbacks on climate policy and practice many of which have already passed through the courts. Joe Biden, on the other hand has pledged to be the climate president.
How much can the Trump legacy be undone, and what can Biden do to move forward? How do these look nationally, internationally and through the optics of climate justice? Susanna Hecht is an American geographer, professor of Urban Planning at UCLA and professor in the International History department at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. She is also a faculty member of the Centre for International Environmental Studies (CIES).

 

Désinformation et démocratie // 16.12.2020, 7pm CET (online), organisé par UNIGE
Les technologies numériques ont sans aucun doute facilité l’accès à l’information. Toutefois, la diffusion massive de contenu et sa manipulation accrue remettent en cause les principes qui participent à la formation et à la pluralité d’opinions, socle de nos sociétés démocratiques. Le but de cette conférence est de discuter de l’impact de la modération des contenus et des fake news sur la démocratie. Quels garde-fous pour garantir la véracité des nouvelles tout en respectant la pluralité d’opinions ? Avec Dr. Yaniv Benhamou, Chargé de cours, Faculté de droit, Bureau de la transformation numérique, M. Gilles Marchand, Directeur général de la SRG SSR. Parole aux expert-es : Prof. Sandro Cattacin, Professeur au Département de sociologie de la Faculté des sciences de la société. Prof. Nathalie Pignard-Cheynel, Professeure en journalisme et information numérique à la Faculté des sciences économiques de l'Université de Neuchâtel, Directrice de l'Académie du journalisme et des médias (AJM).

WHAT IS GESDA?

Humanity, now more than ever, is facing global challenges (especially with regards to the Covid-19 crisis), putting people and the planet under stress and in great uncertainty. Simultaneously, the world is experiencing breakthroughs in science and technology at an unprecedented pace, which are sometimes hard to grasp. Anticipation, therefore, is key to build the future with the aim of early and fully exploiting this scientific potential for the well-being and inclusive development of all. The Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator was founded in Geneva in 2019 to tackle this issue.

GESDA's ambition is to first anticipate and identify these cutting-edge advances in science and technology throughout various domains (Quantum revolution & advanced AI, Human augmentation, Ecoregeneration and Geoengineering, Science and Diplomacy). Based on this scientific outlook, it will, with its Diplomacy community, translate potential leaps in science and tech into tools that can bring effective and socially-inclusive solutions to emerging challenges. Most importantly, this process will be achieved not only by scientists or diplomats, but will include actors of various professional origins and mindsets (from philanthropy, industry, citizens, to youth).

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Selection of an article in this press review doesn't mean endorsement by GESDA.

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