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

7-14 September 2021

A GESDA product curated by Olivier Dessibourg

Geneva Science and Diplomacy
Anticipation Summit

7-9 October 2021, Campus Biotech Geneva


Help shape the future of science diplomacy!
> Be where science and international affairs converge to discuss the future.
> Exchange on the relevance of anticipatory science diplomacy
> Share your experiences and expand your knowledge in this emerging field

Learn about the science breakthroughs most likely to impact people, society and the planet
> Hear about 16 of the most significant science topics with the potential to transform the world
> Sharpen your comprehension of four frontier domains: 1.Advanced AI & Quantum Revolution; 2.Human Augmentation; 3.Eco-regeneration & Geoengineering;  4.Science & Diplomacy

Debate whether and how diplomacy should embrace these advances for the benefit of humanity
> Discuss the implications of emerging science breakthroughs for international affairs and global governance.
> Contribute and propose initiatives to make to most of these breakthroughs and their potential to achieve the SDGs



> Science diplomacy: Switzerland supports dialogue to create research centre in south-eastern Europe // 13.09.2021,
On Monday 13 September, Switzerland hosted a high-level conference in Bern as part of the South East European International Institute for Sustainable Technologies (SEEIIST) project. Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis attended the conference alongside seven ministers and representatives from ten countries of south-eastern Europe. The SEEIIST project seeks to develop a regional centre of excellence in south-eastern Europe for biomedical research into cancer therapy. At the event, the head of the FDFA restated Switzerland's readiness to facilitate dialogue between the various partner countries for the creation of such a facility.

Related article: Schweiz unterstützt Krebsforschungszentrum in Südosteuropa //14.09.2021,


> The world needs global advisory body for quantum technology // 09.09.2021, Science|Business
The world needs an international expert body to advise governments on the safe and ethical development of quantum technologies, mirroring efforts to create global oversight of artificial intelligence, experts told a Science|Business conference. Drawing on quantum mechanics, the field promises a whole new type of computing which could potentially solve problems that take conventional computers years to crack. Although practical applications are still limited, there is hope that quantum computing could resolve currently impossible tasks in chemistry, finding new catalysts to suck carbon from the air, for example. There is a security dimension to quantum too: the technology offers the potential to create all but unhackable communication channels. Creating a global ethical framework over the use of the technology is essential, said quantum expert Ian Walmsley, provost of Imperial College London. “That seems to me to be an area where we absolutely need some collaboration, with as wide a circle of friends as we can possibly have, so we get an agreed set of principles,” he told the conference.


> United Nations Secretary-General’s report “Our common agenda” // 10.09.2021, UN
We are at an inflection point in history. The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a wake-up call and with the climate crisis now looming, the world is experiencing its biggest shared test since the Second World War. Humanity faces a stark and urgent choice: breakdown or breakthrough. The choices we make – or fail to make – today could result in further breakdown and a future of perpetual crises, or a breakthrough to a better, more sustainable, peaceful future for our people and planet.

“Our Common Agenda”:

  • is an agenda of action, designed to strengthen and accelerate multilateral agreements – particularly the 2030 Agenda – and make a tangible difference in people’s lives.

  • contains recommendations across four broad areas for renewed solidarity between peoples and future generations, a new social contract anchored in human rights, better management of critical global commons, and global public goods that deliver equitably and sustainably for all.

  • presents the Secretary-General's vision on the future of global cooperation through an inclusive, networked, and effective multilateralism.


> Why the 2020s will be the exponential decade // 11.09.2021, AXIOS
Three new books take stock of the rapid technological change so far in the 21st century and ask whether we can adapt to the even faster change to come. Why does it matter? The 2020s could be the roaring or the raging decade, depending on whether political and social institutions can keep pace with the explosive transformation wrought by the tech sector.

  • In his new book "The Exponential Age," venture capitalist and newsletter writer Azeem Azhar identifies what might be the fundamental conflict of the early 21st century: how businesses and technologies growing at an exponential rate are colliding with social and political institutions that are much slower to change.
  • In their "System Error," three Stanford professors (philosopher Rob Reich, political scientist Jeremy Weinstein and computer scientist Mehran Sahami) explore whether a new approach to politics and ethics can help close "that profound gap between those who understand technology and those who are responsible for government and society," says Weinstein.
  • The success or failure of efforts to close the exponential gap will have an enormous influence on whether the next decade can harness the best of technological growth, or be consumed by it, writes former diplomat Alec Ross in his new book "The Raging 2020s.”
© Shoshana Gordon/Axios


> Modeling the power of polarization // 14.09.2021, PNAS
With assists from politicians and social media, people are increasingly dividing themselves into social and political factions. Models can hint at how it happens – and maybe offer ways to mitigate it.

