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

19 February - 05 March 2021

A GESDA product curated by Olivier Dessibourg


> Was “science” on the ballot? (POLICY FORUM by Stephen Hilgartner, J. Benjamin Hurlbut, and Sheila Jasanoff) // 26.02.2021, Science
“Is it useful to imagine U.S. citizens as divided into pro-science and anti-science camps? Does the label antiscience serve the purposes of deliberative democracy? No. A correct diagnosis is essential to repairing the sorry state of science-society relations in the United States. [...] How then can we build a more progressive politics of science? We must first recognize that trust cannot be produced on demand. It grows slowly out of strong social relationships. History shows that science fares best when it is responsive to skepticism, not insulated from it. Building a less paternalistic, more inclusive dialogue between science and citizens is crucial for informed, democratic governance.”

> Related EDITORIAL: Science's new frontier // 05.03.2021, Science
"If most Americans are not scientifically knowledgeable or engaged, they are less likely to trust scientific evidence and rally together to tackle future pandemics, confront climate change, or adopt new technologies To bridge this disconnect, the Biden administration could launch an “American Science Corps” (ASC) to elevate science as a central part of American culture. [...] Uniting the country around the conviction that science can improve the life of every American would be one of the most important public investments of the century. Without such an effort, vast swaths of Americans may not benefit from, or participate in, “the endless frontier” of scientific progress."

> Related article: Why we must rebuild trust in science (by Sudip Parikh, CEO of the AAAS) // 09.02.2021, Pew Trend Magazine

(© Davide Bonazzi/SalzmanArt)


> When medicine offers no relief, a biohacker begins a radical self-experiment // 01.03.2021, AEON
In 2015, the US scientist, artist and self-described ‘biohacker’ Josiah Zayner undertook a controversial project to help resolve his lifelong gastrointestinal issues. The plan was to replace the vast colonies of microbiota on and inside his body via transplants from a healthy donor – and then document the proceedings. Although an accomplished biologist with a PhD in biophysics and two years as a NASA researcher under his belt, Zayner’s endeavour was frowned upon by much of the scientific community, with critics condemning the project for operating outside the normal boundaries of bioethics. Especially controversial was Zayner’s plan to self-administer a faecal transplant – a risky procedure usually reserved for potentially fatal conditions. In their documentary Gut Hack, the filmmakers Mario Furloni and Kate McLean follow Zayner’s fascinating, radical and not-for-the-squeamish quest for relief. In so doing, they also confront deeper issues of ethics and autonomy at the core of contemporary science.


> How to spend a trillion dollars to fix climate change and end poverty // 24.02.2021, New Scientist
Let’s imagine you have inherited a fortune and want to solve the world’s most pressing problems. Here’s the best way to spend your money to make a difference to climate change, disease and poverty.

(© Andrea Ucini)


> The Human Program: a transatlantic AI agenda for reclaiming our digital future // 2021, Bertelsmann Foundation
Written by elected officials, staffers, and private sector experts on both sides of the Atlantic, The Human Program: A Transatlantic AI Agenda for Reclaiming Our Digital Future is a collection of essays and policy recommendations that emerged from the 2020 edition of our transatlantic exchange program, the Congressional European Parliamentary Initiative (CEPI). From June through November 2020, the Bertelsmann Foundation assembled a group of transatlantic policymakers and private sector experts to assess some of the fundamental questions AI raises. This publication begins with a section on philosophy, followed by sections on society and the economy. It concludes with a section on geopolitics that reaffirms the importance of the transatlantic relationship when it comes to 21st century considerations of democratic values. While different in nature and opinions, these pieces maintain a common thread: Humans have agency over machines. The Human Program urges policymakers, thought-leaders, and fellow citizens to realize that it is we, humans, who occupy driver’s seat. Working together across the Atlantic to craft the next generation of emerging technology policy, we can build a more peaceful and prosperous future for all.


