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

04-11 June 2021

A GESDA product curated by Olivier Dessibourg


> The world needs a chief risk officer // 05.06.2021, Axios
A future that will see escalating danger from extreme risks demands a longer-term approach to handling these threats. The world was caught off guard by COVID-19, and millions of people have paid the price. But the pandemic provides an opportunity to rethink the approach to the growing threat from low-probability but high-consequence risks – including the ones we may be inadvertently causing ourselves. The nonprofit Centre for Long-Term Resilience put out a report that should be required reading for leaders around the world: Future proof: the opportunity to transform the UK’s resilience to extreme risks


> Toward deep decarbonization // June 2021, Foreign Policy
Transformational technologies essential to the clean energy transition. In the run-up to the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP-26) in November, this Insider series will explore the status of key technologies for deep decarbonization and trade and investment opportunities for materially reducing emissions and climate-related risks while strengthening energy security, economic resilience, and international alliances.

Related article: Marking the decarbonization revolutions // 03.06.2021, Nature Energy
Stopping climate change requires revolutionary transformations in industry and agriculture. Ahead of several major climate meetings this year, policymakers struggling to measure progress on climate change should focus less on global emissions, which will be slow to change, and more on technological advances in pioneering niches.



> Ten-fold increase in carbon offset cost predicted // 04.06.2021, University College London
The cost of offsetting corporate carbon emissions needs to increase ten-fold to drive meaningful climate action, says a landmark report by Trove Research and UCL: Future Demand, Supply and Prices for Voluntary Credits - Keeping the balance


> Global AI market predicted to reach nearly $1 trillion by 2028 // 07.06.2021, The Next Web
The global AI market is projected to reach $998 billion by 2028, representing a compound annual growth rate of 40.2%, according to a Grand View Research report. Data shows that the market was ~$60B in 2020 and expected to approach $100B in 2021.

Related article: AI 50 companies to watch in 2021 // 10.06.2021, Forbes


> A browsable petascale reconstruction of the human cortex // 01.06.2021, Google AI Blog
Google AI has released the “H01” dataset, a 1.4 petabyte rendering of a small sample of human brain tissue of roughly one cubic millimeter. It includes tens of thousands of reconstructed neurons, millions of neuron fragments, 130 million annotated synapses, 104 proofread cells, and many additional subcellular annotations and structures. H01 is thus far the largest sample of brain tissue imaged and reconstructed in this level of detail, in any species, and the first large-scale study of synaptic connectivity in the human cortex that spans multiple cell types across all layers of the cortex. The primary goals of this project are to produce a novel resource for studying the human brain and to improve and scale the underlying connectomics technologies.

Related article in New Scientist: Google has mapped a piece of human brain in the most detail ever

Around 4000 nerve fibres connect to this single neuron. (©Google/Lichtman Laboratory)


> Technology outlook 2021 // 08.06.2021, SATW
“In the past decades, the world has become richer and – spoiled by the industry’s evergrowing performance – more demanding. It has become absolutely normal to obtain (and to demand) better results from manufacturing companies year after year. All market players rationally understand that perpetual exponential growth is not possible, but they are convinced that a skillful mix of successful products, strong market presence and clever novelties must enable them to achieve outstanding new results. The question is, however, how to identify, understand and use these novelties. In order to provide some guidance, “Technology Outlooks” have been developed worldwide and have become international references on these issues.

The SATW publishes its fourth Technology Outlook. The articles on technologies and areas of application focus on practical, industrial and commercial applications, covering topics like 5G applications, big data analysis, collaborative robots, quantum computing and many more. The articles on technological trends prepare readers for broader discussions and cover wide-ranging topics such as autonomous systems, cybersecurity, digital agriculture and of course also the omnipresent artificial intelligence and quantum technologies. This Technology Outlook begins with an international comparative analysis (European trends and comparison with Switzerland). Data has been accurately collected over several years, enabling for the first time to display the strengths and weaknesses of different countries over time” Ulrich Suter, President of the SATW Scientific Advisory Board.


> The world has a plan to get out of COVID-19: It’s called the 2030 Agenda // 03.06.2021, SDG Knowledge Hub
At the SDG Lab, we believe that delivering on the 2030 Agenda in a post-COVID period requires more emphasis on three key enablers of the Agenda: innovation, collaboration, and integration. These approaches and actions could serve as powerful levers to the current pandemic recovery. An informal collaboration in Geneva has led to the concept of a Swiss centre of excellence on blended finance, among other innovative initiatives.

