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

27 November-03 December 2020

A GESDA product curated by Olivier Dessibourg


> Quantitative foresighting as a means of improving anticipatory scientific capacity and strategic planning // 20.11.2020, OneEarth
In a rapidly changing world, scientists and research institutions need to plan for the infrastructure, skills, and policy engagement that will help society navigate social-ecological challenges. Here, Hobday et al. show that foresighting – an approach used to inform thinking about future conditions – can be used as a quantitative approach to motivate and guide strategic planning and investment decisions by scientific institutions in response to different anticipated futures and build skills in futures thinking.

(© pxfuel)


> Artificial Intelligence is here // November 2020, New York Times
The NY Times thinks about the future – and the future of thinking – with a series of great articles:

(© Alex Eben Meyer, for NY Times)


> MIT report: Robots aren’t the biggest threat to the future of work – policy is // 23.11.2020, Singularity Hub
Fears of a robot-driven jobs apocalypse are a recurring theme in the media. But after three years of research, the final report from MIT’s Task Force on the Work of the Future says we’re actually facing a gradual technological evolution, not a robot revolution: technology is creating as many jobs as it destroys, and bad policy is a bigger threat to workers than automation.

(© Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA)


> ESA and ClearSpace SA sign contract for world’s first debris removal mission // 26.11.2020, ESA press release
ESA is signing an €86 million contract with an industrial team led by the Swiss start-up ClearSpace SA, – a spin-off of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne – to purchase a unique service: the first removal of an item of space debris from orbit.

(© ESA/ClearSpace)


> Future practice of Data Governance // 23.11.2020, The Graduate Institute
Data plays a pivotal role in many avenues of our lives, our economies, and our societies. This truth has been highlighted in dramatic fashion in societies’ response to the COVID-19 crisis. But what is data? This question is critical yet not easy to answer since data is not just one thing, and it is changing fast as we look to the future. The “Future practice of Data Governance” conference was organised by the Graduate Institute to address these issues.
Daria Robinson, Executive Director of the Diplomacy Lab at GESDA, took part in the high-level closing panel.
(Event video recording below: High-level closing panel starts at 1:27:20).


Platform 1: Quantum Revolution and Advanced AI

Quantum and Physics 

> Towards quantum supremacy on a laptop // 23.11.2020, Physical Review X
Real quantum computers could be simulated at a fraction of the computational cost of a perfect quantum device.

Scientists create electronic gadget powered by quantum tunneling // 23.11.2020, Futurism
Based on an article in Nature Communications

Artificial intelligence and Future of computing 

> Pioneering the future advanced computing ecosystem: A strategic plan // November 2020, Executive office of the President of the USA
The interagency National Science and Technology Council released a report outlining a “whole-of-nation” strategy for developing an advanced computing ecosystem that incorporates resources across government, academia, nonprofits, and industry.

Five most controversial moments of AI in 2020 (OPINION) // 24.11.2020, Analytics India Magazine

> Protecting consumers from collusive prices due to AI (POLICY FORUM) // 27.11.2020, Science

A neural network learns when it should not be trusted // 20.11.2020, MIT News Office

Sharada Mohanty: 'AI is like a toolbox that can help solving real-world problems' (PODCAST) // 24.11.2020, Geneva Solutions

A biochemical random number // 20.11.2020, ETHZ press release
ETH scientists have generated a huge true random number using DNA synthesis. It is the first time that a number of this magnitude has been created by biochemical means.

Free attendance for subscribers to the GESDA’s Best Reads

Tortoise Global AI Summit // 03.12.2020, 9:30am-4:00pm CET, online, organized by Tortoise media

Last December, Tortoise launched the Global AI Index, the first to benchmark nations on their level of investment, innovation and implementation of AI. The team has now expanded the Index, adding another 10 countries and bringing in further metrics to deepen the analysis on the battle for AI domination.
On December 3, it’ll release the Index’s second iteration as the centrepiece of an AI digital summit where leaders in politics, technology and business will imagine a world with AI at its core. It’ll discuss the geopolitical implications of AI development, how companies can avoid “ethics washing”, the key breakthroughs in AI-led technology, and how gene-editing may change the human experience.
The fresh rankings will also give us new insight into this rapidly moving field and tell us which nations are the leaders and why. Will China overtake the US? Will the UK slip below Canada? Who is punching above their weight?

