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

07-21 May 2021

A GESDA product curated by Olivier Dessibourg


> Half of the world’s emissions cuts will require tech that isn’t commercially available // 18.05.2021, MIT Technology Review
We need to accelerate investments into better batteries, clean hydrogen, biofuels and carbon removal, a new International Energy Agency report finds.

Related article: 

Half of emissions cuts will come from future tech, says John Kerry // 16.05.2021, The Guardian


> Chinese team designs 62-qubit quantum processor with world's largest number of superconducting qubits // 09.05.2021, Global Times China
A Chinese research team, lead by world renowned scientist Jian-Wei Pan (University of Science and Technology of China) has successfully designed a 62-qubit programmable superconducting quantum processor. The computer contains the largest number of superconducting qubits so far in the world, and achieved two-dimensional programmable quantum walks on the system, a major milestone in the field.


> A paralyzed man is challenging Neuralink’s monkey to a match of mind Pong // 14.05.2021, WIRED
Interspecies mind competition is now a possibility thanks to brain-computer interfaces.

Inversely related article:

Can machines control our brains? // 17.05.2021, Quanta Magazine
Advances in brain-computer interface technology are impressive, but we’re not close to anything resembling mind control.

(© MS TECH | Getty, Pixabay)


> The Pentagon inches toward letting AI control weapons // 10.05.2021, WIRED
Drills involving swarms of drones raise questions about whether machines could outperform a human operator in complex scenarios.

(© Getty Images)


> Heavy agenda for looming World Health Assembly as Covid still dominates // 20.05.2021, Geneva Solutions
Conquering the COVID-19 pandemic will inevitably be the main topic for discussion at the impending 74th session of the World Health Assembly, which begins Monday, 24 May. Global health experts weighed in this week at a series of briefings on what to expect at the upcoming event. 

Related COVID19-WHO articles:

> Covid: Serious failures in WHO and global response, report finds // 12.05.2021, BBC
The Covid-19 pandemic was preventable, an independent review panel has said. The WHO should have declared a global emergency earlier than it did, its report said, adding that without urgent change the world was vulnerable to another major disease outbreak. More than 3.3 million people around the world have now died of Covid.

Related report by the Independent Panel for pandemic preparedness and response

Related Comment Report of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response: making COVID-19 the last pandemic // 12.05.2021, The Lancet

Far-reaching proposals for reform on table at World Health Assembly – but will member states heed the call? // 20.05.2021, Health Policy Watch

(© KEYSTONE/Salvatore Di Nolfi)


> Rethinking countries' approach to risk // April 2021, Koi Tu: the Centre for Informed Studies
The new report “Uncertain but inevitable – the expert-policy-political nexus and high-impact risks”, co-authored by Sir Peter Gluckman, Koi Tū’s director and GESDA Diplomacy Moderator, and Dr Anne Bardsley, deputy director, exposes gaps in New Zealand’s risk management ecosystem and argues that countries need to rethink how they prepare for and manage high-impact risks. The report also discusses risk assessment and perception, cognitive bias, and explores issues of accountability. The report was the cover story of the Listener (April 17-23). You can read the story here: Disasters - We're not learning any lessons. In an accompanying op-ed Investment in mitigating risk is always a difficult Government decision, Sir Peter Gluckman writes on the underlying contract between citizens and the State, where the State undertakes to protect them against foreseeable risks.


> Michael I.Jordan: «Il y a un problème de terminologie avec l'intelligence artificielle» // 10.05.2021,
Il est considéré par ses pairs comme l’un des chercheurs les plus influents dans le domaine de l’informatique. Michael I. Jordan, professeur à l’Université de Berkeley, est l’un des pionniers de l’apprentissage machine (machine learning), une branche que l’on assimile souvent à l’intelligence artificielle (IA). A tort, selon le spécialiste. Michael I. Jordan a participé, sur invitation de GESDA, aux Applied Machine Learning Days AMLD2021, cycle de conférences organisé en ligne par l’EPFL.