Related articles: 
High-tech versus smart tech, a north-south divide // 09.06.2021, Geneva Solutions
Technology has a massive role to play in meeting the 2030 deadline for achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), says Julia Binder, head of Tech4Impact, an EPFL-sponsored platform promoting sustainable entrepreneurship. But technical solutions have to be adapted to the realities on the ground – especially in the global south.
EPFL researchers put technology to work for the global South // 04.06.2021, EPFL press release


> Innovation projects can reinvent the UN // 09.06.2021, Université de Genève press release
Researchers at the University of Geneva demonstrate that innovative projects spearheaded by United Nations (UN) country offices are remodeling the institution and expanding its role. Digital initiatives, particularly those scaled through headquarters, were shown to have the strongest impact, changing ways of working, embedding new skills, and restructuring teams across the UN. These findings highlight that fostering even single innovative projects could lead to fundamental transformations in the UN.


> Tackling biodiversity & climate crises together and their combined social impacts // 10.06.2021, IPBES & IPCC joint press release
Global Experts Identify Key Options for Solutions First-Ever Collaboration between IPBES and IPCC Selected Scientists. Unprecedented changes in climate and biodiversity, driven by human activities, have combined and increasingly threaten nature, human lives, livelihoods and well-being around the world. Biodiversity loss and climate change are both driven by human economic activities and mutually reinforce each other. Neither will be successfully resolved unless both are tackled together. This is the message of a workshop report, published today by 50 of the world’s leading biodiversity and climate experts.

Article en lien sur Climat et biodiversité, un seul et même défi selon le Giec et l'IPBES


> Becoming #GenerationRestoration: Ecosystem Restoration for People, Nature and Climate // 03.06.2021, UN Environment Programme
To launch the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, UNEP has released this synthesis report as a call to action for anyone and everyone to join the #GenerationRestoration movement to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide.


Platform 1: Quantum Revolution & Advanced AI

Quantum and physics 

> 24 multinational companies embracing quantum tech // 05.06.2021, The Quantum Daily

Honeywell, UT researchers say new algorithm may mean quantum computers will run complex simulations sooner than expected // 03.06.2021, The Quantum Daily

New internet woven from ‘spooky’ quantum links could supercharge science and commerce // 03.06.2021, Science

New quantum microscope can see tiny structures in living cells // 09.06.2021, Gizmodo

Artificial intelligence 

The Biden administration launches the National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource Task Force // 10.06.2021, NSF

> Google claims it is using AI to design chips faster than humans // 10.06.2021, CNBC
Related Editorial in Nature: AI microchip design must be handled with care

China using artificial intelligence to detect UFOs because it can ‘think outside the box’ // 08.06.2021, The Independent

Can a robot be arrested? Hold a patent? Pay income taxes? How should the law treat AI? // 26.05.2021, IEEE Spectrum

Why A.I. should be afraid of us // 05.06.2021, The New York Times
Because benevolent bots are suckers. Plus, racism in medical journals, the sperm-count “crisis” and more in the Friday edition of the Science Times newsletter.

(© Niranjan Shrestha/Associated Press)

Platform 2: Human Augmentation


> In the era of the actionable genome, everyone is responsible // June 2021, Trends in biotechnology

Would you have your DNA tested to predict how hard COVID-19 would strike? Should you? // 07.06.2021, Science

Anti-CRISPR proteins could help put the brakes on gene editing // 06.06.2021, Chemical&Engineering News

New approach to rewriting bacteria’s genetic code could lead to novel medicines // 03.06.2021, Science

Genetic code breakthrough opens door to advanced materials // 03.06.2021, Financial Times

A catalog of tens of thousands of viruses from human metagenomes reveals hidden associations with chronic diseases // 08.06.2021, PNAS


> My subconscious made me do it: Legal issues of brain-to-computer interface // 07.06.2021, American Council on Science and Health

> Newly detailed nerve links between brain and other organs shape thoughts, memories, and feelings // 10.06.2021, Science

Scientists begin to unravel the mysteries of the coronavirus and brains // 07.06.2021, The Washington Post

