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Hi, this is Michelle and today we’re talking about one of the world’s top killers. An insidious and invisible offender, air pollution causes the premature deaths of over four million people each year. And the problem is bound to get worse as climate change fuels more intense wildfires and heatwaves.

GESDA’s pick of science of diplomacy reads are also back this week, with a look at new technologies for the brain – and why its final users are integral to their development.

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Michelle Langrand


On our radar

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A helicopter drops water on a wildfire in Castaic, California, on 31 August, 2022. (Credit: Keystone/AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

🔥Wildfires and heatwaves, a double blow to our lungs. Fuelled by climate change, scorching heatwaves and intense wildfires are harming the quality of the air we breathe, according to a report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released on Wednesday. Continuing to burn fossil fuels will only make matters worse, according to WMO chief Petteri Taalas, even if greenhouse emissions were to be curbed significantly.

Geneva Solutions (EN)

Here's what else is happening

Science and diplomacy reads by GESDA

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Ian Burkhart (Credit: Science Magazine)

Any new technology is only really truly useful if it is appropriated by the general public. And, it becomes more deeply anchored in our societal and even cultural way of living when the users participate in the final design and refinement of its applications. That is even more the case with top-edge medical technologies, like brain-computer interfaces (BCI).

Most of the time, BCI involves implanting a chip inside the brain of a fully disabled patient to help that person to give commands to an external mechanical or digital device, like a computer, a wheelchair or a robotic arm. Such implants have now been used for more than a decade. And, thanks to a WIRED article, we just learnt that a man set a new record for wearing such a BCI : seven years and three months! A big advance, when one thinks that one of the risks of such implants is that they are considered as intruders by the biological tissues in the brain and rejected.

But now, people with an implanted BCI, more than just patients, want to become full actors in the field of scientific research that helped them. One of them, Ian Burkhart, as STAT news describes, has been wearing an implant since 2014 and created a group for the BCI community, The BCI Pioneers Coalition, led by its pioneering users to discuss the kinds of questions he had seven years ago when he was implanted. These include: How would he shower or sleep with the port sticking out from his skull? What would it be like trekking to and from the laboratory several days a week for the next few months, or years? And would he feel the device in his brain? The goal was also to serve more broadly as a forum to talk with others in the BCI community about more overarching but important ethical, commercial if not societal questions: who owns data extracted from someone’s brain? What is autonomy when some version of your thoughts are read into a circuit board? Is the goal restoration of movement, augmentation, or maybe enhancement? In what ways are patients allowed to use their BCI?

“A lot of these questions aren’t black and white,” Burkhart said to STAT. “They live in the grey area and they’re so nuanced that you have to have a bunch of different perspectives in order to really get anywhere that’s substantial.” Involving people most concerned by a technology in its development is not only wished for by the researchers working on it, it also should be a duty in every scientific endeavour.

- Olivier Dessibourg, GESDA


Why quantum computing is even more dangerous than artificial intelligence.

Foreign Policy (EN)

Crypto and climate change: can web3 help get us to net zero?

Financial Times (EN)

What lab-grown 'mini-brains' are revealing about this mysterious organ.

New Scientist (EN)

Europe is getting serious about making space-based solar power a reality.

Singularity Hub (EN)

If humans went extinct, would a similar species evolve?


In a sea of discord and distrust, countries get together to define scientific values and principles.

Science|Business (EN)

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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.

GS news is a new media project covering the world of international cooperation and development. Don’t hesitate to forward our newsletter!

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