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

30 April - 07 May 2021

A GESDA product curated by Olivier Dessibourg


> 'Laws alone are no match for the power of AI' (op-ed by Emmanuel Abbé and Rüdiger Urbanke) // 05.05.2021, Geneva Solutions
The European Commission has just announced that it will propose legislation to stimulate innovations in the area of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and also to rein in potential downsides. It is welcome that the EU initiates this discussion – it is badly needed. But regulations alone will not suffice. Rüdiger Urbanke, professor at EPFL and GESDA Academic Moderator, and Emmanuel Abbé, professor at EPFL, explain why.

Related article: Geopolitics of AI – trends for 2021 ? // May 2021, SwissCognitive
Since 2018, we have seen an exponential rise in AI ethical rules in the format of ‘soft law’ whether at state level or at corporate level, while the UNESCO has been pioneered in launching a round table consultation with member states and paving the way to a possible future International Digital Charter or A Protocol.

© Mike MacKenzie via (CC BY 2.0)


> AAAS releases report supporting ethical use of artificial intelligence // 04.05.2021, AAAS
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is releasing a report highlighting the challenges in applying artificial intelligence (AI) in the fight against COVID-19. The report takes stock of the many ways AI has been relied on in the pandemic, so that lessons can be learned about the impacts of the applications, from a public health perspective and from a societal perspective, with the potential to influence whether and how these tools are used in the future.

News in link: Early-warning ‘pandemic hub’ plan unveiled by WHO’s Tedros and Germany’s Merkel // 05.05.2021, UN News

An international hub for pandemic control is to open in Berlin to ensure better preparedness and transparency in the fight against likely future global health threats.


> Brains in a dish // 30.04.2021, aeon
What pea-sized brain organoids reveal about consciousness, the self and our future as a species.

© Muotri Lab/UC San Diego


> "A new era of Human Spaceflight" // April 2021, European Space Policy Institute ESPI
ESPI Director Jean-Jacques Tortora takes a look at the near future of Human Spaceflight in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). This April, while Russia announced its plans to leave the ISS by 2025 to focus on the development of its own orbital station, China launched the core module of its future space station. These significant developments and the envisioned growing commercialisation of the ISS represent the emergence of a new era in Human Spaceflight and raise questions on the near future of cooperation in LEO.

© SpaceX


> Building brain capital // 05.05.2021, Neuron
Brains are indispensable drivers of human progress. Why not invest more heavily in them? Scientists seek to place Brain Capital at the center of a new narrative to fuel economic and societal recovery and resilience.



> Pay attention to India’s future of AI // 13.04.2021, Fortune
Although much of the focus on AI tends to concentrate on developments in the U.S. and China, people would be wise to pay attention to the second most populous country in the world: India. The country is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, has an established technology industry, and is the fourth largest producer of AI research papers (behind the UK, the U.S., and China).

Related report: Mapping India’s AI potential // March 2021, Center for Security and Emerging Technologies


> Opportunities and limits of CO2 recycling in a circular carbon economy: techno-economics, critical infrastructure needs, and policy priorities // 04.05.2021, Center on Global Energy Policy
Despite growing efforts to drastically cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and address climate change, energy outlooks project that the world will continue to rely on certain products that are currently carbon-intensive to produce but have limited alternatives, such as aviation fuels and concrete. Recycling CO2 into valuable chemicals, fuels, and materials has emerged as an opportunity to reduce the emissions of these products. In this way, CO2 recycling is a potential cornerstone of a circular carbon economy that can support a net-zero future. However, CO2 recycling processes have largely remained costly and difficult to deploy, underscoring the need for supportive policies informed by analysis of the current state and future challenges of CO2 recycling. This report examines 19 CO2 recycling pathways to understand the opportunities and the technical and economic limits of CO2 recycling products gaining market entry and reaching global scale.



> Fact or fake? Tackling science disinformation // 04.05.2021, All European Academies (ALLEA)
The paper examines the potential of technical and policy measures to tackle science disinformation and calls for improved European exchange and coordination in this field. While disinformation strategies are intoxicating public discourses in many fields, science disinformation is particularly dangerous to democratic governance and society at large. Over the past years, extensive research and a variety of strategies have been developed and applied to tackle science disinformation. ALLEA’s paper reviews this work.


> Labels and certifications for the digital world (report) // 06.05.2021, Swiss Digital Initiative
A new report by the Swiss Digital Initiative takes stock of the global Digital Trust ecosystem. It maps relevant initiatives and compiles learnings on the challenges and success factors for a Digital Trust Label. Based on the report, the Digital Trust ecosystem needs more cooperation, and the Swiss Digital Initiative aims to bring the relevant actors together in Geneva.


