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

21-28 May 2021

A GESDA product curated by Olivier Dessibourg

www.gesda.global

FOCUS 1

> “Science should be at the centre of all policy making” // 22.05.2021, BBC
Scientists have been front and centre in the battle against coronavirus. It's a policy making position they should continue to occupy beyond the pandemic, writes Ruth Morgan, Professor of Crime and Forensic Science and Vice Dean (Interdisciplinarity Entrepreneurship) at University College London's Faculty of Engineering Sciences. But how?

(© Reuters)

FOCUS 2

> Quantum internet: The race is on to build an unhackable online world // 26.05.2021, New Scientist
Great leaps are already being made in creating a super secure quantum internet. It could overturn the role of information in our lives and give us a globe-spanning quantum supercomputer.

(© Ollie Hirst)

FOCUS 3

> The race to understand the exhilarating, dangerous world of language AI // 20.05.2021, MIT Technology Review
Hundreds of scientists around the world are working together to understand one of the most powerful emerging technologies before it’s too late.

(© Ariel Davis)

FOCUS 4

> AI can unlock $1tn a year in value for banks, McKinsey says // 24.04.2021, The National
AI technologies can help boost revenues for banks through increased personalisation of services to customers and lower costs through efficiencies gained by higher automation, reduced error rates and better resource utilisation. Lenders could also uncover new opportunities based on an improved ability to generate insights from vast troves of data.

Based on the McKinsey report “Building the AI bank of the future

FOCUS 5

> Recommendations for responsible development and application of neurotechnologies // 29.04.2021, Neuroethics
Advancements in novel neurotechnologies, such as brain computer interfaces (BCI) and neuromodulatory devices such as deep brain stimulators (DBS), will have profound implications for society and human rights. While these technologies are improving the diagnosis and treatment of mental and neurological diseases, they can also alter individual agency and estrange those using neurotechnologies from their sense of self, challenging basic notions of what it means to be human. As an international coalition of interdisciplinary scholars and practitioners, we examine these challenges and make recommendations to mitigate negative consequences that could arise from the unregulated development or application of novel neurotechnologies. We explore potential ethical challenges in four key areas: identity and agency, privacy, bias, and enhancement. To address them, we propose (1) democratic and inclusive summits to establish globally-coordinated ethical and societal guidelines for neurotechnology development and application, (2) new measures, including "Neurorights," for data privacy, security, and consent to empower neurotechnology users' control over their data, (3) new methods of identifying and preventing bias, and (4) the adoption of public guidelines for safe and equitable distribution of neurotechnological devices.

(© Lazaro Gamio/Axios)

FOCUS 6

> Investment in Robotics Research – Global Report 2021 // 27.05.2021, International Federation of Robotics
As the economies reopen from the pandemic, Asia, Europe and America adjust their robotics research funding programs (R&D). What are the targets of the officially driven government programs today? This has been researched by the IFR and published in the 2021 update paper of “World Robotics R&D Programs”.

This self-portrait of NASA Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at a drilled sample site called Okoruso, on the Naukluft Plateau of lower Mount Sharp. © NASA

FOCUS 7

The COVID-19 Basic Science Prequels // 21, 05.2021, The Kavli Foundation
Decades before COVID-19 gripped the world, basic science researchers were laying the groundwork for lifesaving medical and technological breakthroughs now central to the world’s pandemic response. With support from the Kavli Foundation and the Simons Foundation, the Science Philanthropy Alliance has enlisted a team of science writers to explore these science origin stories. Each month, the COVID-19 Basic Science Prequels will unpack the people, history, and serendipitous discovery behind topics that now dominate our daily lives.

© Bryce Gladfelter

FOCUS 8

> High-level security lab in Switzerland steps up global fight against Covid and other dangerous pathogens // 27.05.2021, Geneva Solutions
The Swiss government and the World Health Organization on Monday announced the launch of a BioHub facility for the sharing of data on viruses and other emerging pathogens that could lead to future outbreaks.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, left, Director General of the WHO poses with Federal Councilor Alain Berset, after signing MoU for BioHub. (KEYSTONE/Martial Trezzini)

FOCUS 9

> Independent oversight committee: WHO needs stronger base of finance and authority for more robust pandemic response // 25.05.2021, Health Policy Watch
Bold decisions are required to strengthen the World Health Organization and equip it with authority and resources it needs to address glaring shortcomings in pandemic preparedness and response, the 74th World Health Assembly was told on Tuesday. Recommendations emerging out of a report by the Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee (IOAC) for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme were presented to the Assembly on Tuesday.  While the committee was supposed to focus on the WHO Emergencies response, as such, its criticisms of failings were more focused upon the insufficient lack of global political will to fight the pandemic, a lack of global solidarity and planning.