Read the full reports about the two session organized at the AMLD2021 by GESDA:

Michael I. Jordan (left), with the two other speakers: Jeannette Wing (Columbia University) and
Pushmeet Kohli (Google DeepMind)


> Thriving in an AI world: Unlocking the value of AI across 7 industries // May 2021, KPMG
KPMG released the results of its survey Thriving in an AI World: Unlocking the Value of AI across 7 Industries, which describes how businesses are using AI to solve industry issues: 44% of executives said they believe their industry is moving too fast with AI. 92% of business leaders believe AI would make their organization run more efficiently. The retail industry was top, with 69% of executives saying their AI initiatives are yielding more value.

Related report:

> IBM and Morning Consult released their Global AI Adoption Index 2021 // 15.05.2021, Inside AI
It found that the pandemic accelerated the rollout of AI. Businesses are now planning “significant investments” in AI throughout the coming year, according to the report.


> David Eagleman interview: How our brains could create whole new senses // 12.05.2021, New Scientist
Neuroplasticity, or the brain's ability to remodel itself, enables us to interpret all kinds of sensations. We can use that to create new ways to perceive the world, says neuroscientist David Eagleman.

© Rocio Montoya


> Ignazio Cassis: “Ouvrons la diplomatie à la science et la science à la diplomatie !” // 11.05.2021,
Discours du Conseiller fédéral Ignazio Cassis à l'occasion du 25ème Dies academicus de l'Università della Svizzera italiana de Lugano.



Platform 1: Quantum Revolution & Advanced AI

Quantum & physics 

> Germany to invest €2B in quantum technologies // 11.05.2021, Science|Business

Intel and Qutech researchers make advance toward clearing up critical quantum bottleneck // 13.05.2021, The Quantum Daily

Quantum computing: cold chips can control qubits // 17.05.2021, EPFL news

Clouds of atoms trap light in a way that could store quantum data // 13.05.2021, New Scientist

Future sparkles for diamond-based quantum technology // 17.05.2021,

Artificial intelligence & computing 

> Stop the emerging AI cold war // 11.05.2021, Nature

Teaching AI how to forget at scale // 14.05.2021, Facebook AI blog post

> Supercomputers to reshape tech landscape // 20.05.2021, Financial Times

The disinformation threat from text-generating AI // 19.05.2021, Axios

Google plans to double AI ethics research staff // 11.05.2021, The Wall Street Journal

We need to design distrust into AI systems to make them safer // 13.05.2021, MIT Technology Review

Researchers advance DNA as a storage material // 13.05.2021, National Science Foundation

© Wikimedia Commons

Platform 2: Human Augmentation


> Decades after a tragic failure, gene therapy successfully treats a rare liver disease // 18.05.2021, Science

> How one round of gene therapy fixed 48 kids’ immune systems // 13.05.2021, SingularityHub
Based on this New England Journal of Medicine article.

> At Illumina, the ‘era of the genome’ has arrived. But what role will the company play? // 17.05.2021, STAT

> CRISPR Therapeutics, Nkarta to jointly develop engineered natural killer cells as cancer treatments // 06.05.2021, STAT

> California could become first state to mandate biosecurity screening by mail-order DNA companies // 20.05.2021, STAT

Longevity and health

An old antidepressant helps the immune system fight tumors in mice // 14.05.2021, Science

Bio-inspired scaffolds help promote muscle growth // 17.05.2021, Technology Networks

How healthy is your digital twin? // 14.05.2021, EPFL news

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

New law of physics helps humans and robots grasp the friction of touch // 13.05.2021, National Science Foundation

> UN bodies set up 'One Health' panel to advise on animal disease risks // 20.05.2021, Reuters

Vaccin à ARN messager: la revanche des outsiders // 15.05.2021,
Le développement en dix mois de vaccins efficaces contre le coronavirus a élevé l’ARN messager au rang de quasi sauveur du monde. Mais leur avènement repose sur plus de 30 ans de recherches technologiques elles-mêmes basées sur autant de décennies de découvertes fondamentales. C’est aussi l’histoire de scientifiques considérés comme des outsiders dans la communauté des biologistes moléculaires, l’histoire de carrières brisées, de litiges et d’opportunités manquées par les entreprises pharmaceutiques. Contraints de publier leurs travaux dans des journaux secondaires ou de voir leurs brevets gaspillés à de multiples reprises, ils tiennent aujourd’hui une éclatante revanche. s’est plongé dans l’histoire jamais racontée de la généalogie de cette technologie qui promet désormais une révolution médicale.

