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

23-30 April 2021

A GESDA product curated by Olivier Dessibourg


> How long can we live? // 28.04.2021, The New York Times
New research is intensifying the debate — with profound implications for the future of the planet.

(© Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari)


> Nations need ambassadors to Big Tech // 19.04.2021, WIRED
Governments see that companies have country-like powers, but they can’t figure out how to deal with their un-country-like structures. Diplomats could help.

(© Elena Lacey; Getty Images)


> Do brain implants change your identity? // 19.04.2021, The New Yorker
As neural devices proliferate, so do reports of personality changes, foundering relationships, and people who want to leave their careers.

(Illustration: Annie Jen for The New Yorker)


> The field is exploding, but microbiome therapeutics still face a wave of challenges // 26.04.2021, STAT News
Even as drug makers are poised to introduce actual medicines to change a person’s microbiome and make them healthier, there’s a lot we don’t know about the billions of organisms that live inside us. We don’t know all their names, let alone everything they’re capable of doing. In a deep new report, STAT examines what we do know about this field — the science powering this new array of therapies, the companies already charging toward new drug applications, and, critically, the many challenges still to come.

> Related article: A framework for microbiome science in public health // 05.04.2021, Nature Medicine

(© Adobe)


> ACT now, ACT together 2020-2021 Impact Report // April 2021, WHO
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General: “When the global HIV epidemic erupted 40 years ago, lifesaving antiretrovirals were developed, but more than a decade passed before the world’s poor got access. When the H1N1 pandemic erupted 12 years ago, vaccines were developed and approved, but by the time the world’s poor got access, the pandemic was over. When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted more than a year ago, a coalition of 9 global health agencies came together to create the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, to prevent the same thing happening again. The ACT-Accelerator was launched with two objectives: the rapid development of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics; and equitable access to those tools. The first objective has been achieved; we now have several safe and effective vaccines to prevent COVID-19, rapid diagnostics to test for it, and oxygen and dexamethasone to treat it. Our urgent task now is to rapidly expand equitable access to all the tools needed to prevent infections and save lives.”


> The race to build AI that benefits humanity, with Sam Altman // April 2021, TED
In this new season of The TED Interview, conversations with people who make a case for... optimism. Not some blind, hopeful feeling, but the conviction that somewhere out there are solutions that, given the right attention and resources, can guide us out of the dark place we're in. For the first episode: AI. Will innovation in AI drastically improve our lives, or destroy humanity as we know it? OpenAI CEO Sam Altman makes a case for AI's potential to make the future better for all of us – and explains how his company is leading that charge with an unusual new business model.


> China launches space mining test spacecraft on commercial rideshare mission // 27.04.2021, SpaceNews
China launched a small space mining test spacecraft and eight other commercial satellites into orbit on a Long March 6 rocket late Monday.

(An illustration of the Origin Space NEO-1 space mining test spacecraft in orbit.
Credit: Origin Space)


> Studying the exposome: ‘On the front line for people and the planet’ // 28.04.2021, European Science-Media Hub
Climate and public health cannot be considered separately. The scientific community is increasingly talking about the need to study the so called exposome (the sum of all environmental factors we are exposed to) with the same level of attention with which the human genome has been studied up to now. A new European science network aims to respond to this multidisciplinary challenge.

(© 1STunningART/Adobe stock)


> The Cities issue // May 2021, MIT Technology Review
“Cities bring us together, inspire us, spur our creativity. At their best, they are monuments of human achievement that draw people from far and wide. But for the past year, cities have felt like perhaps the worst place to be. Density has been the enemy. City life as we knew it ended, and felt as if it might never come back. The latest print issue of MIT Technology Review, conceived in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, has come together when the future of cities looks more uncertain than at any other time in recent memory. But the closer we looked, the more we found reason not just to maintain hope but to celebrate all that cities are, and all they could become. Technology is and will be a huge part of that story. [...] But it can be a double-edged sword too”, writes Michael Reilly, executive editor of MIT Technology Review.

> Related article: How Singapore’s solar power push, using floating farms and vertical panels, offers solutions to other cities // 17.04.2021, South China Morning Post
Singapore’s clean-energy campaign could make it a ‘living laboratory’ to provide ideas for other cities around the world.