Are you interested in attending online? GESDA’s Best Reads subscribers are invited to attend this event for free:

→ Register here, using the code: GUESTOFGESDA

Platform 2: Human Augmentation


> Part human, part machine: is Apple turning us all into cyborgs? // 25.11.2020, The Guardian

Genetic variability of memory performance is explained by differences in the brain’s thalamus // 16.11.2020, Nature news and views

Brain mapping, from molecules to networks // 20.11.2020, Science
Bridging multiple levels of brain function reveals the neural basis of thirst motivation.

Imaging method reveals a “symphony of cellular activities” // 23.11.2020, MIT News Office
Fluorescent imaging technique simultaneously captures different signal types from multiple locations in a live cell.

New research underscores the link between multiple sclerosis and the gut microbiome // 20.11.2020, STAT+


Les tests génétiques récréatifs dans la zone grise du droit Suisse // 25.11.2020,

New prediction algorithm identifies previously undetected cancer driver genes // 23.11.2020, NSF press release
Based on an article in Science Advances

Metal-organic frameworks successfully deliver CRISPR/Cas9 into human cancer cells // 23.11.2020, Technology Networks

> CRISPR gene editing of brain cells might prevent Alzheimer's disease // 26.11.2020, New Scientist

Longevity and Health

The ethics of rebooting the dead // 26.11.2020, WIRED
The notion of resurrecting people as digital entities is becoming less hypothetical. But just because something can be done, doesn’t mean it should be.

UNAIDS calls on countries to step up global action and proposes bold new HIV targets for 2025 // 26.11.2020, UNAIDS press release
Based on new report Prevailing against pandemics by putting people at the centre

The future of antibiotics (DISCOVERY REPORT) // November 2020, Chemical & Engineering News

Researchers uncover the unique way stem cells protect their chromosome ends (telomeres) // 25.11.2020, Francis Crick Institute press release - Nature

Another win for senolytics: Fighting aging at the cellular level just got easier // 24.11.2020, Singularity Hub
Based on a study in Nature Metabolism

Miniscule robots of metal and plastic may revolutionize the field of medicine // 24.11.2020, ETHZ press release

This squishy 3D-printed human heart feels like the real thing // 23.11.2020, WIRED

(© Eman Mirdamadi, Daniel Shiwarski, Joshua Tashman)

Platform 3: Eco-regeneration and Geoengineering


Battery life: the race to find a storage solution for a green energy future // 22.11.2020, Financial Times

Laser fusion reactor approaches ‘burning plasma’ milestone // 23.11.2020, Science

3-D printed corals, new bioreactors to boost microalgae production for biofuels // 23.11.2020,


> How food innovation hubs will scale technology to transform our food system // 20.11.2020, WEF

Volatile stuff as sustainable stuff for heavy trucks // 24.11.2020, EMPA press release

> Photosynthetic hydrogen production by droplet-based microbial micro-reactors under aerobic conditions // 25.11.2020, Nature Communications

Alternative materials could shrink concrete’s giant carbon footprint // 22.11.2020, Chemical & Engineering News
Read the whole Chemical & Engineering News issue here


Standardizing the definition of gene drive (OPINION) // 18.11.2020, PNAS

Community-led governance for gene-edited crops // 20.11.2020, Science


> Spaceflight does some weird things to astronauts’ bodies // 25.11.2020, MIT Technology Review
Based on a series of articles in Cell: Considerations for the future of spaceflight experiments // 25.11.2020
Related article: Space worms experiment reveals gravity affects genes // 25.11.2020,

Growing interest in Moon resources could cause tension // 23.11.2020, SpaceRef

A solar-powered rocket might be our ticket to interstellar space // 20.11.2020, WIRED

Climate and environment

Crypto's carbon footprint and the climate impact of our digital future // 24.11.2020, Geneva Solutions
Today, there’s concern over the wider carbon footprint of the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s latest technologies.