Computers can now predict our preferences directly from our brain // 07.06.2021, TechXplore

Landmark Alzheimer’s drug approval confounds research community // 08.06.2021, Nature

Longevity and health

How long can we live? New research says the human lifespan tops out at 150 // 07.06.2021, Singularity Hub
Based on a Nature communications article: Longitudinal analysis of blood markers reveals progressive loss of resilience and predicts human lifespan limit

This tiny creature survived 24,000 years frozen in Siberian permafrost // 07.06.2021, The New York Times
Based on this article: A living bdelloid rotifer from 24,000-year-old Arctic permafrost // 07.06.2021, Current Biology

Unproven stem cell interventions: A global public health problem requiring global deliberation // 08.06.2021, Stem Cell Reports

Teams engineer complex human tissues // 09.06.2021, NASA

The future diagnostic lab… inside your body // 07.06.2021, TED
We need an inside-out approach to how we diagnose disease, says immuno-engineer and TED Fellow Aaron Morris. Introducing cutting-edge medical research, he unveils implantable technology that gives real-time, continuous analysis of a patient's health at the molecular level. "We're creating a diagnostic lab inside your body," Morris says – and it may pave the way to diagnosing and treating disease better and faster than ever before.

Platform 3: Eco-regeneration & Geoengineering


> We are running out of time to reach deal to save natural world, says UN talks chair // 07.06.2021, The Guardian

The persistent threat of emerging plant disease pandemics to global food security // 08.06.2021, PNAS


> It’s time for Congress to support fusion energy // 04.06.2021, Scientific American
Related article: Fusion nucléaire : l'offensive des start-up // 05.06.2021, Science et Avenir

Researchers create self-sustaining, intelligent, electronic microsystems from green material // 08.06.2021,

Saving the climate with solar fuel // 08.06.2021, EMPA press release


When will the first baby be born in space? // 21.05.2021, The Conversation

Dr Victor Strelets on the uniqueness of radio frequencies and satellite orbits and the future of their utilization // 08.06.2021, SpaceWatch.Global

Physicists dream big with an idea for a particle collider on the moon // 10.06.2021, ScienceNews
A lunar particle accelerator could reach 1,000 times the energy of Earth’s largest collider.

Climate and environment

> Unlocking the single-cell mysteries of a reef-building coral // 27.05.2021, Cell

Financing a sustainable ocean economy // 08.06.2021, Nature Communications

Climate policy models need to get real about people — here’s how // 08.06.2021, Nature


> Beyond synthetic biology, synthetic ecology boosts health by engineering the environment // 04.06.2021, Boston University press release

Mosquitoes armed with virus-fighting bacteria sharply curb dengue infections, hospitalizations // 09.06.2021, Science

ESA investigates cultured meat as novel space food // 01.06.2021, ESA

Scientists used CRISPR to engineer a new ‘superbug’ that’s invincible to all viruses // 08.06.2021, Singularity Hub
Can we reprogram existing life at will? To synthetic biologists, the answer is yes. The central code for biology is simple. DNA letters, in groups of three, are translated into amino acids—Lego blocks that make proteins. Proteins build our bodies, regulate our metabolism, and allow us to function as living beings. Designing custom proteins often means you can redesign small aspects of life—for example, getting a bacteria to pump out life-saving drugs.

(© nadya_il from Pixabay)

Platform 4: Science & Diplomacy

> International Geneva, a hub for environmental governance? // 11.006.2021, Geneva Solutions
As one of the beating hearts of multilateral diplomacy, International Geneva has played a key role in writing the rulebook in global matters, including protecting our planet. Home to a number of international environmental agreements, it has the potential to become a hub for environmental governance, but not without civil society’s participation, according to two members of International Geneva that have seen the space develop over the years.

> First science adviser in US president’s cabinet talks COVID, spying and more // 04.06.2021, Nature
Eric Lander spoke to Nature during his first day as the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Switzerland wants to extend giant radio telescope cooperation // 04.06.2021, Swissinfo
The Swiss government wants to increase Switzerland’s involvement in the building of the world’s largest-ever radio telescope. The “Square Kilometer Array Observatory” (SKAO) project involves 13 countries and is intended to unravel certain mysteries of the universe.

