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

6-12 November 2020

A GESDA product curated by Olivier Dessibourg

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).


> Switzerland and the Arctic. Closer than you think // November, Foraus
As ice caps are melting, the Arctic receives unprecedented attention. Trade routes for international shipping and some of the Arctic’s vast resources are becoming more accessible. Increased interests and activity in the Arctic bear opportunities and risks in two main areas: environmental and security. Even though the Arctic appears far off, both are also of concern to Switzerland.

The proposed “Swiss Vision for the Arctic” imagines the kind of Arctic Switzerland would like to see and to which it could and should contribute. Based on a Swiss interest to mitigate climate change and environmental hazards, this vision highlights that commercial activities and regional development in the Arctic need to be pursued in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and to the benefit of the local population. As Switzerland’s security and prosperity depend on a functioning European and international order, the vision foresees a peaceful resolution of disputes through legal mechanisms, transparency about security perceptions, and a limitation of military activities, guided by the principle of human security.

In the Northern canadian Arctic, the ice is melting fast. (© Olivier Dessibourg)


> Quantum-computing pioneer warns of complacency over Internet security // 30.10.2020, Nature
Nature talks to Peter Shor 25 years after he showed how to make quantum computations feasible — and how they could endanger our data.

Applied mathematician Peter Shor worked out how to overcome a major problem in quantum computing.(© BBVA FOUNDATION)


> How immune cells from the gut also protect the brain
From the STAT “Morning rounds” newsletter: “You’ve heard of the blood-brain barrier, a line of defense that keeps the central nervous system safe from infection. A new study in mice and human samples says we can thank the same cells that line our intestines for providing that kind of protection in the meninges, three layers of watertight tissue surrounding the brain. First, scientists sequenced immune cells found in the meninges that make antibodies against viruses or bacteria, and then they traced them to the gut. That surprised them, but it also makes sense: “Even a minor breach of the intestinal barrier will allow bugs to enter the bloodstream, with devastating consequences if they're able to spread into the brain,” study co-author Menna Clatworthy said.”

Why protecting the brain against infection takes guts // 04.11.2020, University of Cambridge press release - Nature

Based on this article in Nature: Gut-educated IgA plasma cells defend the meningeal venous sinuses

Related articles:
> The gut trains the immune system to protect the brain // 04.11.2020, NIH press release

> Are infections seeding some cases of Alzheimer’s disease? // 04.11.2020, Nature news

(© Scripps Research)


> The Xenobot future is coming – start planning now // 04.11.2020, WIRED
We're on the cusp of being able to program biological systems like we program computers. That raises some thorny questions.



Platform 1: Quantum revolution and advanced AI

Artificial intelligence

> AI pioneer Geoff Hinton: “Deep learning is going to be able to do everything” // 03.11.2020, MIT Technology Review

Understanding causality is the next challenge for machine learning // 29.10.2020, IEEE.Spectrum

GPT-3: Its nature, scope, limits, and consequences (COMMENT) // 01.11.2020, Springer
The argument says that we are witnessing not a marriage but a divorce between successful engineered agency and required biological intelligence: AI does less move towards AGI than into systems with amazing performance for given sets of tasks (text generation in this case.

GPT-3, l’intelligence artificielle qui a appris presque toute seule à presque tout faire // 03.11.2020, Le Monde

The next generation of artificial intelligence (Part 2) // 29.10.2020, Forbes
Missed Part1? It is here (12.10.2020).

Next-generation computer chip with two heads // 05.11.2020, EPFL press release

Graphene-based memory resistors show promise for brain-based computing // 29.10.2020,

The amount of trust people have in AI is linked to their attachment style in human relationships // November, Computers in Human behavior

Quantum and physics 

> Physicists develop efficient modem for a future quantum internet // 05.11.2020,

 Scientists grow carbon nanotube forest much longer than any other (with VIDEO below)// 04.11.2020, Wesada University press release - Carbon

(© Hisashi Sugime, Waseda University)

Platform 2: Human augmentation


> How the strangeness of our dreams reveals their true purpose // 04.11.2020, NewScientist

Formation of global self-beliefs in the human brain // 03.11.2020, PNAS
Human intelligence just got less mysterious // 05.11.2020, Leicester University press release - Trends in Cognitive Sciences

Alphabet’s Project Amber uses AI to try to diagnose depression from brain waves // 02.11.2020, VentureBeat

These are truly exciting times for the science of brain zapping // 03.11.2020, Aeon-Psyche