Platform 1: Quantum Revolution & Advanced AI

Quantum and physics 

> The quantum race: 15 countries with national quantum initiatives // 29.04.2021, The Quantum Daily

Will quantum computing deliver a big leap forward for battery cells? // 30.04.2021, Electrek

Ces défricheurs inventent l’ordinateur de demain // 01.05.2021, Le Point

Artificial intelligence and robots 

> Cooperative AI: machines must learn to find common ground (comment) // 04.05.2021, Nature
To help humanity solve fundamental problems of cooperation, scientists need to reconceive artificial intelligence as deeply social.

Microsoft scientist: emotion-reading AI is doomed to fail // 29.04.2021, The Byte
Why do AI engineers keep reinventing garbage science? 

La Suisse hébergera le plus puissant supercalculateur dédié à l’intelligence artificielle // 04.05.2021, Le Temps

The White House launched a new AI website // 06.05.2021, InsideAI is for the public to learn more about U.S. efforts in AI. The site is home to the National AI Initiative, a federal law that lays out plans for AI research and applications.

New York returns its police ‘Robodog’ after a public outcry // 30.04.2021, WIRED

© Patricia de Melo Moreira/Getty Images

Platform 2: Human Augmentation


> Why some researchers oppose unrestricted sharing of coronavirus genome data // 05.05.2021, Nature

Reverse-transcribed SARS-CoV-2 RNA can integrate into the genome of cultured human cells and can be expressed in patient-derived tissues // 06.05.2021, PNAS

Scientists have created a new gene-editing tool that could outperform CRISPR // 03.05.2021, Interesting Engineering
New gene editing technique, developed under the leadership of George Church, enables millions of genetic experiments to be performed simultaneously.
> Related press release from Wyss Institute at Harvard
> Related article in PNAS (04.05.2021)

Six patients with dementia went to Mexico for an unproven gene therapy, a biotech CEO claims // 03.05.2021, STAT

23andMe’s huge Covid-19 study draws links between the virus and our genetics // 04.05.2021, Singularity Hub

Study on the status of new genomic techniques under Union law and in light of the Court of Justice ruling in Case C-528/16 // 29.04.2021, European Commission
The Council of the European Union asked the Commission to submit a study in light of the Court of Justice’s judgment in Case C-528/16 regarding the status of new genomic techniques under Union law.



> Researchers wirelessly record human brain activity during normal life activities // 03.05.2021, NIH
NIH BRAIN Initiative-funded study opens the door to correlating deep brain activity and behavior.

Breakthrough for flexible electrode implants in the brain // 28.04.2021,
Solves key problems with bio-compatibility and tissue damage.

Longevity and health

What’s the deal with fecal transplants? // 03.05.2021, STAT

Ultra-fast 3D printing produces life-like organ models // 04.05.2021, NIH press release
Rapid method enhances cell survival, paves way toward printed organs.

Can bottom-up synthetic biology generate advanced drug-delivery systems? // 01.05.2021, Trends in Biotechnology

Of mice and men, monkeys, and pigs. The ethics of chimeric research // 29.04.2021, American Council on Science and Health

Improving health care means improving data diversity. Federated learning can help (opinion) // 30.04.2021, STAT

Persuading the body to regenerate its limbs // 03.05.2021, The New Yorker
Deer can regrow their antlers, and humans can replace their liver. What else might be possible?

Illustration: Khyati Trehan

Platform 3: Eco-regeneration & Geoengineering


> 3D printed 'artificial leaves' could provide sustainable energy on Mars // 03.05.2021, Interesting Engineering

Google-led paper pushes back against claims of AI energy inefficiency // 29.04.2021, VentureBeat


> Charting a new path to protect the high seas // 07.05.2021, Geneva Solutions

> New 'key-hole surgery' technique to extract metals from the Earth // 04.05.2021, University of Exeter press release


> Method offers new approach to DNA data storage // 30.04.2021, Chemical&Engineering News

> ‘Infinitely recyclable’ plastic could help solve our waste crisis // 03.05.2021, Singularity Hub


> Intensifying space activity calls for increased scrutiny of risks // 14.04.2021, International Risk Governance Center @EPFL
As the pace of space activities accelerates and societies become more reliant on space-based systems, the associated risks deserve more attention. Satellites form a critical infrastructure on which military, civil and commercial entities rely. The services they provide are increasingly used in everyday life, raising the prominence of space safety, security and sustainability, and making the development of strategies to address the associated risks more necessary. This article highlights the complexity of the risks inherent to human-made objects in space, noting in particular the pressing issue of space debris in low Earth orbit.