> Related TED talk: Cities are driving climate change. Here's how they can fix it // 28.04.2021


Platform 1: Quantum Revolution & Advanced AI

Quantum & physics

Goldman Sachs predicts quantum computing 5 years away from use in markets // 29.04.2021, Financial Times

> « La réalisation effective de l’ordinateur quantique laisse entrevoir une révolution de rupture qui touchera tous les domaines industriels » // 21.04.2021, Le Monde
Les capacités de calcul inédites que promet cette technologie encore en développement vont faire surgir des applications nouvelles, note Nozha Boujemaa, qui rappelle que la France dispose de scientifiques de grand talent dans ce domaine.

Air Force research taps quantum computing // 27.04.2021, AXIOS

9 companies leading the quantum technologies race in China // 20.04.2021, The Quantum Daily

University of Sydney’s quantum ethics project awarded $800,000 Department of Foreign Affairs Trade (DFAT) grant // 22.04.2021, The Quantum Daily

These materials could make science fiction a reality // 27.04.2021, The New York Times
Metamaterials, which could improve smartphones and change how we use other technology, allow scientists to control light waves in new ways.

(© James Yang)

Artificial intelligence 

> 15 graphs you need to see to understand AI in 2021 // 15.04.2021, IEEE Spectrum

What separates humans from AI? It’s doubt // 16.04.2021, Financial Times
Computers can drive our cars and beat us at chess. What they lack is our ability to know when we don’t know.

Now for AI’s latest trick: writing computer code // 23.04.2021, WIRED

Advancing AI with a supercomputer: a blueprint for an optoelectronic ‘brain’ // 26.04.2021, Singularity Hub

Cerebras’ new monster AI chip adds 1.4 trillion transistors // 20.04.2021, IEEE Spectrum

(© Cerebras Systems)

Platform 2: Human Augmentation


> The brain ‘rotates’ memories to save them from new sensations // 25.04.2021, WIRED

> How Pixar uses hyper-colors to hack your brain // 29.04.2021, WIRED

China develops self-made brain-computer interface chip, curbing tech 'bottleneck' amid US tension // 27.04.2021, Global Times

Sensory feedback for limb prostheses in amputees // 15.04.2021, Nature Materials

Julie Grollier, la physicienne qui crée des neurones artificiels // 24.04.2021, Le Monde
Cette chercheuse intuitive est une pionnière de l’informatique neuromorphique visant à développer des composants électroniques qui, comme notre cerveau, feraient cohabiter calcul et mémoire.

Awakening “ghosts” in patients with Parkinson's // 28.04.2021, EPFL News
EPFL scientists are developing a completely new “brain stress test” for evaluating the mental status of patients with Parkinson’s disease, the second most prevalent neurodegenerative disease worldwide. It involves awakening the “ghosts” hidden in specific networks of the brain to predict the onset of hallucinations.


> A new CRISPR tool flips genes on and off like a light switch // 27.04.2021, Singularity Hub

The Vertebrate Genomes Project introduces a new era of genome sequencing // 28.04.2021,

> Scientists can now study changes in the DNA of any human tissue // 29.04.2021, Technology Networks

One million coronavirus sequences: popular genome site hits mega milestone // 23.04.2021, Nature
GISAID (Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data)’s impressive effort to understand the spread of COVID-19 has seen scientists upload sequences from most nations on Earth.

Longevity and health

Reinventing the uterus, one organoid at a time // 27.04.2021, The New York Times
Bioengineer Linda Griffith once grew a human ear on the back of a mouse. Now she is reframing endometriosis — a “women’s disease” — as a key to unlocking some of biology’s greatest secrets.

'Smart' immune cells kill tumours and stop them regrowing in mice // 28.04.2021, New Scientist

Advances in space medicine applied to pandemics on Earth // 05.04.2021, Space: Science&Technology

Africa’s researchers must kick-start a vaccines industry // 22.04.2021, Nature

COVID research updates: how to predict a vaccine’s success without a large trial // 27.04.2021, bioRXiv

Exercise pills: should we use drugs that mimic benefits of a workout? // 21.04.2021, New Scientist
Researchers are developing medicines that replicate the health benefits of exercise. In the process, they’re gaining insights into how to treat currently untreatable diseases.