Related articles: 

> United States holds back on bold move toward pandemic treaty // 21.05.2021, Health Policy Watch

> Alain Berset: «La santé et l’OMS ont été complètement sous-estimées» // 24.05.2021, Le Temps

Related editorial: Santé globale: la complaisance, une menace pire que le virus // 24.05.2021, Le Temps

Platform 1: Quantum Revolution & Advanced AI

Artificial intelligence

> AI is learning how to create itself // 27.05.2021, MIT Technology Review

> Microsoft president: Orwell's '1984' may 'come to pass in 2024' without AI protections // 27.05.2021, The Hill

European AI needs strategic leadership, not overregulation // 15.05.2021, TechCrunch

Google unit DeepMind tried  – and failed – to win AI autonomy from parent // 21.05.2021, The Wall Street Journal

Auch für Google ist der Weg zum Supercomputer noch lang (Kommentar) // 19.05.2021, NZZ

> OpenAI’s $100M startup fund will make ‘big early bets’ with Microsoft as partner // 26.05.2021, TechCrunch

AI could soon write code based on ordinary language // 26.05.2021, WIRED

> More than half of Europeans want to replace lawmakers with AI, study says // 27.05.2021, CNBC


Quantum and physics 

> Stop obsessing about qubits. Their number alone doesn’t matter // 06.05.2021, Inside IBM

Google plans to build a commercial quantum computer by 2029 // 18.05.2021, Engadget

Quantum communication in space moves ahead // 27.05.2021, ESA

> Can a materialist consciousness theory survive quantum mechanics // 23.05.2021, Mind Matters News

Rules of attraction: Strange chemical bonds that defy the textbooks // 19.05.2021, New Scientist
Our most fundamental ideas about how atoms and molecules stick together are changing. That is great news for creating new materials, but brings fresh challenges to understanding the world around us.

© Jon Slade

Platform 2: Human Augmentation

Genomics

> With engineered proteins, scientists use optogenetics for the first time to help a blind patient see again // 24.05.2021, STAT

One CRISPR treatment lowered cholesterol in monkeys by 60 percent // 26.05.2021, Singularity Hub

Injection of light-sensitive proteins restores blind man’s vision // 24.05.2021, Nature
Based on this article in Nature Medicine: Partial recovery of visual function in a blind patient after optogenetic therapy

‘It’s not a cure’: A gene therapy is opening a new chapter for children, but challenges endure // 25.05.2021, STAT


Longevity and health

> Is the process of ageing inevitable? // 30.05.2021, ABC

> Voici l'âge maximal qu'un humain peut atteindre // 27.05.2021, Futura Santé

The long, strange Llfe of the world’s oldest naked mole rat // 24.05.2021, WIRED
These death-defying rodents do not age normally. Will their weird biology help extend human life spans, or are those ambitions a dead end?

Limit on lab-grown human embryos dropped by stem-cell body // 26.05.2021, Nature
Related article: ISSCR Guidelines for Stem Cell Research and Clinical Translation: The 2021 update // 27.05.2021, Stem Cell Reports

Lab-grown minihearts beat like the real thing // 20.05.2021, Science

> The mini lungs and other organoids helping to beat COVID // 26.05.2021, Nature

Deadly fungi are the newest emerging microbe threat all over the world // June 2021, Scientific American

This brain-controlled robotic arm can twist, grasp – and feel // 20.05.2021, WIRED


Neurosciences 

> Scientists discover brain cells that compete to sustain or suppress traumatic memories // 26.05.2021, NIH news release

Scientists drove mice to bond by zapping their brains with light // 25.05.2021, The New York Times

Mice with tiny devices implanted in their brains showed a great affinity to one another in an experiment when the signals were synchronized. (© Northwestern University)

Platform 3: Eco-regeneration & Geoengineering


Resources

> Underwater farms vs. climate change // June 2019, TED
Farmed seafood is one of the fastest-growing food industries, but the farming methods echo the problems we've seen in industrial agriculture. Is there a way to sustainably farm the ocean? 

