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

12-19 March 2021

A GESDA product curated by Olivier Dessibourg


> An autonomous debating system // 17.03.2021, Nature
Artificial intelligence (AI) is defined as the ability of machines to perform tasks that are usually associated with intelligent beings. Argument and debate are fundamental capabilities of human intelligence, essential for a wide range of human activities, and common to all human societies. The development of computational argumentation technologies is therefore an important emerging discipline in AI research.

Related news articles:
> Argument technology for debating with humans // 17.03.2021, Nature
A fully autonomous computer system has been developed that can take part in live debates with people. The findings hint at a future in which artificial intelligence can help humans to formulate and make sense of complex arguments.

> An IBM AI debates humans—but it’s not yet the deep blue of oratory // 17.03.2021, Scientific American

 Project Debater takes on a human opponent. Slonim et al. have developed Project Debater, an AI system that can take part in debating competitions with humans.
(© Jason Henry/NYT/Redux/eyevine)


> A mouse embryo has been grown in an artificial womb – humans could be next // 17.03.2021, MIT Technology Review
The photographs alone tell a fantastic story – a mouse embryo, complete with beating heart cells, a head, and the beginning of limbs, alive and growing in a glass jar. According to a scientific group in Israel, which took the picture, the researchers have grown mice in an artificial womb for as long as 11 or 12 days, about half the animal’s natural gestation period. It’s record for development of a mammal outside the womb, and according to the research team, human embryos could be next – raising huge new ethical questions.

Related article:
Scientists plan to drop the 14-day embryo rule, a key limit on stem cell research // 16.03.2021, MIT Technology Review

(©MIT Technology Review)


> With this CAD for genomes, you can design new organisms // 11.03.2021, IEEE Spectrum
Imagine being able to design a new organism as easily as you can design a new integrated circuit. That’s the ultimate vision behind the computer-aided design (CAD) program being developed by the GP-write consortium. “We’re taking the same things we’d do for design automation in electronics, and applying them to biology,” says Doug Densmore, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Boston University. One of Densmore’s startups, Lattice Automation, is leading the effort to develop the CAD. He says the first version will be available by the end of the year.

(© iStockphoto/IEEE Spectrum)


> Ocean protection needs a spirit of compromise (EDITORIAL) // 17.03.2021, Nature
After a year of pandemic-induced delays, 2021 is set to be a big year for biodiversity, climate and the ocean. Later this year, world leaders are expected to gather for meetings of the United Nations conventions on biological diversity and climate to set future agendas. Ocean policies will be a priority for both.

Related articles:
> Protecting the global ocean for biodiversity, food and climate // 17.03.2021, Nature
> Enabling conditions for an equitable and sustainable blue economy // 17.03.2021, Nature

Coral reef shoals in the south Pacific, part of which is a marine protected area.
(©Pete Niesen/Alam)


> Automation technologies and the future of work: policies for inclusive growth // 16.03.2021, Enterprise for Society (E4S)
“There is a growing concern in public discussions that automation could soon make human labor obsolete, depriving workers from their livelihood and sense of belonging while enriching capital owners and powerful tech companies. Building on recent advances in the economics literature, this report aims to delineate the state of knowledge on the impact of machines on the future of work and to offer guidance on how to prepare societies for the arrival of intelligent machines.”

(© Wikimedia)


> Everyone was wrong on the pandemic's societal impact // 18.03.2021, Foreign Policy
In March 2020, a study asked experts and laypeople for their predictions. Neither group came close to being right.

Related articles:
14 lessons for the next pandemic // 15.03.2021, The New York Times
The pandemic and the limits of science // 16.03.2021, The New York Times
> Researchers race to develop antiviral weapons to fight the pandemic coronavirus // 11.03.2021, Science

(© Adria Fruitos, for FP)


> Why Europe’s digital decade matters (Op-Ed by Margrethe Vestager, Josep Borrell) // 10.03.2021, Project Syndicate
Now that digitalization has become the driving force of the modern economy and even a critical factor in today's geopolitics, there is an urgent need for more democratic governance over technology. With its vision of a "digital decade," Europe intends to lead the way, in close partnership with its allies.