(© Martin Leon Barreto)

Platform 3: Eco-regeneration & Geoengineering


Google backs former DeepMind employee’s ‘solar forecasting’ start-up // 14.04.2021, CNBC

The hidden science making batteries better, cheaper and everywhere // 27.04.2021, Bloomberg

Lithium-ion battery soaks up the sun for recharge // 23.04.2021, Chemical&Engineering News



Fonte des glaciers : une cartographie complète révèle l’accélération // 28.04.2021, CNRS press release

Oil supermajors’ mega-bet on natural gas // 24.04.2021, The Economist

Finer-resolution mapping of global land cover: recent developments, consistency analysis, and prospects // 31.03.2021, Journal of Remote Sensing

Energy for food, livelihoods, and resilience: An integrated development agenda for Africa // 23.04.2021, One Earth

One water: expanding boundaries for a new deal and a safe planet for all (commentary) // 23.04.2021, One Earth


> Residents furious at release of 500 million gene-hacked mosquitoes // 26.04.2021, Futurism
A biotech company is releasing 500 million gene-hacked mosquitoes in Florida — and residents are enraged.


Climate and environment

Climate scientists: concept of net zero is a dangerous trap // 22.04.2021, The Conversation
Related article: Is net zero a dangerous concept? // 30.04.2021, Geneva Solutions

> The climate solution actually adding millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere // 29.04.2021, MIT Technology Review
New research shows that California’s climate policy created up to 39 million carbon credits that aren’t achieving real carbon savings. But companies can buy these forest offsets to justify polluting more anyway.

World economy set to lose up to 18% GDP from climate change if no action taken, reveals Swiss Re Institute's stress-test analysis // 22.04.2021, SwissRe news release

A framework for complex climate change risk assessment // 23.04.2021, One Earth

Equity is more important for the social cost of methane than climate uncertainty // 21.04.2021, Nature
Related article: The future costs of methane emissions // 21.04.2021, Nature

Five companies Bill Gates and other billionaires are backing to save the planet // 22.04.20, Forbes

> Global policy for assisted colonization of species // 30.04.2021, Science


> China launches core module of new space station to orbit // 29.04.2021,
Related article: China is about to start building a space station in orbit // 27.04.2021, New Scientist

> Investors join space race with record funding // 29.04.20121, Financial Times

A make-or-break moment for cleaning up space junk // 27.04.2021, AXIOS

SpaceX wins approval for lower Starlink orbits, overcoming rival objections // 27.04.2021, The Verge

Humans can now 3D print structures on the moon using local lunar materials // 27.04.2021, Autoevolution

Platform 4: Science & Diplomacy

Germany leads pushback against proposal to limit research cooperation with Israel, Switzerland, UK // 28.04.2021, Science|Business

> Biden has elevated the job of science adviser. Is that what science needs? // 29.04.2021, New York Times
Related articles:
Lander fends off controversy, pledges broader access to STEM careers during Senate confirmation hearing // 29.04.2021, STAT+
Biden fills out science team with NOAA, DOE, and diplomacy picks // 23.04.2021, Science

Bringing life insurance into the age of Big Data // 24.04.2021, AXIOS

Sustainable management of natural resources can reduce risk of armed conflict – IUCN report // 28.04.2021, IUCN report

La pollution du ciel étoilé sera discutée à l'ONU cet été // 26.04.2021,

China, Russia resist increased scrutiny of pandemic response // 27.04.2021, POLITICO

> The case for microlateralism // April 2021, Foreign Affairs
With U.S. support, small states can ably lead global efforts.

New wave of appeals for WTO waiver on IP for COVID treatments ahead of TRIPS Council meeting // 27.04.2021, Health Policy Watch

Inequality’s deadly toll // 28.04.2021, Nature
A century of research has demonstrated how poverty and discrimination drive disease. Can COVID push science to finally address the issue?

(© Brian L. Frank for Nature)


> How philosophy is making me a better scientist // 23.04.2021, Nature
Rasha Shraim’s education helped her to think more deeply about ethics, logic and other big questions.

The world the Suez Canal made // 20.04.2021, Eurozine
Global capitalism took a surprise hit when the container ship Ever Given ran aground, bringing mass transportation to a standstill. An environmental protest could not have staged a more spectacular blockade: the incident points to a murky history of worker exploitation, intensified fossil fuel consumption and racist quarantining.

The new age of autarky // 26.04.2021, Foreign Affairs
Why globalization’s biggest winners are now on a mission for self-sufficiency.