 ©Dave Cutler (artist).


> Internet tech standards are the next human rights battleground // 07.09.2021, World Politics Review
In the past few years, public awareness has grown about the race currently underway among states and corporations to dominate the development and deployment of new technologies. This isn’t only a race, however, to lock in the trade advantages that come with tech dominance. It is also a race to shape our societies and the values by which we live. And it is being run on many different tracks, some of them well-known by now – 5G telecom networks and artificial intelligence – but others more obscure and unexpected.

Visitors look at surveillance cameras made by China’s telecoms equipment giant Huawei on display at the China Public Security Expo in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, Oct. 29, 2019
(AP photo by Andy Wong).


> The new economics of global cities // 09.09.2021, The Economist
The economic recovery from the covid-19 pandemic is lopsided in many ways. Vaccinations have allowed some countries to bounce back rapidly, even as others struggle. Demand is surging in some sectors but still looks weak in others. Another big source of unevenness is slowly becoming clear. As national economies come back to life, cities are lagging seriously behind.


> UN report: Pandemic year marked by spike in world hunger // 12.07.2021, FAO
There was a dramatic worsening of world hunger in 2020, the United Nations said today - much of it likely related to the fallout of COVID-19. While the pandemic's impact has yet to be fully mapped*, a multi-agency report estimates that around a tenth of the global population - up to 811 million people - were undernourished last year. The number suggests it will take a tremendous effort for the world to honour its pledge to end hunger by 2030.  This year's edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World is the first global assessment of its kind in the pandemic era.


> Future of Life Institute responds to the EU's new consultation on AI liability // September 2021, FLI
How do you prove that you've been harmed by an AI when you can’t access the data or algorithm that caused it? If a self-learning AI causes harm 11 years after the product was put on the market, should its producer be allowed to disavow liability? And can a car producer shift liability of an autonomous vehicle simply by burying a legal clause in lengthy terms and conditions? FLI explored these and other questions in our response to the EU’s new consultation on AI liability. They argued that new rules are necessary to protect the rights of consumers and to encourage AI developers to make their products safer.


> Governing complexity: Integrating science, governance, and law to manage accelerating change in the globalized commons // 07.09.2021, PNAS
The speed and uncertainty of environmental change in the Anthropocene challenge the capacity of coevolving social–ecological–technological systems (SETs) to adapt or transform to these changes. Formal government and legal structures further constrain the adaptive capacity of our SETs. However, new, self-organized forms of adaptive governance are emerging at multiple scales in natural resource-based SETs. Adaptive governance involves the private and public sectors as well as formal and informal institutions, self-organized to fill governance gaps in the traditional roles of states.


Platform 1: Quantum Revolution & Advanced AI

Quantum and physics 

> One lab’s quest to build space-time out of quantum particles // 07.09.2021, Quanta

Artificial intelligence

> Looking under the hood of AI’s dubious models // 11.08.2021, The Hedgehog Review

GPT-4 will have 100 trillion parameters — 500x the size of GPT-3 // 12.09.2021, Towards Data Science

A massive regional gap is opening around AI // 08.09.2021, AXIOS

In the US, the AI industry risks becoming winner-take-most // 08.09.2021, WIRED

UK suggests removing human review of AI decisions in data protection laws // 09.09.2021, Financial Times

Live: Explore the 2021 World Robot Conference in Beijing (VIDEO) // 10.09.2021, CGTN

Platform 2: Human Augmentation


> What happens to a lonely fly: it overeats and loses sleep // 09.09.2021, Nature
The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is a social animal. Flies kept in chronic social isolation have now been found to show dysregulated sleep and feeding patterns, casting light on how prolonged absence of social contact affects health.

New study finds a single neuron is a surprisingly complex little computer // 12.09.2021, SingularityHub

Human brain organoids assemble functionally integrated bilateral optic vesicles // 17.08.2021, Cell Stem Cell

A stroke study reveals the future of human augmentation // 12.09.2021, WIRED


> License CRISPR patents for free to share gene editing globally // 07.09.2021, Nature
Universities hold the majority of CRISPR patents. They are in a strong position to ensure that the technology is widely shared for education and research.

mRNA cancer therapy now in human trials after shrinking mouse tumours // 08.09.2021, New Scientist

Trove of CRISPR-like gene-cutting enzymes found in microbes // 10.09.2021, Nature

Gene therapies are almost here, but healthcare isn’t ready for sky-high prices // 07.09.2021, SingularityHub

Governing human germline editing through patent law // 30.08.2021, JAMA Network

Directed evolution of a family of AAV capsid variants enabling potent muscle-directed gene delivery across species // 09.09.2021, Cell

Longevity and health

> CEPI warns of major hurdle to developing new Covid-19 vaccines and studying best booster approaches // 07.09.2021, STAT

How ancient farmers throttled their immune systems to survive // 07.09.2021, Science
If COVID-19 had swept Europe before farming, “more people would have died than today”.