A new generation of optogenetic tools for research and medicine // 05.11.2020, PSI press release

A malformation illustrates the incredible plasticity of the brain // 30.10.2020, University of Geneva press release – Cerebral Cortex
En français : Une malformation illustre l’incroyable plasticité du cerveau


Electric field-driven microfluidics for rapid CRISPR-based diagnostics and its application to detection of SARS-CoV-2 // 04.11.2020, PNAS

‘Landmark’ study resolves a major mystery of how genes govern human height // 03.11.2020, Science

Longevity and health

A novel immunotherapy proves effective in animal models of multiple sclerosis // 04.11.2020, T. Jefferson University press release - Science Translational Medicine

In hunt for virus source, WHO let China take charge // November, New York Times

Breakdown of gene coordination during aging suggests a substantial challenge to longevity // 02.11.2020, Bar-Ilan University press release – Nature Metabolism

NUS researchers invent flexible and highly reliable sensor for wearable health devices and robotic perception // 02.11.2020, National University of Singapore

Researchers engineer tiny machines that deliver medicine efficiently // 03.11.2020, MedicalExpress

This swab contains dozens of the tiny devices, about the size of a speck of dust.
(© Johns Hopkins University)

Platform 3: Eco-regeneration and geoengineering


Dash of potassium could help make long-lasting electric car batteries // 04.11.2020, NewScientist

The future of nuclear: power stations could make hydrogen, heat homes and decarbonise industry (Op-Ed) // 04.11.2020, The Conversation

Virtual power plants could help solve our energy needs // 02.11.2020, SingularityHub


Studying life at the extremes // 02.11.2020, Nature

Microbial space travel on a molecular scale // 04.11.2020, University of Vienna press release - Microbiome

Synthetic DNA holds great promise for data storage // 21.10.2020, CNRS News

Modern computational tools open new era of fossil pollen research // 02.11.2020, NSF press release

Fresh call for EU to allow gene edited crops // 02.11.2020, Science|Business
Pressure is mounting for restrictions on genetically modified organisms to be lifted. The legal framework is not fit for purpose, says a new report.



Moscow pushes for more Arctic drilling // 03.11.2020, The Barents Observer

New safe hydrogen storage being developed in Russia // 30.10.2020, SputnikNews

An all-natural bioinspired structural material for plastic replacement // 03.11.2020, Nature Communications

> Deep-sea mining is making the seabed the hottest real estate on Earth  // 04.11.2020, New Scientist


China outlines architecture for future crewed moon landings // 30.10.2020, SpaceNews

From the Moon to Mars, future missions studied // 02.11.2020, ESA press release

Elon Musk’s SpaceX will ‘Make its own laws on Mars’ // 28.10.2020, The Independent

NASA Seeks New Partners to Help Put All Eyes on Artemis Moon Missions // 05.11.2020, NASA press release

Exoplanet observing satellite CHEOPS had to avoid space debris // 05.11.2020, University of Bern press release

How the Space Station became a base to launch humanity’s future // 02.11.2020, New York Times
Related article: Astronauts have conducted nearly 3,000 science experiments aboard the ISS, which just turned 20 // 03.11.2020, Nature

Top commander of U.S. space forces: Space should be peaceful, bad actors will be held accountable // 02.11.2020, SpaceNews
Related article: Moon patrols could be a future reality for Space Force // 02.11.2020, SpaceNews

Climate and environment

Innovation is an essential part of dealing with climate change // 31.10.2020, The Economist

> Once again, new Antarctic reserves fail to win backing // 02.11.2020, Science
Delegates attending an international meeting meant to protect Antarctic ocean life dashed conservationists’ hopes for new marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean.

CBI: Covid-19 provides pathway to future of carbon reduction // 03.11.2020, Climate Action

The climate change mitigation potential of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage // August 2020, Nature Climate Change

Forest-related carbon removal could generate $800bn in annual revenues by 2050 // 30.10.2020, Climate Action
New analysis commissioned by the UNPRI, predicts that technologies to remove carbon from the atmosphere could create trillion dollar upside opportunities for investors.

Baker Hughes dips into carbon capture as climate pressures grow // 03.11.2020, Bloomberg

Use COVID-19 to build back better, cities told by the UN // 31.10.2020, Thomson Reuters
More on Cities coverage by the Thomson Reuters Foundation news.