The magical realism of Tesla (versus the blunt reality of geopolitics) // 27.04.2021, The Economist

How to build an order: an international agenda for the twenty-first century // April 2021, Foreign Affairs

The UN General Assembly, New York, September 2015  (© Mike Segar/Reuters)


Science diplomacy: a slogan or a concrete asset for society? // 28.04.2021, Geneva Solutions
Is science condemned to stay on the back seat of policy making? Or should it share the driver’s seat with diplomacy to build our future? Daria Robinson, Executive director of GESDA Diplomacy Forum, participated answers. (Photo: Davolo Steiner)

> Nicoletta Dentico: «L’OMS a fait pression sur le gouvernement italien pour influencer le parquet de Bergame» // 27.04.2021, Le Temps
Autrice du livre «Géopolitique de la santé, Covid-19, OMS et le défi pandémique», coprésidente du Geneva Global Health Hub et directrice du Programme de santé globale à la Society for International Development, Nicoletta Dentico jette un regard sévère sur une OMS qu’elle aimerait pourtant forte. (Photo: DR)

> UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa: we can still turn this around // 21.04.2021, New Scientist
It’s a critical time for action on climate change – but the rapid adaptations seen during the covid-19 pandemic offer hope that we can make a breakthrough, says the diplomat in charge of negotiations. (Photo: DR)

La recherche suisse, "otage" des négociations avec l'Union européenne // 28.04.2021, RTS Info
La recherche suisse est une nouvelle fois suspendue aux négociations politiques entre la Suisse et l'Union européenne. L’avis de Michael Hengartner, président du Conseil des Ecoles polytechniques fédérales. (Photo: DR)

Jaan Tallinn on avoiding civilizational pitfalls and surviving the 21st Century // 20.04.2021, Future of Life Institute
The investor, programmer, and co-founder of the Future of Life Institute, joins us to discuss his perspective on AI, synthetic biology, unknown unknows, and what’s needed for mitigating existential risk in the 21st century. (Photo: DR)


> Genève Vision lance son site // 29.04.2021, RTS
Le pôle média de la RTS consacré à la Genève internationale, lancé fin 2019, se décline désormais aussi sur un site Internet. Celui-ci propose des contenus originaux de la RTS et de ses partenaires, dont l’émission « Objectif Monde L’hebdo », la série de podcasts « Inside Geneva », et des articles, analyses et entretiens dont l’originalité est de décrypter l’actualité mondiale depuis Genève et la Suisse.

> A comprehensive guide to Science Communication // April 2021, Hindawi
The power of scientific research lies in its ability to transform people’s lives. Helping colleagues, peers and the wider general public to get a better understanding of your research and the impact that it can have on society, is a win for everyone involved. It’s a win for you – the researcher in the lab achieving a breakthrough. It’s a win for us – the people trying to make sense of how scientific breakthroughs can change our lives for the better. A Comprehensive Guide to Science Communication includes practical tips and examples of how to best convey science in an engaging way, dos and don’ts when communicating research to the general public, insightful interviews with people involved in public engagement and science communication campaigns, and much more.


> Restricted Data: The History of Nuclear Secrecy in the United States // Alex Wellerstein Univ. Chicago Press (2021)
The American atomic bomb was born in secrecy. From the moment scientists first conceived of its possibility to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and beyond, there were efforts to control the spread of nuclear information and the newly discovered scientific facts that made such powerful weapons possible. The totalizing scientific secrecy that the atomic bomb appeared to demand was new, unusual, and very nearly unprecedented. It was foreign to American science and American democracy—and potentially incompatible with both. From the beginning, this secrecy was controversial, and it was always contested. The atomic bomb was not merely the application of science to war, but the result of decades of investment in scientific education, infrastructure, and global collaboration. If secrecy became the norm, how would science survive? Drawing on troves of declassified files, including records released by the government for the first time through the author’s efforts, Restricted Data traces the complex evolution of the US nuclear secrecy regime from the first whisper of the atomic bomb through the mounting tensions of the Cold War and into the early twenty-first century. A compelling history of powerful ideas at war, it tells a story that feels distinctly American: rich, sprawling, and built on the conflict between high-minded idealism and ugly, fearful power.


> Women, peace & security for the digital age // 06.05.2021 at 5pm CET, organized by Foreign Policy
Join Foreign Policy, in partnership with Our Secure Future, as we convene a forward-looking conversation with tech thought leaders about the gendered impacts of the digital revolution on politics, business and society: How can the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) lens be applied to our world’s evolving technology landscape to shape a more just and secure digital future?


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.

Mailing address:
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