Organs-on-a-chip models for biological research // 02.09.2021, Cell

What’s next for lab-grown human embryos? // 31.08.2021, Nature

A human embryo grown in the laboratory for 12 days, showing cells that will form the embryo itself (magenta). © Antonia Weberling, Bailey Weatherbee, Carlos Gantner and Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz.

Platform 3: Eco-regeneration & Geoengineering


> The future of meat needs a name // 11.09.2021, AXIOS

Autonomous robot swarms to mine lunar resources // 09.09.2021, Industrial Equipment News

Global body calls for moratorium on seabed mining to protect the oceans // 08.09.2021, PEW

Mining data to mine battery metals // 08.09.2021, AXIOS


> Most fossil-fuel reserves must remain untapped to hit 1.5 °C warming goal // 08.09.2021, Nature

China prepares to test thorium-fuelled nuclear reactor // 09.09.2021, Nature

Climate and environment

> World’s biggest ‘direct air capture’ plant starts pulling in CO2 // 08.09.2021, Financial Times

We can use carbon to decarbonize – and get hydrogen for free (opinion) // 03.09.2021, PNAS

Research on solar climate intervention is the best defense against moral hazard // Summer 2021, Issues in Science and Technology

Can artificially altered clouds save the Great Barrier Reef? // 25.08.2021, Nature

Caution over the use of ecological big data for conservation // 07.07.2021, Nature

OECD seeks global plan for carbon prices to avoid trade wars // 13.09.2021, Financial Times

Columbia to launch $25 million AI-based climate modeling center // 09.09.2021, Columbia News


> Who is Starlink really for? // 06.09.2021, MIT Technology Review

The coming lunar armada // 09.09.2021, Science
A fleet of NASA-funded startups will soon begin to land on the Moon.

Les déchets spatiaux sont-ils aussi un problème éthique? // 08.09.2021,

Platform 4: Science & Diplomacy

> How America’s big science literacy mistake is coming back to haunt us // 09.09.2021, Forbes
In this day and age, it’s virtually impossible to have sufficient expertise to figure out what the complete, comprehensive, scientifically validated truth surrounding any issue is. Unless you yourself have spent many years studying, researching, and actively participating in furthering the scientific endeavor in a particular field, you can be certain — with an incredibly high degree of confidence — that your non-expertise will fundamentally limit the depth and breadth of your understanding. Put simply, your inexperience, relative to that of bona fide professionals, gives you too many blind spots that you yourself will be unaware of, to be able to distinguish what’s valid and conclusive from what’s not.

Covid heats up debate over biological weapons convention // 09.09.2021, Geneva Solutions

Climate science is supporting lawsuits that could help save the world // 08.09.2021, Nature
Governments have failed to slow climate change quickly enough, so activists are using courts to compel countries and companies to act — increasingly with help from forefront science.

A US military robot ship has fired a large missile for the first time // 08.09.2021, New Scientist

China has started a grand experiment in AI education. It could reshape how the world learns // 02.08.2021, MIT Technology Review

Human Rights Council: spotlight on Afghanistan, Covid and indigenous rights // 13.09.2021, Geneva Solutions
The Human Rights Council kicks off its 48th session on Monday. The four-week meeting will discuss close to 90 reports, convening a week longer than usual.


> The mind does not exist // 30.08.2021, Aeon
The terms ‘mind’ and ‘mental’ are messy, harmful and distracting. We should get rid of them.

The future of the search for life // 04.09.2021, AXIOS

© Annelise Capossela. Photos: NASA/Getty Images, Boyer/Roger Viollet via Getty Images.


> « L’homme augmenté, je ne sais pas faire. Je fais de l’homme réparé » // 11.09.2021, Le Monde
Grâce à ses découvertes en matière de neuroprotection des patients atteints de Parkinson, Alim-Louis Benabid, neurochirurgien français, améliore le quotidien des malades sans verser dans le transhumanisme.
(© Julien Faure/Leemage)

> Igor Porokhin on the resurgent interest in space tourism and its prospects and the fate of the Berlin Protocol to the Cape Town Convention // 10.09.2021, SpaceWatch.Global
The Russian attorney-at-law and partner of law firm InSpace Consulting known for having provided legal support for contracts for flights to the International Space Station of astronauts from NASA, ESA, Brazil, South Korea, Malaysia, as well as space tourists on board the Russian manned Soyuz spacecraft. (Photo: DR)

> Call to improve global health R&D cooperation // 09.09.2021, Science|Business
Victor Dzau, President of US Academy of Medicine, calls on governments to establish a global health threats council, and says pharmaceutical companies should temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. (Photo: DR)


> New resource counters misinformation on human genomics // 07.09.2021, The Hastings Center
New research on the genomic influences on traits such as intelligence, household income, and sexual behavior captures public attention, but it is also used to justify beliefs in racial and social inequalities. To counter bias and other misinformation, The Hastings Center announces an open-access repository that aggregates and enhances FAQs – frequently asked questions – by the genomics researchers themselves that explain what their studies do, and do not, show.