Related article: How mRNA became a vaccine game-changer // 13.05.2021, Financial Times
The molecule behind the Pfizer and Moderna jabs has turned the Covid tide. Can it revolutionise medicine?


> Neurotechnologies and future warfare // December 2020, GCSP

New brain implant turns visualized letters into text // 12.05.2021, Scientific American
Related Nature article: High-performance brain-to-text communication via handwriting

Platform 3: Eco-regeneration & Geoengineering


> Is it time for a global plastics treaty? // 16.06.2021, Chemical&Engineering News

The limits of a technological fix // April 2021, Nature Food

The world has missed its target for protecting oceans to save species // 19.05.2021, New Scientist


> Toyota is building a futuristic prototype city powered by hydrogen // 14.05.2021, SingularityHub

‘Holy grail’ battery breakthrough sees scientists solve 40-year problem // 13.05.2021, The Independent


> Biotech lobbies gear up for gene editing regulation battle // 18.05.2021, Science|Business
A new report by Euroseeds, and the European Commission’s overt support, gives more ammunition for advocates of gene editing in crops.

Advancing crop genomics from lab to field // 06.05.2021, Nature Genetics

RNA, good for vaccines, can also be used as a pesticide // 20.05.2021, The Economist

WHO issues new guidance for research on genetically modified mosquitoes to fight malaria and other vector-borne diseases // 19.05.2021, WHO news

Ginkgo Bioworks CEO wants to build the Amazon Web Services of biotech // 11.05.2021, Axios

L’Europe et la Suisse pourraient revenir sur le moratoire OGM // 11.05.2021,


> China has landed a rover on Mars for the first time – here’s what happens next // 17.05.2021, MIT Technology Review
Related article: Chinese space sector continues world-leading post-Covid rebound (report) // 14.05.2021, SpaceWatch.Global

EPFL works to address debris collision risk // 19.05.2021, EPFL news

Bye-bye, Bennu: NASA heads back to earth with asteroid stash in tow // 10.05.2021, The New York Times

Laser communications: Empowering more data than ever before // 12.05.2021,

Europe pushes Moonlight, a lunar satellite constellation // 19.05.2021,

How can space law address artificial intelligence in space? // 11.05.2021, SpaceWatch.Global

Climate and environment

Why do rivers leap from their banks? Scientists strive to predict deadly flooding events // 13.05.2021, Science

Netherlands pledges $2.6 billion subsidy to bury CO₂ under the sea // 12.05.2021, Bloomberg Green

Pumping CO2 deep under the sea could help Korea hit net zero // 10.05.2021, Bloomberg Green

Dynamic global monitoring needed to use restoration of forest cover as a climate solution // 06.05.2021, Nature Climate Change

Satellites are ushering in a new era of environmental accountability // 11.05.2021, Axios

Nature-based solutions can help cool the planet — if we act now // 12.05.2021, Nature

Corals swap in heat-resistant algae to better cope with global warming // 17.05.2021, New Scientist


Platform 4: Science & Diplomacy

The Arctic leaders that sit down to discuss climate must abandon plans for oil drilling // 20.05.2021, The Barents Observer
Related article: What is the Arctic Council and what does it want? // 20.05.2021, Euronews

The world loses under Bill Gates’ vaccine colonialism (op-ed) // 19.05.2021, WIRED
As many countries wait for Covid vaccines, the world needs a patent-free “People's Vaccine”—not more of Gates’ intellectual property stubbornness.