Indoor vertical farming grows up // 27.05.2021, Axios

A bad day for Big Oil // 27.05.2021, The Washington Post
ExxonMobil, Chevron lose key shareholder votes and Dutch court orders Shell to cut emissions faster.

> Global Fishing Watch launches new technology to enhance ocean management // 27.05.2021, Global Fishing Watch


Energy

> Bitcoin’s growing energy problem: ‘It’s a dirty currency’ // 20.05.2021, Financial Times

Y aura-t-il assez de métaux pour la transition énergétique? // 25.05.2021, Heidi.news

Betting big on the smallest molecule // 23.05.2021, Chemical&Engineering News


Biotechnologies

Why the synthetic cell needs democratic governance // June 2021, Trends in Biotechnology

U.K. set to loosen rules for gene-edited crops and animals // 26.05.2021, Science

> A global metagenomic map of urban microbiomes and antimicrobial resistance // 26.05.2021, Cell
 

Climate and environment

> Protected Planet Report 2020 // May 2021, Protected Planet
Tracking progress towards global targets for protected and conserved areas. Protected Planet Reports are biennial landmark publications that assess the state of protected and conserved areas around the world. The 2020 edition provides the final report on the status of Aichi Biodiversity Target 11, and looks to the future as the world prepares to adopt a new post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

Are plans for a carbon-negative power plant too costly to be worth it? // 25.05.2021, New Scientist

Champagne' technology to capture carbon dioxide via the oceans // 24.05.2021, University of Exeter

A startup using minerals to draw down CO2 has scored funding—and its first buyer // 26.05.2021, MIT Technology Review

How can the world get to net zero emissions by 2050? // 21.05.2021, Financial Times

How much is a tree worth? Investors seek to build a market for nature // 19.05.2021, Financial Times

“The change in forests' carbon role is a threat to the climate” // 21.05.2021, EPFL News
 

Space

SpaceX founder Elon Musk says 'We should act now' to become multiplanetary // 23.05.2021, Tesmanian

China establishes company to build satellite broadband megaconstellation // 26.05.2021, Space News

Report finds 10,000 space companies worth $4 trillion // 26.05.2021, SpaceWatch.Global
Based on a SpaceTech Analytics report. 

Swarms of robots could dig underground cities on Mars // 21.05.2021, Phys.org

Concept of a underground habitat and the robots and energy sources that will build and power it.
Credit: Bier et al.

Platform 4: Science & Diplomacy

> Biden calls for intelligence report on origins of Covid-19 // 27.05.2021, The Wall Street Journal
Based on this Statement by the Whitehouse.

China’s agenda for May: Less on Myanmar, more on tech, peace and security // 05.05.2021, PassBlue

Protect precious scientific collaboration from geopolitics // 26.05.2021, Nature

> La Suisse et la Thaïlande signent une déclaration d’intention pour des projets de protection du climat // 28.05.2021, Admin.ch/DETEC

> Call for G7 Cornwall summit to forge global plastic pollution treaty // 27.05.2021, The Guardian

> La task force scientifique tire sa révérence tout en restant mobilisable // 27.05.2021, Heidi.news

How can the WTO and its Ministerial Conference in 2021 be used to support climate action? // 21.05.2021, One Earth

Making sense of firms for ocean governance // 21.05.2021, One Earth

Projets de recherche du Cyber-Defence Campus du DDPS dans le cadre de la conférence Cyber Conflict de l’OTAN // 25.05.2021, Admin.ch/Armasuisse

OF INTEREST

> He’s a Stanford professor and a Nobel laureate. Critics say he was dangerously misleading on Covid // 24.05.2021, STAT

Alain Berset estime ne pas avoir assez remis la science en question // 21.05.2021, Heidi.news
Related article: Colère chez des scientifiques suisses après les propos d'Alain Berset // 21.05.2021, Heidi.news

Mike S. Schäfer: “Science is a matter of facts, not opinions” // 26.05.2021, European Science-Media Hub