Related press release: 
> Europe's digital decade: Commission sets the course towards a digitally empowered Europe by 2030 // 09.03.2021, European Commission


Platform 1: Quantum Revolution & Advanced AI

Quantum and physics

Switzerland pencilled back into quantum plans, but no access for UK, Israel // 18.03.2021, Science|Business

> Three-node quantum network makes its debut // 17.03.2021, PhysicsWorld

Researchers publish novel method of controlling single photons, breakthrough for large-scale quantum photonics applications // 10.03.2021, The Quantum Daily

Nanophotonics could be the ‘dark horse’ of the quantum computing race, new paper says // 15.03.2021, SingularityHub

PsiQuantum expects commercial quantum computer by 2025 // 13.03.2021, Financial Times

Scientists synthesize new high-temperature superconductor // 12.03.2021, Interesting Engineering

> Quantum computing and reinforcement learning are joining forces to make faster AI // 16.03.2021, SingularityHub

Artificial intelligence

> AI teaches itself diplomacy // 26.02.2021, IEEE Spectrum
Another classic game deepens a skillset with broad applications—diplomatic savvy often needed in a pinch, crunch, or imbroglio.

The secret auction that set off the race for AI supremacy // 16.03.2021, WIRED

Who is making sure the A.I. machines aren’t racist? // 15.03.2021, The New York Times

OpenAI’s Sam Altman: Artificial Intelligence will generate enough wealth to pay each adult $13,500 a year // 17.03.2021, CNBC

New approach found for energy-efficient AI applications // 11.03.2021, TU Graz press release

How to set up an AI Centre of Excellence (VIDEO) // 04.03.2021, SwissCognitive

Platform 2: Human Augmentation


> Can restarting aging stem cells fight memory decline? // 11.03.2021, University of Zurich

Artificial intelligence that more closely mimics the mind // 12.03.2021, MIT News

> Retinal implants can give artificial vision to the blind // 15.03.2021, EPFL news

Longevity and health

NIH leaders on the future of precision medicine, healthcare transformation // 18.03.2021, NIH

Think yourself younger: psychological tricks that can help slow ageing // 17.03.2021, NewScientist

First lab-grown mini-thyroids use patients' own tissue // 11.03.2021, MedicalXpress

Hibernating marmots don’t seem to age - could humans do the same? // 16.03.2021, NewScientist


COVID-19 brings a new dawn for messenger RNA vaccines // 11.03.2021, Axios

> Biologists revel in pinpointing active genes in tissue samples // 19.03.2021, Science

Platform 3: Eco-regeneration & Geoengineering


What countries will fight over when green energy dominates // 16.03.2021, Bloomberg Green

Russia’s getting left behind in global dash for clean energy // 15.03.2021, Bloomberg

Hydrogen-powered planes: pie in the sky? // 15.03.2021, Financial Times

Prospective contributions of biomass pyrolysis to China’s 2050 carbon reduction and renewable energy goals // 16.03.2021, Nature Communications


> Maps to improve forest biomass estimates // 17.03.2021, ESA

56,000 Greenlanders could shape the future of rare earths // 10.03.2021, Foreign Policy
Washington and Beijing are watching a snap election on the huge island closely.

Launch of the safe seaweed coalition // 16.03.2021, LR Foundation/CNRS
Lloyd’s Register Foundation and The United Nations Global Compact, in partnership with the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CRNS), launched a global coalition to support a safe, sustainable and scalable seaweed industry to address some of the world’s most pressing global challenges by unlocking the full potential of seaweed to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs.

Climate and environment

Scientists are building a digital twin of the Earth to fight climate change // 09.03.2021, WEF/ETH Zurich
The European Union has launched two programmes to become climate neutral by 2050: 'Green Deal' and 'Digital Strategy'. Alongside this, their 10-year 'Destination Earth' initiative will involve creating a digital 'twin' of the Earth to map climate development. This digital model will also be used to predict how certain scenarios would affect Earth and create effective solutions against climate change.