Et si la Suisse créait une task force permanente pour les crises à venir? // 15.05.2021, Watson
En lien: motion du parlementaire vaudois PLR d’Olivier Français

Outer space and international diplomacy // 29.04.2021, American Ambassadors Live

US-China tech war: basic research in AI, semiconductors and biotech gets closer to US$110 billion boost in US // 14.05.2021, South China Morning Post

Will corporate greed prolong the pandemic? (op-ed by Joseph E. Stiglitz, Lori Wallach) // 06.05.2021, Project Syndicate

Biosecurity for humanitarian aid // 07.05.2021, Science

Gouverner Internet depuis Genève, la ville natale de Rousseau // 07.05.2021, Swissinfo

Give research into solar geoengineering a chance // 12.05.2021, Nature
There is no substitute for aggressive cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions. But the risks and benefits of technologies that could mitigate global warming need to be evaluated.


> Henry Kissinger: «Eine Konfrontation mit China würde einen Konflikt ohne Gewinner heraufbeschwören – der wie der Erste Weltkrieg mit der Erschöpfung beider Parteien enden würde» // 20.05.2021, NZZ
Bahnt sich zwischen den USA und China ein kalter Krieg an? Oder ist die Gefahr bei der Entwicklung der künstlichen Intelligenz zu suchen? Der amerikanische Aussenpolitiker und Stratege äussert sich im Interview zur Lage und zur Zukunft der Welt.

En Suède, la tech veut prendre le pouvoir // 17.05.2021, Le Temps
Selon une étude récente, les richesses générées par les nouvelles technologies sont aujourd’hui comparables à celles de toutes les industries traditionnelles combinées du royaume nordique.

Trust in science, social consensus and vaccine confidence // 17.05.2021, Nature Human Behaviour

> Quantifying collective intelligence in human groups // 25.05.2021, PNAS

‘Something went wrong.’ Some astronomers feel left out of European road map // 11.05.2021, Science

A 2008 Astronet road map called for the Extremely Large Telescope. Some astronomers are upset by the group’s latest effort. © ESO


> «Didier Queloz rejoint l’EPFZ pour participer à la création d’un centre de recherche sur l’origine de la vie» // 21.05.2021, Le Temps
Président de l'EPFZ depuis début 2019, Joël Mesot (à droite) annonce le transfert de l'astrophysicien genevois à Zurich. Interview. (© Frank Augstein/AP Photo, Dominic Büttner pour LT)
Article en lien (éditorial): La Suisse romande perd une étoile.

> Niniane Paeffgen: "En tant qu'utilisateur d'applications, nous avons un certain pouvoir" // 17.05.2021, RTS Info
La directrice de la Swiss Digital Initiative, dont l'objectif est "de promouvoir l'éthique numérique par des actions très concrètes", Niniane Paeffgen estime qu'un "mouvement" s'est enclenché parmi les grandes entreprises numériques pour faire davantage attention aux données des utilisateurs. (Photo: RTS)

> Shamika Sirimanne: We need to sustain scientific solidarity on issues beyond Covid-19 // 12.05.2021, Geneva Solutions
While the ongoing Covid-19 crisis has brought together researchers from across the globe to face a common challenge, it has also exposed existing inequalities among nations in their abilities to face the crisis. How does humanity tackle the epidemics that continue to ravage much of the developing world? Will nations pool their resources to produce and distribute – at low or no cost – vaccines that will save millions who die from treatable conditions? (© Keystone)

> Swiss funder draws lots to make grant decisions // 06.05.2021, Nature
Agency, led by Matthias Egger, hopes to eliminate bias when choosing between applications of similar quality. (Photo: DR)


> UNESCO embraces open science to shape society’s future //18.05.2021, Nature
Op-ed by Audrey Azoulay, Director-general of UNESCO. 
Related article: ‘Open science is an accelerator for SDGs’: Ana Persic, UNESCO // 19.05.2021, Geneva Solutions

Diplomacy has changed more than most professions during the pandemic // 01.05.2021, The Economist
Covid-19 has hastened the arrival of hybrid diplomacy, a blend of the physical and digital.

Risk governance and the rise of deepfakes // 12.05.2021, EPFL news

Nouveau Code d’intégrité scientifique // 11.05.2021, Académie Suisse des Sciences 
Les Académies suisses des sciences considèrent qu’il est de leur devoir d’encourager un comportement intègre dans la recherche et l’enseignement et de contribuer à la mise en place de bonnes conditions cadres. En collaboration avec swissuniversities, le Fonds National Suisse et Innosuisse, elles publient un nouveau Code d’intégrité scientifique.


