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Hello, this is Zelda, and this week, we are imagining the future of travel - one with superfast hyperloop trains and whether these can also provide a greener answer to today's freight industry.

UNESCO's liaison head in Geneva talks to us about education, digital transformation and the SDGs. And before leaving you, we will follow up on Section 230, and how plans to overhaul the controversial US internet regulation could backfire.

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Zelda Chauvet


Today’s reason for hope

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Vincent Defourny, director of the UNESCO Geneva Liaison Office (©Defourny)

UNESCO's Vincent Defourny: We need real dialogues between the private sector, NGOs and academia. Bringing different actors around the table is key to realising the sustainable development goals (SDGs), says Vincent Defourny, director of the UNESCO Geneva liaison office. He reflects on the importance of shared values and the use of technology to help tackle current and future issues.

Geneva Solutions (EN)

Science & Technology News

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Source: Le Temps/Hyperloop One.

🚇 Hyperloop: a sustainable solution for the future of freight. Are the low-pressure tubes using levitated capsules propelled by electromagnetic propulsion the future of transportation? Challenges and opportunities are examined to tackle carbon emissions in the mobility sector.

Geneva Solutions (EN)

ℹ️ Defusing fake news, a question of timing. How to correct misinformation circulating on the Internet? According to psychologists from Harvard and MIT, it is more effective to provide a fix after exposure to fake news.

Heidi.News (FR)

🌐 How a Democrat plan to reform Section 230 could backfire. Experts agree new proposals are the most serious and substantial push to regulate social media yet. But many say they’re misguided and could backfire.

MIT Technology Review (EN)

Here's what else is happening

Image of the day

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Source: UN Women/Daria Koshkina.

Devoted to discovery: seven women scientists who have shaped our world. For centuries, women have made significant contributions to the field of science. They’ve discovered life-saving remedies, devised world-altering inventions, and produced far-reaching research, but in many cases their invaluable advances are minimised or neglected. The International Day of Women and Girls in Science on Thursday is an opportunity to change our perspective.

UN Women (EN)

Anticipatory reads by GESDA

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Microscope image of a primary rat neuronal culture grown on the 3D CMOS-MEA silicon network. Neurons are located on top and at the base of the structure electrodes. (©3BRAINAG)

Fusion between neurons and silicon. While getting more and more powerful (albeit also reaching soon limits in terms of miniaturisation and energy consumption), current electronic hardware have one major drawback: they need three kinds of computational units to 1.store, 2.process and 3.transmit digital information. But in our brain, each neuron can do each of the three tasks! That is why scientists try to reproduce this fantastic ability in so-called ‘neuromorphic chips’ of one kind only.

Another field of neuroscience research attempts to reach the tantalising goal to fuse the silicon material of electronic chips with the biological one of neural cells, this to allow the latter to be enhanced by the power of the former, in terms of memory capacity or processing. But there is a big hurdle: bio-silicon connections tend to degrade with time, as the living cells naturally protect themselves from the external stranger body to which they are connected.

Now a team of scientists wants to use the second technology to improve the first (see article below). With the help of Zurich-based firm 3BrainAG, they want to grow human brain stem cells on a microchip, in order to form a similar biological networked layer as the grid of underlying silicon units. Then they want to stimulate some of the lab-grown neurons to see who they interact within the biological neural network. Ultimately, they intend to drive it to a state in which it will be able to carry out nontrivial computations... In other words, by creating a full biological copy of a network of microchips and training it, they want to understand how the brain computes, and then – in a feedback loop – reproduce this code of action into the silicon network. Will that be the idea which might bring us to the dawn of a general artificial intelligence?

- Olivier Dessibourg

'Brain on a chip' project aims to revolutionise computing power. Scientists want to push the boundaries of artificial intelligence.

Eurekalert (EN)

How CRISPR might help diagnose and halt dangerous outbreaks faster. This is the next generation of diagnostics.


Chinese researchers to send an “uncrackable” quantum message to space. It would be the most secure long-distance communication network in the world.

Live Science (EN)

How gut microbes could drive brain disorders. That might lead to better and easier treatments for brain diseases.

Nature (EN)

Will understanding the ocean lead to “the ocean we want”? An expert’s opinion, as the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development starts.


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This selection is proposed by the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator GESDA, working on anticipating cutting-edge science and technological advances to develop innovative and inclusive solutions for the benefit of the planet and its inhabitants.

Next on the agenda

📍 16 February | AI for the planet. Startup Inside, in collaboration with UNESCO and UNEP, is organizing a global virtual conference dedicated to the theme of AI for the Planet.

AI for the planet (EN)

📍 16 February | Covid response and digital trust. The Graduate Institute organises a discussion on data privacy of COVID-19 proximity tracing applications, and how this has affected the adoption rates by users.

Garduate Institute (EN)

📍 25 February | When machines imagine. A historical perspective. In 2015, Google published Deepdream, a neural network capable of creating never-before-seen works of art. Since then, cultural circles have wondered what was left for humanity.


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