Related article:
A digital twin of Earth for the green transition // 01.03.2021, Nature Climate Change

Using satellite imagery to understand and promote sustainable development // 19.03.2021, Science

Unifying chemical and biological perspectives of carbon accumulation in the environment // 16.03.2021, PNAS


Building a lunar ark for the human race // 13.03.2021, Axios

Satellite operators want a seat at the table in space security discussions // 16.03.2021, SpaceNews
Related press release: NASA, SpaceX sign joint spaceflight safety agreement // 18.03.2021, NASA

U.S. Space Force would support commercial services to remove orbital debris // 16.03.2021, SpaceNews

The quest to find answers to space's junk problem // 17.03.2021, Geneva Solutions
Related infographic: The history of space debris creation // ESA



Three bacterial strains discovered on space station may help grow plants on Mars // 15.03.2021, Frontiers in Microbiology

Next-generation crop engineering // 17.03.2021, Nature Plants

Cleaning pollution the synthetic biology way // 17.03.2021, Axios

How synthetic biology can improve our health, food and materials // 16.03.2021, TED
What if we could use biology to restore our balance with nature without giving up modern creature comforts? Advocating for a new kind of environmentalism, scientist and entrepreneur Emily Leproust rethinks modern sustainability at the molecular level, using synthetic biology to create green alternatives. From lab-developed insulin and disease-resistant bananas to airplanes made of super-strong spider silk, she explains how reading and writing DNA can lead to groundbreaking innovations in health, food and materials.

Platform 4: Science & Diplomacy

> Comment réconcilier science et politique // 18.03.2021, Le Temps
La pandémie place les relations entre science et politique sous pression. Le projet Franxini veut rapprocher les experts du pouvoir.

> Funding for science diplomacy network // 15.03.2021, University of Bergen
The Research Council of Norway is supporting the establishment of the Norway-EU Science Diplomacy Network with NOK 1 million. This is the first time SDG Bergen is partner in a research grant.

> UN closer to recognising the right to a healthy environment // 19.03.2021, Geneva Solutions

> Africa’s natural disaster & climate funds have been diverted to address COVID-19 pandemic – IFRC World Disaster Report // 18.03.2021, Health Policy Watch

Brazil needs vaccines. China is benefiting // 13.03.2021, The New York Times
Related article: Vaccine diplomacy is paying off for China // 11.03.2021, Foreign Affairs

Opening up the order: a more inclusive international system // March/April 2021, Foreign Affairs

Development depends on more than aid: a new U.S. agency promises to harness the power of private investment // March/April 2021, Foreign Affairs

--- SPECIAL SECTION: USA, China: a fight for leadership in sci&tech ---

The innovation wars: America’s eroding technological advantage // March/April 2021, Foreign Affairs

The US is building walls around science, and we’re all poorer for it // 12.03.2021, Vice

Xi’s gambit: China plans for a world without American technology // 10.03.2021, The New York Times
Beijing’s leaders plot a path to go it alone, vowing to spend big to fill gaps in innovation and avoid dependence on the United States and others.

China’s five-year plan focuses on scientific self-reliance // 11.03.2021, Nature
Global tensions, limits on international collaboration and an emphasis on real-world applications drive the nation’s vision for research.

The U.S.-Russia collaboration in space is fraying // 16.03.2021, Axios

There’s not much for the United States up in space // 12.03.2021, Foreign Policy

The U.S. flag was planted on the surface of the moon in 1969. NASA/Getty Images


> Tim Berners-Lee: ‘We need social networks where bad things happen less’ // 15.03.2021, The Guardian

As digital currency’s popularity rises, so do privacy fears // 16.03.2021, WIRED

> Un an après, le bilan en demi-teinte de SwissCovid // 13.03.2021,

How much of your stuff belongs to Big Tech? // 08.03.2021, The New Yorker
In the digital era, the old rule book on ownership doesn’t work anymore. But beware of what’s replacing it.