Is Jeff Bezos really serious about beating climate change? // 25.11.2020, Financial Times

A start-up’s unusual plan to suck carbon out of the sky // 24.11.2020, The Atlantic

> Climate change may make autumn leaves fall early and store less carbon // 26.11.2020, New Scientist

Scientists call for decade of concerted effort to enhance understanding of the deep seas // 25.11.2020, University of Plymouth
The programme spanning 45 institutions in 17 countries - which scientists have named Challenger 150 - will coincide with the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, which runs from 2021-2030.

Soutien ciblé au développement durable : livre blanc des Académies suisses des sciences pour guider la recherche // 26.11.2020, SCNAT press release

(© Académies suisses des sciences)

Platform 4: Science and Diplomacy

How to save democracy from technology: Ending Big Tech’s information monopoly (by Francis Fukuyama, Barak Richman and Ashish Goel) // January 2021 issue, Foreign Affairs
“Among the many transformations taking place in the U.S. economy, none is more salient than the growth of gigantic Internet platforms. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter [...]. As convenient as their technology is, the emergence of such dominant corporations should ring alarm bells—not just because they hold so much economic power but also because they wield so much control over political communication. These behemoths now dominate the dissemination of information and the coordination of political mobilization. That poses unique threats to a well-functioning democracy.”

Related article: 
Solomon Islands set to ban Facebook in the name of 'national unity' // 23.11.2020, ABC news

Independent Sage scientists to join climate crisis battle // 21.11.2020, The Observer
It began in the summer when a group of scientists decided to give the government a short, sharp lesson on how to use scientific advice in a transparent manner when tackling Covid-19. Once they had done that, the men and women of the Independent Sage organisation intended to disband. But now the group, led by former government chief scientist Sir David King, is considering a move six months after its formation that would allow Independent Sage to fight on for years to come – but with an expanded agenda.

Climate change is an existential threat to health: Diverse global health leaders & politicians echo growing sentiment // 25.11.2020, Health Policy Watch

> Building peace through climate action in Kenya // 27.11.2020, Geneva Solutions
Related article: Looking at security through the climate lens

COVID-19 underlines the need for an ambitious new EU research partnership with Africa (VIEWPOINT) // 24.11.2020, Science|Business

With global push for COVID-19 vaccines, China aims to win friends and cut deals // 25.11.2020, Science

UN75: Multilateralism is the essence of intercultural dialogue (Op-Ed by Olga Algayerova) // 21.11.2020, Geneva Solutions

UNESCO must reform to stay relevant — and reconnect people through science // 25.11.2020, Nature

Les militaires investissent l'Arctique – Comment la Chine se fait passer pour une nation polaire // 24.11.2020, Le Point

Comment la science peut nous aider // 25.11.2020, Courrier international
“Fin septembre, le quotidien polonais Gazeta Wyborcza a publié une tribune d’un enseignant-chercheur en physique. Piotr Wasylczyk explique en gros qu’il n’y a plus rien à attendre de la science, les scientifiques ayant abandonné aux politiques et aux multinationales le pouvoir de décider du destin du monde. “Peut-être que l’épisode de l’histoire de notre civilisation dans lequel la science a amélioré nos conditions de vie et nous a rendus plus humains grâce à la découverte de certains mystères de la nature est en train de s’achever”, écrit-il. Pour lui, la science traverse non seulement une crise de crédibilité – “Nous n’arrivons pas à présenter de façon convaincante nos arguments dans les discussions sur les vaccins, le changement climatique ou l’alimentation” –, mais aussi de reconnaissance et de gouvernance.”

Based on this article:
Statistical illiteracy isn't a niche problem. During a pandemic, it can be fatal (by Carlo Rovelli) // 26.10.2020, The Guardian

Related article:
How Iceland hammered COVID with science // 25.11.2020, Nature
The tiny island nation brought huge scientific heft to its attempts to contain and study the coronavirus. Here’s what it learnt.

Special section: Hopes in Biden

> A climate-first foreign policy // November 2020, Foreign Affairs
Diplomacy and executive action will allow Biden to tackle climate change.