> Science advice for policy is here to stay // 25.02.2021, Science|Business
COVID-19 has brought science to the forefront of policymaking around the world, and science advisers have become minor celebrities. Now, the public demands the experts are consulted, says Canada’s chief science adviser.


> Experts say the ‘new normal’ in 2025 will be far more tech-driven, presenting more big challenges // 18.02.2025, Pew Research Center
A plurality of experts think sweeping societal change will make life worse for most people as greater inequality, rising authoritarianism and rampant misinformation take hold in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. Still, a portion believe life will be better in a ‘tele-everything’ world where workplaces, health care and social activity improve.


> Technology and Innovation Report 2021 // February 2021, by UNCTAD
The Technology and Innovation Report 2021 urges all developing nations to prepare for a period of deep and rapid technological change that will profoundly affect markets and societies. All countries will need to pursue science, technology and innovation policies appropriate to their development stage and economic, social and environmental conditions. This requires strengthening and aligning Science, Technology and Innovation systems and industrial policies, building digital skills among students and the workforce, and closing digital divides. Governments should also enhance social protection and ease workforce transitions to deal with the potential negative consequences of frontier technologies on the job market.

> Related article: Frontier technologies are redefining the world // 03.03.2021, Geneva Solutions
A few developing countries are outperforming in adopting new technologies such as blockchain, robotics, 5G or artificial intelligence (AI). However, most are still trailing behind and risk missing out if they don’t build the required skills, a UN report has warned.


Platform 1: Quantum Revolution & Advanced AI

Quantum and physics 

A curious observer’s guide to quantum mechanics, pt 7: the quantum century // 21.2.2021, Ars Technica 
Manipulating quantum devices has been like getting an intoxicating new superpower for society.

> 'Quantum ethics' series: understanding the issues and expanding the conversation // 22.02.2021, The Quantum Daily

> Photonic chip brings optical quantum computers a step closer // 03.03.2021, Nature

Artificial ‘magnetic texture’ in graphene may add new spin to quantum computers // 02.03.2021, The Quantum Daily

Graphene ‘nano-origami’ could take us past the end of Moore’s Law // 01.03.2021, Singularity Hub

> Armée : l’IA débarque dans le bunker du « Balardgone » à Paris // 04.03.2021, Le Point

Australian startup develops quantum sensors for space applications // 03.03.2021, SpaceNews

Artificial intelligence

> “We’ll never have true AI without first understanding the brain” // 03.03.2021, MIT Technology Review
Neuroscientist and tech entrepreneur Jeff Hawkins claims he’s figured out how intelligence works—and he wants every AI lab in the world to know about it. 

Artificial neural nets finally yield clues to how brains learn // 18.02.2021, QuantaMagazine

> Facebook AI learned object recognition from 1 billion Instagram pics // 04.03.2021, New Scientist
Related article: Seeing like an AI // 04.03.2021, Axios

Adversarial machine learning and its role in fooling AI // 15.02.2021, Liwaiwai

Microsoft CEO harps on data privacy, AI ethics // 23.02.2021, The Hindu

How Congress and the Biden administration could jumpstart smart cities with AI (REPORT) // 01.03.2021, Information Technology & Innovation Foundation
Related opinion: L’intelligence artificielle est devenue indispensable au développement des Smart Cities // 24.02.2021, Maddyness

Platform 2: Human Augmentation


> What’s new in clinical CRISPR? // 28.01.2021, Nature Medicine

> Closing in on a complete human genome // 22.02.2021, Nature
Advances in sequencing technology mean that scientists are on the verge of finally finishing an end-to-end human genome map.

> DNA databases are too white, so genetics doesn’t help everyone. How do we fix that? // 04.03.2021, ScienceNews

> Want to track pandemic variants faster? Fix the bioinformatics bottleneck (COMMENT) // 01.03.2021, Nature
Tools, rules and incentives are buckling under the flood of coronavirus genome sequences — to help control the pandemic, researchers need new approaches.