Why billionaires are fighting over who gets to land humans on the moon // 30.04.2021, New Scientist

Government cash is king for private spaceflight // 04.05.2021, AXIOS

Enquête sur le côté obscur de l’exploration spatiale // 04.05.2021, Futura Sciences

Europe plans to launch space telescope to monitor orbital debris // 03.03.2021,

Climate and environment

Climate solutions depend on technology, policy, and businesses working together // 04.05.2021, MIT news
At the MIT Forefront event, industry and Institute leaders discuss how businesses play a pivotal role in deploying new technologies that will mitigate climate change. “The challenge for humanity now is how to decarbonize the global economy by 2050. To do that, we need a supercharged decade of energy innovation,” said Ernest J. Moniz, the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems Emeritus, founding director of the MIT Energy Initiative, and a former U.S. secretary of energy.

> Biden administration to propose first rule requiring cut in climate pollutants // 03.05.2021, The Washington Post
The new Environmental Protection Agency rule targets hydrofluorocarbons, greenhouse gases that are thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

Carbon offsets used by major airlines based on flawed system, warn experts // 04.05.2021, The Guardian

Northern Red Sea corals pass heat stress test with flying colors // 04.05.2021, EPFL news

Scientists are breeding sea stars in a lab to rehabilitate warming oceans // 03.05.2021, Bloomberg Green
Climate change helped to kill most of the world’s sunflower sea stars. Resurrecting them could revive carbon dioxide-sequestering kelp forests.

NASA’s new fleet of satellites will offer insights into the wild cards of climate change // 05.05.2021, Science

Climate action potential in waste incineration plants // 04.05.2021, ETH Zurich news
The climate action potential of carbon capture during the processing of biomass feedstock is considerable, ETH Zurich researchers have calculated. If this potential is to be fully exploited in practice, however, there are challenges to overcome.

Grab crane at Hagenholz waste incineration plant, Zurich. (© Keystone/Gaetan Bally)

Platform 4: Science & Diplomacy

The opportunities and risks of digitalisation for sustainable development: a systemic perspective // 2021, Institut für transformative Nachhaltigkeitsforschung
Digitalisation can drive the sustainable transformation of society and industry. Many of the opportunities are, however, closely linked with risks. The use of a systemic risk-benefit perspective can help with the review and categorisation of the major impacts and trade-offs regarding the ecological, economic, and social dimensions of sustainability. The dynamics and uncertainties of digitalisation are complex ‐ to make digitalisation a sustainable success, all involved actors should be engaged in a co-design process to develop a governance structure that is in line with sustainability.

India, Brazil and the human cost of sidelining science // 04.05.2021, Nature 

To remedy health disparities, scientists must ‘get political’ (editorial) // 28.04.2021, Nature

China, Russia open moon base project to international partners, early details emerge // 26.04.2021, SpaceNews

Préserver la nature peut aider à préserver la paix // 03.05.2021,

The economic benefits of closing the digital divide // 06.05.2021, AXIOS

Global inequality remotely sensed // 04.05.2021, PNAS

New technology has enabled cybercrime on an industrial scale // 03.05.2021, The Economist

Three mayors on building more equitable cities // 26.04.2021, MIT Management School

How megacities could lead the fight against climate change // 28.04.2021, MIT Technology Review


--- Special section: waiving vaccine patents ---

Biden commits to waiving vaccine patents, driving wedge with pharmaceutical companies // 06.05.2021, The Washington Post
Developing countries have sought waiver, arguing it would boost coronavirus response.

> Related WHO Statement: WHO Director-General commends United States decision to support temporary waiver on intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines // 05.05.2021, WHO

Related articles: 

> La Suisse se retranche dans le camp du refus // 06.05.2021, Le Temps

> US swings weight behind global IP waiver on COVID vaccines; WTO inches towards ‘text-based’ negotiations // 05.05.2021, Health Policy Watch

> WTO’s DG Okonjo-Iweala welcomes new US support for waiver on COVID vaccine IP: ‘We need to respond rrgently’ // 06.05.2021, Health Policy Watch

> EU leaders blindsided on Biden proposal to suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines, as industry reacts in anger // 06.05.2021, Science|Business

> Brevets sur les vaccins: une question d’égalité et d’humanité (editorial) // 06.05.2021, Le Temps

> L'erreur de Joe Biden, et des autres (editorial) // 06.05.2021, L’Agefi

(© DR)


Pourquoi la pandémie place la science face à un dilemme // 30.04.2021,
La pandémie de coronavirus a propulsé la science et la recherche au cœur de nos sociétés. Mais cette influence sans précédent sur la politique et la vie publique a un revers: la situation exceptionnelle exige des réponses rapides, remettant en question la crédibilité des scientifiques.