Drones to monitor ecological changes // 03.11.2020, EMPA press release
Related article on IEEE.Spectrum

10 years to transform the future of humanity – or destabilize the planet // October 2020, TED 

Platform 4: Science and Diplomacy

Promotion of International Geneva and digital self-determination – Federal Council sets out Digital Foreign Policy Strategy 2021–2024 // 04.11.2020,

‘Stick to the science’: when science gets political (PODCAST) // 03.11.2020, Nature

Does global health have a ‘colonialism’ problem? // 03.11.2020, Health Policy Watch

Ten ways coronavirus crisis will shape world in long term (OPINION, by Martin Wolf) // 03.11.2020, Financial Times

Microsoft’s Brad Smith: 'There's room for innovation when it comes to governance' // 04.11.2020, Geneva Solutions

‘Science was on the ballot’: How can public health recover from a rebuke at the polls? // 04.11.2020, STATnews

Corporate charity – Is the Gates Foundation addressing or reinforcing systemic problems raised by COVID-19? // 31.10.2020, Health Policy Watch

Climate-conscious venture capitalists are back: Can they both make money and protect the planet? // 29.10.2020, The Economist


> ITU 2020 Global Innovation Forum highlights the importance of entrepreneurship-driven innovation in the context of a global pandemic // 02.11.2020, ITU

> Trump catalyzed the March for Science. Where is it now? // 30.10.2020, Science

>  Democracy in distress? // 30.10.2020, MIT News
Experts analyze a global trend: democratic governments that collapse from within while maintaining a veneer of legitimacy.

>  Why tech isn’t always the answer — the perils of bionic duckweed (OPINION) // 30.10.2020, Financial Times

>  Science’s English dominance hinders diversity—but the community can work toward change // 28.10.2020, Science

(© Aleksei Morozov/


Globethics: 'a good use of technology serves humanity' // 04.11.2020, Geneva Solutions executive director, Prof. Obiora Ike discusses the importance of the concept in paving the way for a better tomorrow. (Photo:

Materials scientist elected next chair of EU chief adviser group // 30.10.2020, Research Professional News
Nicole Grobert, a professor of nanomaterials at the University of Oxford in the UK, has been elected to chair the European Commission’s Group of Chief Scientific Advisors, which provides independent scientific advice on any topic the EU institution requests, with bioscientist Paul Nurse elected deputy. (Photo: WEF)

Scientists should stay away from politics // 05.11.2020, Science|Business
Public trust in scientific advice would improve if scientists engaged more effectively with the general public, says Rolf-Dieter Heuer, chair of the European Commission’s group of scientific advisors. (Photo: DR)


> Racism is baked into patent systems // 02.11.2020, Nature
Intellectual-property laws imagine creatorship as white, a book argues.
Book: The Color of Creatorship: Intellectual Property, Race, and the Making of Americans - Anjali Vats (Stanford Univ. Press, 2020)

Timely book tells the CRISPR story so far // 03.11.2020, Nature
A gene-editing primer maps the solid ground better than the quagmires
Book: Editing Humanity: The Crispr Revolution and the New Era of Genome Editing - Kevin Davies (Pegasus, 2020)

A profound plan to save the seas // 30.10.2020, Science
Book: Future Sea: How to Rescue and Protect the World's Oceans - Deborah Rowan Wright (University of Chicago Press, 2020).


> Smart Energy Applied Solutions // 11.11.2020, 1:30 pm, organized by EMPA
Our energy supply is currently facing fundamental changes. Sustainable and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy are replacing the widely unpopular and climate-damaging fossil fuels. As we move towards a more sustainable path, new systems are required to keep up with our energy needs.


Trust conference // 11.11.2020, online free event organized by Thomson Reuters Foundation
Trust Conference is the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s flagship annual event and a leading human rights forum. Normally held in the heart of London each year, the conference brings together some 600 delegates from diverse sectors representing more than 60 countries. Previous speakers have included President and CEO of TIME’S UP, Tina Tchen, Executive Editor of The New York Times, Dean Baquet, and disability and design advocate, Sinéad Burke. This year, the forum has moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The current global health crisis will define the course of our lives for generations. Join us for a free day’s event packed with panel discussions, side sessions, speaker spotlights, documentaries and networking opportunities as we examine just how the pandemic has deepened social and economic inequalities, amplified threats to media freedom and will have lasting consequences for protecting and promoting human rights.
This is your opportunity to hear insights and share expertise with those at the forefront of reshaping our recovery in a post-COVID world.

Forward Forward
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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