> CRISPR rivals put patents aside to help in fight against COVID-19 // 03.03.2021, STAT


Neuroprivacy as a basic human right // 25.02.2021, NEO.LIFE
New braintech can capture a vast amount of personal data. It’s time to think about how yours will be protected.

> Brain cell clusters, grown in lab for more than a year, mirror changes in a newborn’s brain // 22.02.2021, Science

If you transplant a human head, does its consciousness follow? // 03.03.2021, WIRED

Longevity and health

> Aging and diet: to choose or not to choose // 26.02.2021, eLife

Patient's own stem cells may repair spinal cord injury // 03.03.2021, Futurity

Scientists discover bioengineered hybrid muscle fiber for regenerative medicine // 01.03.2021, Hindustan Times

The new necessary: how we future-proof for the next pandemic // 26.02.2021, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change

First universal coronavirus vaccine will start human trials this year // 24.02.2021, New Scientist

SARS-CoV-2 viral particles (blue) penetrate a human cell
(New Scientist/National Infection Service/Science Photo Library)

Platform 3: Eco-regeneration & Geoengineering

Climate and environment

The Weekly Planet: why a political philosopher is thinking about carbon removal // 03.03.2021, The Atlantic

Building inclusive cities for a sustainable future // 19.02.2021, OneEarth

The enormous risk of atmospheric hacking // 18.02.2021, The New Yorker

A new global treaty to tackle plastic pollution? // 01.03.2021, Geneva Solutions

Graphene filter makes carbon capture more efficient and cheaper // 03.03.2021, EPFL press release

Self-powered soft robot in the Mariana Trench // 03.03.2021, Nature


> Bloom Biorenewables develops biomass-based plastics // 23.02.2021, EPFL press release
The EPFL start-up is supported by a Bill Gates’ fund.


> There's not 1 sustainable future for a diverse world // 25.02.2021, Futurity

This futuristic lab-grown steak may solve 1 major problem with meat // 04.03.2021, Inverse


> The game has changed: why we need new rules for space exploration // 03.03.2021, Singularity Hub

U.S. to support international effort to set rules of behavior in space // 24.02.2021, SpaceNews

> “Green Space” on Earth – a New Deal // 02.03.2021, SpaceWatch.Global

The US needs to build more space weapons (REPORT) // 27.02.2021, Futurism


Road map to U.S. fusion power plant comes into clearer focus—sort of // 19.02.2021, Science
Based on a Report by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Related articles:
Fuel for world’s largest fusion reactor ITER is set for test run // 22.02.2021, Nature
Fusion startup plans reactor with small but powerful superconducting magnets // 03.03.2021, Science
> Related press release, by EPFL: Heat loss control method in fusion reactors

US military tests satellite for beaming power down to Earth // 24.02.2021, Futurism

Our hills are about to become giant batteries // 04.03.2021, Future Human

Platform 4: Science & Diplomacy

> The case for an international pandemic treaty // 25.02.2021, British Medical Journal

Faut-il bâillonner la task force fédérale Covid-19? // 01.03.2021, 24heures
La mesure proposée par une commission du Conseil national met le feu aux poudres. Des élus lancent un appel pour la liberté de la science et d’expression.

Related articles:
>  Pourquoi Marcel Salathé quitte la task force pour lancer un lobby numérique, CH++ // 21.02.2021,
> La liberté d’expression scientifique en danger en Suisse? // 03.03.2021,

> Le Projet Franxini: pour les bases de solutions effectives // 04.03.2021, Reatch
Pendant la crise du coronavirus, les scientifiques ont été plus écouté·e·s qu'ils·elles ne l'ont été depuis longtemps. Mais en tant que profanes politiques, ils·elles rencontrent souvent des difficultés dans l'arène politique. Le projet Franxini s'engage pour que davantage de chercheur·euse·s appréhendent les subtilités politiques. Pour le projet nouvellement fondé, Reatch peut compter sur le soutien reconnu du monde scientifique et politique.