The big tech firms are wizards when it comes to the engineering of ownership.
Illustration: Alexander Glandien


A sustainable post-COVID future // 15.03.2021, Nature Sustainability
Experts around the world have been informing governments’ plans for a post-pandemic recovery. Leena Srivastava (right), Deputy Director General for Science at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), and Heide Hackmann (left), Chief Executive officer at the International Science Council (ISC), talk about the recent joint effort ‘Bouncing forward sustainably. Pathways to a post-COVID world’. 
(Photo: DR)

SDGs: a global plan for investment in a post-Covid world // 15.03.2021, Geneva Solutions
Steve Rocco is managing director of The Ground_Up Project, a Geneva-based advisory company that partners with local and international business networks and other international organisations to source investments that contribute to national SDG roadmaps worldwide. (Photo: DR)

L’ancien premier ministre Enrico Letta de retour à Rome // 12.03.2021, Le Monde
L’ancien président du conseil italien Enrico Letta, également GESDA Diplomacy Moderator occupait les fonctions de doyen de l’Ecole d’affaires internationales de Sciences Po, à Paris. (Photo : Eric Piermont/AFP)


> XPrize awards $6 million to Covid-19 rapid test developers // 17.03.2021, Los Angeles Business Journal

> Bien traiter la science en temps de Covid-19: la quadrature du cercle? // 17.03.2021,

“Education can help against conspiracy theories” // 17.03.2021, European Science-Media Hub
Michael Butter is Professor of American Studies at the University of Tübingen. He is the author of The Nature of Conspiracy Theories (Polity, 2020) and Principal Investigator of the ERC-funded project Populism and Conspiracy Theory.

> New podcast from EPFL's College of Humanities asks: are you sure? // 16.03.2021, EPFL news
A newly launched podcast “Are You Sure?” features interviews, in English and in French, with EPFL researchers from different domains as they wrestle with the important question of what it means to be uncertain in science, as well as in their own lives and careers.


> Two new books investigate why it’s so hard to define life // 17.03.2021, ScienceNews
What Is Life? and Life’s Edge explore what it means to be alive.

Walter Isaacson says new discoveries will come from people who appreciate 'microchips and molecules' // 12.03.2021, Washington Post
Walter Isaacson built a career on chronicling innovation through generations. In his newest book “The Code Breaker”, Isaacson tackles the ethically complex field of gene editing through the story of Jennifer Doudna, the winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in chemistry. The timely book details the development of CRISPR, a tool that can edit DNA, which is playing a key role in the efforts to develop coronavirus vaccines, tests and treatments.  Isaacson believes the CRISPR discovery will kick-start the next great innovation revolution. But Isaacson — well known for chronicling tech inventors ranging from Ada Lovelace to Steve Jobs — doesn’t think gene editing will supersede the age of the microchip and computers.  “The next great wave of discoveries will come from the connection of the digital revolution with the life sciences revolution,” Isaacson said in an interview. “It will come from using artificial intelligence and data analytics on things like cancer and coronavirus. The future will belong to those who can appreciate both microchips and molecules, and connect that to the humanities.”


> African indigenous values guiding allocation of COVID-19 vaccines in Africa and beyond // 19.03.2021, 4:30pm, organized by the Graduate Institute
In countries around the globe, a central challenge to access of Covid-19 vaccines remains the ethics of fair vaccine allocation under conditions of scarcity and evolving epidemiology. This is complicated by emerging variants that have been shown to decrease the efficacy of the vaccines. South Africa has been particularly effected with over 90% of infection currently being due to the variant strain. In the South African government’s Covid-19 Vaccine Strategy published on January 3rd, 2021, a framework for equitable allocation “guided by African indigenous values of interdependence, interrelatedness, mutually respectful discussion and dialogue”, has been discussed. As part of the Global Health Ethics and Justice series, we will be joined by Professor Ames Dhai, a prominent bioethicist and Vice-Chair on the South African Ministerial Advisory Committee for Covid-19 Vaccines, for an in-depth discussion about how this African ethics framework was developed, the ethical principles that underpin it, and what this might look like if these values were applied to the global situation.
SPEAKERS: Ames Dhai, Specialist Ethicist, South African Medical Research Council; Moderator: Sridhar Venkatapuram, Chair, Independent Resource Group for Global Health Justice


Get ready - a few days to go until the SDG Global Festival of Action! // 25-26.03.2021, organized by SDG Action Campaign
On March 25 and 26, thousands of inspiring changemakers, activists, UN and government representatives, private sector leaders, artists, creators and individuals will take the opportunity to share their vision on how we can #TurnItAround for people and planet.


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.

Mailing address:
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