Etienne Klein de l’espace (podcast) // 26.04.2021, France Inter
Physicien mais aussi philosophe, grand artisan de la démocratisation des savoirs, depuis maintenant plus de trente ans, il met la science à notre portée, et nous raconte la matière, l’infini, le vide et le temps. Il est venu nous mettre en orbite. Etienne Klein est l'invité d'Augustin Trapenard.

Le (sombre) rapport de la CIA sur le monde d’après // 05.05.2021, Le Point

Lessons from the pandemic’s superstar data scientist, Youyang Gu // 27.04.2021, MIT Technology Review
He made a machine-learning model in a week and ran it daily on his laptop (it only took an hour), generating remarkably accurate covid-19 predictions.

How the pandemic could personalize education // 05.05.2021, AXIOS


> Notes on navigating both worlds // 22.04.2021, S4D4C
S4D4C team member Marga Gual Soler, also Academic Expert at GESDA, is sharing her insights on Science diplomacy. Marga is a scientist engaged in the advancement of science diplomacy and the founder of SciDipGLOBAL. (Photo: DR)

Pour une neutralité active: de la Suisse à l’Europe // 03.05.2021, Presses polytechniques universitaires romandes
La neutralité peut-elle être une option profitable pour la France et pour l’Europe ? Micheline Calmy-Rey, ancienne présidente de la Confédération suisse, membre du Board de GESDA, le pense, et en fait état dans un nouvel ouvrage paru dans la collection Savoir suisse. (Photo: DR)

> WHO’s Tedros plans to seek reelection, setting up referendum on his leadership // 03.05.2021, STAT
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, plans to run for a second five-year term as the head of the agency, according to a person familiar with his thinking, setting up a referendum on the WHO’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic under his leadership. (© Getty Images)

> «Scientifiques et politiques doivent mieux collaborer» // 04.05.2021, Tribune de Genève
Dans un livre, la climatologue et conseillère nationale écologiste vaudoise Valentine Python craint que la politique des petits pas ne réponde pas à l’urgence écologique. (© Chantal Dervey)


> It’s already time to stop the next pandemic. Can a prize help? // 05.05.2021, WIRED
Covid-19 is still raging, but so are efforts to nip its successor in the bud—thanks to data sharing, political cooperation, or a multimillion-dollar challenge.


> Théorie du complot - Pourquoi y croyons-nous? // 28.04.2021, UNIFR
Attentat terroriste, pandémie, catastrophe naturelle, disparition de célébrité, innovation technologique… De nos jours, chaque événement majeur donne naissance à des théories alternatives à la version officielle. A la lumière d’études en psychologie, Pascal Wagner-Egger, chercheur à l’Université de Fribourg, propose un nouvel ouvrage qui explore les raisons pour lesquels nous pouvons toutes et tous être attiré·e·s par ces récits, et pourquoi certain·e·s y croient plus que d’autres.  

Article en lien: «Le complotisme tend à nos sociétés un miroir déformant» (interview) // 06.05.2021,


> The geopolitics of vaccines // 12.05.2021 at 12:30pm, organized by The Graduate Institute
After more than a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has just begun to put in place an effective global response based on a concerted vaccination policy. However, the most conservative forecasts point to a global production of 9 billion doses of vaccine with proven efficacy in 2021. While vaccine access has become a major geopolitical issue, a “holy grail” quest for many developing countries, the debate on local production emerges as an ethical response, a sort of moral injunction to rebalance the divide between the North and the South, already well-marked before this health cataclysm. In unmasking the geopolitics of this vaccine, what realities are lurking underneath this fragmented world where national interests are making a comeback?

> Meet the next generation of scientists and engineers // 16-21.05.2021, organized by Society for Science
The 2021 Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) kicks off on May 16. As the Society for Science and Regeneron welcome the world's best and brightest young scientists to showcase their research, we invite all members of the science fair community and the public to join us!

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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Have a very nice and fruitful week! :-)
Copyright ©  2020, All rights reserved for the selection. All rights reserved by the respective media for articles reproduction.
Selection of an article in this press review doesn't mean endorsement by GESDA.

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