Protect precious scientific collaboration from geopolitics // 26.05.2021, Nature

China continues its formidable rise as a scientific powerhouse // 03.06.2021, Cactus Communications

Nato allies need to speed up AI defence co-operation // 08.06.2021, Financial Times
High-tech warfare will be high on agenda at summit, but most members are playing catch-up with China.

Time to end generational injustice with a ‘Global Blue New Deal’ to protect oceans // 08.06.2021, Inter Press Service

(© Australian Institute of Marine Science)


> White smoke? EU deal over quantum, space research lets Horizon Europe proceed // 04.06.2021, Science|Business
After months of fighting, member states agree UK, Israeli, Swiss or other non-EU researchers can join Horizon’s most sensitive projects – on condition they provide ‘necessary assurances’ that their participation won’t harm the EU’s strategic interests.
Related article: Member states call for Horizon Europe to go full steam ahead following deal on space and quantum research // 10.06.2021, Science|Business

Critical missions: EU research moonshots to get go-ahead in coming weeks // 08.06.2021, Science|Business
Five grand challenge projects  – in cancer, soil health, ocean pollution, climate neutral cities and adapting to climate change – are ready to roll, confirms EU research chief Jean-Eric Paquet.

Mastercard Foundation donates $1.3 billion to boost Africa’s coronavirus response // 08.06.2021, The Washington Post


> Celebrities call on G7 leaders to donate covid-19 vaccines immediately // 08.06.2021, New Scientist
In an open letter co-written by Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust (also GESDA Board member), UNICEF called for 20 per cent of available UK vaccine doses between now and August to be donated, and requested that G7 countries collectively share 1 billion covid-19 vaccine doses over 2021. (©DR)

Suerie Moon: We know how to end this pandemic, but we are missing political courage // 10.06.2021, Geneva Solutions
Co-director of the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute, Suerie Moon shares her thoughts on some of the fundamental discussions that took place during the WHA and what should be done moving forward to address the current Covid-19 pandemic and future health crises. (© Graduate Institute)

> La Genève internationale devrait maintenir un lien aussi direct que possible avec les réalités du monde qu’elle sert // 01.06.2021, UN Today
Olivier Coutau est délégué à la Genève internationale pour la République et canton de Genève. (© Portail des nations)

Der Staat steht bei der Digitalisierung in der Verantwortung // 09.06.2021, Handelszeitung
Die Schweiz hat im Vergleich zu anderen Nationen in der Digitalisierung Aufholbedarf. Jetzt ist der Staat gefordert. Von Martin Vetterli, Präsident EPFL (auch GESDA Academic Forum Co-chair) und Edouard Bugnion, professor EPFL und Co-Direktor des Swiss Data Center. (© EPFL)


> Journalists can combat scientific misinformation with Science Pulse tool // 04.06.2021, IJNet

Gesellschaftliche Herausforderungen disziplinenübergreifend angehen // 10.06.2021, Swiss academies of sciences
Die Akademien der Wissenschaften Schweiz und das Staatssekretariat für Bildung, Forschung und Innovation haben ihre Leistungsvereinbarung 2021–24 mit einem Betrag von 196.6 Millionen Franken unterzeichnet. Im Zentrum stehen gesellschaftliche Herausforderungen wie nachhaltige Entwicklung, Food 4.0 oder Gesundheitssysteme. Themen, die dank dem Netzwerk von über 100'000 Milizpersonen disziplinenübergreifend angegangen werden können.


> The Biden-Putin summit: Perspectives for global politics // 14.06.2021, 3pmCET, organized by the Graduate Institute
This panel discussion explores the current changes in global politics through the lens of the Biden Putin summit. Despite the wide range of disagreement on many issues between Russia and the US, where is international cooperation possible? What can be done – and by whom – to advance joint interests on collective security and climate change? And is there a specific role to play for International Geneva within an ever more polycentric landscape of global governance.

(© The Graduate Institute)
> ETH Global Lecture Series: The science we need for the ocean we want // 17.06.2021 4pm, organized by ETHZ
On the occasion of World Oceans Day,  join Chris Luebkeman for an inspiring conversation led by Chris Luebkeman featuring renowned oceanographer Enric Sala and ETH Zurich's Loïc Pellissier.
(© Rigel, Unsplash)

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).

Forward Forward
Have a very nice and fruitful week! :-)
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Selection of an article in this press review doesn't mean endorsement by GESDA.

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