Biden must repair—and reinvigorate—tech diplomacy // 25.11.2020, WIRED

Genève attend l’administration Biden avec impatience // 23.11.2020, Le Temps

Vaccinating a nation: can Biden manage America’s biggest health project? // 24.11.2020, Financial Times

10 steps that can restore scientific integrity in government // 16.11.2020, Scientific American


> Yves Bréchet : « La science est dévoyée par des religions moutonnières » // 25.11.2020, Le Point
Les attaques du rationalisme qui prospèrent sur Twitter relèvent d'une idéologie délétère. Entretien avec Yves Bréchet, membre de l'Académie des sciences en France.

L’inflation des centres technologiques suisses (ANALYSE) // 25.11.2020, Le Temps
Focalisé sur la valorisation économique de la science, le transfert de technologie suscite toujours plus de vocations. Le paysage se développe dans une anarchie que la Confédération peine à canaliser. En Suisse romande, les principaux centres concernés sont le CSEM (NE), l’Idiap (VS) et le Campus Biotech (GE).

‘126 Heartbeats for Geneva International’: Stories from civil society // 24.11.2020, Geneva Solutions

Institut Polytechnique de Paris and Accenture form strategic partnership to leverage science and technology to address major societal, economic, and environmental challenges // 23.11.2020, Accenture press release

The role-playing game that predicted the future // December 2020 issue, The Atlantic
Mike Pondsmith created Cyberpunk in 1988. Now it’s the inspiration for a highly anticipated video game—and an unlikely oracle.

(© Lauren Tamaki, for The Atlantic)


Création d'une chaire Droit international des institutions au Collège de France // 03.12.2020, 6pm CET online, organisé par Collège de France
Samantha Besson, membre du Conseil de Fondation de GESDA, nommée professeure titulaire de la chaire, prononcera sa leçon inaugurale: “Reconstruire l'ordre institutionnel international”. Retransmission en direct sur DR)

How to transform this crisis into an opportunity? // 10.12.2020, organized by Ahimsa Fund
An online dialogue between Michael Møller, former Director of UNOG and Chair of the Diplomacy Forum at GESDA, and three young leaders of the World (Charlotte Evans, Barwani Msiska and Vedant Batra). On December 4, at 4pm CET. Detailed information and registration here. (Photo: Davolo Steiner)

Swiss Digital Initiative: Anja Wyden Guelpa becomes new member of the foundation board // 24.11.2020, Swiss Digital Initiative 
Anja Wyden Guelpa, founder of the thinktank "civicLab" and former State Chancellor of the canton of Geneva, is to become a member of the Board of Foundation of the Swiss Digital Initiative under the leadership of former Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard with immediate effect. This will strengthen the voice of civil society on the Foundation Board. (Photo: DR)

> La devise de Bernard Pécoul: soigner le Sud // 25.11.2020, Le Temps
Après avoir couru l’Amérique centrale et l’Asie et dirigé MSF France, Bernard Pécoul a fondé l’ONG DNDi, basée à Genève, pour fournir aux pays en développement des traitements pour des maladies négligées. (© Eddy Mottaz/Le Temps)



> University rankings need a rethink // 24.11.2020, Nature

Is academic publishing about to change? // 13.11.2020, NUJ

Related articles: 
For €9500, Nature journals will now make your paper free to read // 24.11.2020, Science
New EU open peer review system stirs debate // 26.11.2020, Science|Business


> The Future of Work Summit // 04.12.2020, 9am CET, online, organized by The Graduate Institute
The Future of Work is facing massive, simultaneous, and interconnected disruptions, made more acute by the impacts of COVID-19. Work has moved online at an incredible pace, demonstrating our capacity for technology and behaviour change at speed and scale. At the same time, the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on essential and vulnerable workers has exposed systemic weakness, the limits of technology, and the unique importance of our humanity.

> Future of Food and Agriculture // 28.11.2020, 11am CET, online, organized by New Scientist
What we eat and how we grow it are changing. The need to feed a growing population, tackle hunger and obesity, and avoid trashing the planet is driving the next food and agricultural revolution. New Scientist Live’s Future of Food and Agriculture is an online event for everyone who cares what’s on their plate. Hear how science and technology is making it happen in a day of inspiring talks  across three stages.


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! :-)
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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