> Switzerland ditches EU treaty talks, leaving question mark over research ties // 27.05.2021, Science|Business

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

AI4Good – Building a nexus between research, innovation and society // 26.05.2021, CLAIRE
Ricardo Chavarriaga, from the Centre for Artificial Intelligence at the ZHAW School of Engineering, managed the Swiss official launch of the the initiative CLAIRE, the Confederation of Laboratories for Artificial Intelligence Research in Europe. (Photo: DR)

Un Suisse entre dans le Larousse, sans le savoir // 06.05.2021, Le Matin
La nouvelle édition du dictionnaire n’ajoute dans ses pages qu’un mot et une seule personnalité issus de notre pays. Et ce Genevois, Nicolas Gisin, professeur émérite à l’Université de Genève, n’était pas au courant de cet honneur. (Photo: DR)

TOOLS, RESOURCES AND PARTNERS

> A strategy to improve expert technology forecasts // 25.05.2021, PNAS

CRISPR/Cas for genome editing – today and tomorrow // May 2021, Swiss Academies of Sciences
The CRISPR/Cas technology has revolutionized the field of genome editing. The technology has been widely adopted in research and is leading to the development of a wide range of applications. But how do we deal with new technologies like CRISPR as a society? Is CRISPR the new golden standard in somatic gene therapy? How can CRISPR contribute to agriculture and food production? And who will have the right to use the technology in the future? Come and join the conversation with scientists in the field in our webinars on "CRISPR/Cas for genome editing – today and tomorrow".

The webinar series is organized by the Forum for Genetic Research with the support of the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN). They are now online for a limited period of time.

Webinar #1: CRISPR as a revolutionary technology

Webinar #2: CRISPR and food production

Webinar #3: CRISPR and somatic gene therapy

Webinar #4: CRISPR and society

BOOKS

> Data collection and analysis earn top spots among factors that have drastically increased life expectancy // 17.05.2021, Science
The average person in the longest-living populations has gained an extra 50 years of life in just a handful of generations. Such an extraordinary achievement should be headline news. Instead, our preference for attending to acute, dramatic events leaves little space for the acknowledgment of this remarkable, incremental accomplishment. In Extra Life, science writer Steven Johnson sets out to remedy this.

> Brain development could hold lessons for building better artificial neural networks // 18.05.2021, Science
Despite their overlapping interests, it is rare for developmental neuro­biologists to consult artificial intelligence (AI) experts in the course of their research and vice versa. But in his new book, The Self-Assembling Brain, neurobiologist Peter Robin Hiesinger argues that doing so would likely be of great benefit to both parties. In 10 chapters, he describes a series of imagined conversations between four hypothetical individuals—a developmental geneticist, a neuroscientist, a robotics engineer, and an AI researcher—that offer readers insight into the information that is needed both to understand the workings of the brain and to create an artificial system that mimics the brain. These fictional conversations are followed by “seminars” in which the author discusses specific topics in greater detail.

AI — the people and places that make, use and manage it // 26.05.2021, Nature
Artificial intelligence (AI) permeates our lives. It determines what we read and buy, whether we get a job, loan, mortgage, subsidies or parole. It diagnoses diseases and underlies — and undermines — democratic processes. Two new books offer complementary visions of how society is being reshaped by those who build, use and manage AI.

> The Alignment Problem: Machine Learning and Human Values, Brian Christian, W. W. Norton (2020)

> Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence, Kate Crawford, Yale Univ. Press (2021)

EVENTS

> Émission sur les Objectifs de développement durable au Palais des Nations // 02.06.2021, organized by Léman Bleu and Fondation pour Genève
Pour ce huitième numéro de l'émission Go solutions durables, en partenariat avec la Fondation pour Genève, le Palais des Nations ouvre ses portes aux téléspectateurs pour leur faire découvrir comment Genève s'engage pour les Objectifs de développement durable. Quatre grands débats autour de l'Agenda 2030 réuniront une vingtaine de personnalités, dont Simonetta Sommaruga, Antonio Hodgers, Sami Kanaan, Tatiana Valovaya, Marc Pictet et Bertrand Piccard.

WHAT IS GESDA?

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! :-)
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Selection of an article in this press review doesn't mean endorsement by GESDA.

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