Better science communication is needed to deliver the green transition // 09.09.2021, Science|Business
The research is there, but scientists are having trouble getting their voices heard. In the lead up to COP26, funding agencies are calling on scientists to be better at communicating their findings.


> Future food needs some historical context // 02.09.2021, NEO.LIFE
Readers who are both connoisseurs of fine nosh and consumers of nonfiction may be already aware of MIT Press’s Food, Health, and the Environment series, which deals with the future of modern food systems from the local to the global scale. It addresses issues like food access and undernutrition, social justice and food scarcity, and the environmental impacts of our world’s food supply chain. Over the past fifteen years, the Boston-based publisher has put out a book about meat, a book about coffee, one on GMOs, one on food justice in San Francisco, and books on farmers, immigrants, pesticides, seeds, and food trucks. The latest title in this collection, Acquired Tastes: Stories about the Origins of Modern Food, confronts “modern” food—not only what we eat today, but more importantly, where it came from and when.

> The Science and Politics of Covid-19: How Scientists Should Tackle Global Crises // By Michel Claessens
This book is a fresh and readable account of the Covid-19 pandemic and how scientists and medical doctors are helping governments to manage the crisis. The book contains interviews and exchanges with dozens of scientists, doctors, experts, government representatives, and journalists. Why do some of the most scientifically advanced countries have the highest Covid-19 mortality? During the pandemic, the research community has been at the heart of—and actor in—a global scandal. Why has science failed? With the help of numerous testimonies from China, France, the UK and the USA in particular, the book provides an insider’s view on this major crisis. Although the governments of these countries based their Covid-19 strategy on science, scientists failed to have a decisive influence on decision-makers—except in China—, which created genuine “time bombs.” The accelerated development of vaccines does not erase past months’ errors. The crisis led to the development of “science politics” at an unprecedented rate. More worryingly, experts themselves acknowledge that they did not rise to the challenge. Covid-19 also highlighted the weakness of democratic regimes and the power of technocapitalism. Countries pulled down their blinds, locked their doors, and promoted national approaches rather than international cooperation. The author proposes to set up an international framework on health risk to co-construct decision-making. He advocates political distancing in order to put the basics first: develop science, fight ignorance.

> L’intelligence artificielle, entre fol espoir et boîte de Pandore // 12.09.2021, Le Temps
L’intelligence artificielle autorise de grandes espérances, mais recèle aussi des menaces dans la mesure où elle pourrait devenir incontrôlable. Rencontre avec Anaïs Avila et Nicolas Capt, coauteurs d'un livre collectif qui fait le point.


> ​​SPARKS! Serendipity Forum at CERN // 18.09.2021, 4pm-8pm CET, organized by CERN
The Sparks! public event will consist of a series of short talks and debates about the current and future trends that will define the field of AI and how it will impact our society as we know it. The talks will be given by AI experts taking part in our Sparks! Forum. Unfortunately, we cannot invite a live audience to the public event this year due to the ongoing public health situation. Instead, the event will be webcast live online. Whatever your background, if you are fascinated by the challenges and impact of AI, start by listening to our podcast series to learn more about the speakers and join us for the live webcast on 18 September 2021.


> Aux frontières de l'humain // du 13 octobre 2021 au 30 mai 2022, Musée de l'Homme, Paris
Le Musée de l’Homme est heureux d'annoncer sa nouvelle grande exposition temporaire, Aux frontières de l'humain. Explorer nos limites, interroger notre devenir en tant qu’humain et plus globalement envisager celui de la planète, tel est le vaste champ d’investigation proposé par le Musée, dès le 13 octobre 2021. L’exposition tracera les contours de l’identité humaine du temps des origines (depuis quand l’Homme se définit-il en tant qu’Homme ?) à un futur fantasmé (quand cessera-t-il de l’être ?). Au cours de ce cheminement, la rencontre avec l’Homme hybride, réparé ou augmenté, donnera à réfléchir sur la frontière entre nature et culture et sur les limites physiologiques ou éthiques d’une telle évolution transhumaniste.


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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