> Vaccination en Europe: «Union en lambeaux» (EDITORIAL) // 04.03.2021, Le Figaro

COVID-19 vaccine ‘passports’ raise ethics concerns, logistical hurdles // 26.02.2021, The Wall Street Journal

To democratize vaccine access, democratize production // 01.03.2021, Foreign Policy
U.S. and European COVID-19 shots aren’t enough. It is time to tap into Africa, Asia, and Latin America’s enormous production capacity.

To keep nationalism in check, nurture science solidarity // 02.03.2021, Nature

Semiconductors and the U.S.-China innovation race (REPORT) // 16.02.2021, Foreign Policy
> Related article: Geopolitical supremacy will increasingly depend on computer chips // 25.02.2021, Financial Times 

How the WTO changed China: the mixed legacy of economic engagement // March/April issue 2021, Foreign Affairs

Development depends on more than aid // 01.03.2021, Foreign Affairs

> The rules of the tech game are changing: a new phase in the global tech contest is under way // 27.02.2021, The Economist

WWW.TRSC.ORG (website opened on 4 March 2021) // The Transnational Red Sea Center is a scientific research center created in 2019 at the Ecole Polytechnique fédérale in Lausanne (EPFL) with the official support of the Swiss Foreign Ministry. An independent and non-for-profit organization, the Center capitalizes on Switzerland’s neutrality, its longstanding tradition of promoting dialogue and its reputation for scientific excellence in order to bridge science and diplomacy for the future of corals. In the Red Sea and beyond.


> 10 breakthrough technologies 2021 // 24.02.2021, MIT Technology Review

What does progress mean to you? // 24.02.2021, MIT Technology Review
The Review asked activists, entrepreneurs, historians, and economists how they define this deceptively simple term.

L’illusion de l’innovation… et l’illusion de sa critique // 04.03.2021,

How Europe’s €100-billion science fund will shape 7 years of research // 25.02.2021, Nature
As Horizon Europe issues its first call for grants, Nature reviews some big changes — from open science to goal-oriented ‘missions’.

The U.S. needs a federal department of science and technology // 20.02.2021, Scientific American

Plan to create UK version of DARPA lacks detail, say researchers // 26.02.2021, Nature
> Related article in Science: New U.K. funding agency aims to tackle innovative research«On ne peut pas affirmer scientifiquement qu’une catastrophe écologique globale aura lieu» // 26.02.2021, Le Temps

> Eine Form geistiger Rettung // 27.02.2021, NZZamSonntag
Gegen eine dauererregte Öffentlichkeit setzen Wissenschafter wie Christian Drosten auf Tugenden wie Besonnenheit, Präzision, Reflexion, Selbstkritik, begründeten Zweifel.

Affect and emotions as drivers of climate change perception and action: a review // December 2021, Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, by UNIGE psychologists
Affect and emotions are major drivers of climate change perceptions and actions. Positive and negative emotional communications can promote sustainable behavior. Triggering a positive affect feedback loop may induce sustained behavior change. Behavior change interventions need to be theoretically grounded in affective psychology.

Yuval Noah Harari: lessons from a year of Covid // 26.02.2021, Financial Times

In a year of scientific breakthroughs — and political failures — what can we learn for the future?
(© Rafael Heygster/Helena Manhartsberger)


> ETH Zurich: a vision for the future, for 2021-2024 // 03.03.2021, ETHZ
Data and information, health and medicine, materials and manufacturing, and responsibility and sustainability: these are the main priorities set out in ETH Zurich’s Strategy and Development Plan for 2021–2024. Explanations from Joël Mesot, ETHZ President, and GESDA Academic co-chair. (Photo: DR)

> MSF director on climate: 'We are at a crucial moment in the history of mankind' // 26.02.2021, Geneva Solutions
Stephen Cornish, the incoming director of Médecins sans Frontières in Geneva, on the climate crisis, what it means for communities and aid delivery, and what the responsibilities of his own organisation are. (Photo: DR)