> Daniel Kahneman: 'Clearly AI is going to win. How people are going to adjust is a fascinating problem’ // 16.05.2021, The Guardian
The Nobel-winning psychologist on applying his ideas to organisations, why we’re not equipped to grasp the spread of a virus, and the massive disruption that’s just round the corner. His new book, Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment, written with Olivier Sibony and Cass R. Sunstein, applies to organisations his revolutionary ideas human error and bias and how those traits might be recognised and mitigated.

> Future Exploration 2050 // March 2021, Institute for Future Initiatives, Tokyo
In the 21st century, when science and technology are advancing at an accelerating pace and international society is undergoing turbulent changes, we are becoming increasingly concerned about the future. Looking at the rapid progress of information and communication technologies and biotechnologies, and looking back at the turbulent international society caused by the global outbreak of the new coronavirus that began in 2020, it can be said that it is no longer useful to look at the future in a linear fashion based on past experiences and events. There is an increasing need to think deeply about the complex and multilayered future. The role of knowledge is sure to increase in the future. Modern society is increasingly becoming a knowledge-intensive society where new values are created through knowledge, and in order to see the future society, we need to think about the knowledge that will be produced in the future. This book aims to provide an opportunity to think about the future society in the 21st century, also known as the century of knowledge, by discussing the “future of knowledge”.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part focuses on future studies and introduces studies related to the future. For the second part, the authors interviewed thirty researchers from various fields at the University of Tokyo and asked them to talk about the trajectory of knowledge in their respective disciplines (such as economics, brain science, virology, data engineering, robotics, mathematics, particle physics) and the image of the future drawn from them. The third part concludes with a conversation between Makoto Gonokami, President of the University of Tokyo, and Kiichi Fujiwara, Director of IFI.


> Using space-based tech for eyes on the ground // 26.05.2021, organized by Foreign Policy
Foreign Policy, in partnership with Maxar, will convene a leading-edge conversation to highlight the growing importance of satellite technologies in volatile environments where lack of infrastructure can limit intelligence gathering and situational awareness on the ground. We’ll explore how the ability to have “eyes on the ground” in the form of geospatial images can provide vital, actionable insights to decision makers across the defense, intel and humanitarian sectors. 


Addressing the fundamental digital infrastructure gap in digital health interventions: An issue of health equity // 27.05.2021, organized by The Graduate Institute
Fundamental digital infrastructures, such as electricity, connectivity, and roads, are crucial assets to ensure health access and equity. However, these infrastructures often fall beyond the scope of ministries of health and health donors. When left unaddressed, weak digital infrastructures can leave the most vulnerable disconnected from services that can support their health and well-being, and further health and digital divides. We need new frames to understand the importance of fundamental digital infrastructures for health equity. In this event, the Global Health Centre, the Lancet & Financial Times Commission on Governing health futures 2030, and Digital Square bring together government leaders and community voices to discuss the role of digital infrastructures as digital determinants of health and provide insights on the funding landscape and relevant stakeholders, suggesting a way forward to navigate these gaps through digital health interventions.

> 9, 8, 7... #CountdownAgenda2030 : il faut trouver des solutions en réseau, maintenant // 28.05.2021, organized by SCNat
Le compte à rebours pour atteindre les 17 objectifs de développement durable de l’ONU est en marche : la communauté internationale entend les réaliser d’ici 2030. Elle peut encore accomplir les changements nécessaires si elle s’y engage pleinement et sans tarder. La Stratégie pour le développement durable 2030 de la Confédération montre comment mettre en œuvre ce programme en Suisse. Nous référant aux défis prioritaires esquissés dans le rapport «Priority Themes for Swiss Sustainability Research» récemment publié par les Académies suisses, nous présenterons des exemples de synergies et d’approches prometteuses pour résoudre les conflits d’objectifs entre demande énergétique, conservation de la biodiversité et systèmes alimentaires durables. Dans quelle mesure une recherche innovante peut-elle contribuer à concilier nos modes de vie avec la préservation du lieu de vie des générations présentes et futures ?

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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