> Nach Scheitern der OECD-Kandidatur, Philipp Hildebrand: “Die Schweiz hat enorm an Bedeutung verloren” // 28.01.2021, NZZamSonntag
Philipp Hildebrand erklärt, wieso seine Kandidatur als Generalsekretär der OECD gescheitertist. (Photo: DR)


Science needs a radical overhaul // February 2021, IAI News
The lure of the illusion of discovery, as described by Simine Vazire, professor of psychology at the University of Melbourne: “Scientists have a problem. We are discovery junkies. The addiction metaphor is overused, but, well, I can’t resist. Scientists have a drive to discover the next big thing. This drive can be channeled in positive ways, but can do serious damage to science and to society when it goes unchecked. And what’s worse, the journals we publish our science in are the enablers that pretend they are protecting us.”

> COVID is amplifying the inadequacy of research-evaluation processes // 03.03.2021, Nature

Microsoft envisage des réunions avec les hologrammes de collègues // 03.03.2021, Le Temps

Scientists want virtual meetings to stay after the COVID pandemic // 02.03.2021, Nature
A Nature poll shows that a year of online research conferences has brought big benefits, but blending them with in-person meetings in future will be a challenge.


> Global health diplomacy in the COVID-19 era – can failure usher in a new era of success? // 22.02.2021, Health Policy Watch
More than a year into the world’s largest global health emergency, health diplomats have fought hard to ensure that every country across the globe secures access to lifesaving coronavirus health products, including vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics. That has not happened yet, given that 80% of countries that are now rolling out vaccines are either high-income or upper middle-income countries. A panel of some two dozen leading diplomats and health policy experts from WHO, government, academia and media pondered the current state of affairs, at the Global Health Centre’s (GHC) launch of a new Guide to Global Health Diplomacy, authored by GHC founder Ilona Kickbusch.  


Meet today’s masters of the universe // 01.03.2021, Foreign Policy
The Bronze Age, which midwifed the modern world, relied upon unknown traders in tin, a metal in short supply across Europe and the Middle East. Where it even came from was a mystery. It was a crucial commodity, mixed with copper to make the rudimentary swords and spears that drew the borders of the ancient world. Somebody found a source—in Cornwall, or Devonshire, or Brittany—and somehow delivered it to Egypt or Sumer. We don’t know who they were, what they earned, or what corners they cut. Now we do know—maybe not about them, but about the modern tin traders. There’s not a word about the Bronze Age in The World for Sale, from Javier Blas and Jack Farchy, but there’s a motherlode about the people who literally created the world we live in now by trading the modern equivalents of tin, whether oil, coal, or cobalt. If you have the slightest interest in how the modern world was made, by whom, at what price, and at what profit, this is the book for you.

> Robotics, AI, and Humanity // 2021, by Joachim von Braun, Margaret S. Archer, Gregory M. Reichberg, Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, Springer Nature
This open access book examines recent advances in how artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics have elicited widespread debate over their benefits and drawbacks for humanity. The emergent technologies have for instance implications within medicine and health care, employment, transport, manufacturing, agriculture, and armed conflict. While there has been considerable attention devoted to robotics/AI applications in each of these domains, a fuller picture of their connections and the possible consequences for our shared humanity seems needed. This volume covers multidisciplinary research, examines current research frontiers in AI/robotics and likely impacts on societal well-being, human – robot relationships, as well as the opportunities and risks for sustainable development and peace. The attendant ethical and religious dimensions of these technologies are addressed and implications for regulatory policies on the use and future development of AI/robotics technologies are elaborated.

> Kazuo Ishiguro sees what the future is doing to us // 23.02.2021, The New York Times
With his new novel, "Klara and the Sun", the Nobel Prize-winner reaffirms himself as our most profound observer of human fragility in the technological era.

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.

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