Use the future to build the present
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1Quantum Revolution& Advanced AI2HumanAugmentation3Eco-Regeneration& Geo-Engineering4Science& Diplomacy1.11.21.31.42.12.22.32.43.13.23.33.43.54.14.24.34.44.5HIGHEST ANTICIPATIONPOTENTIALAdvancedArtificial IntelligenceQuantumTechnologiesBrain-inspiredComputingBiologicalComputingCognitiveEnhancementHuman Applications of Genetic EngineeringRadical HealthExtensionConsciousnessAugmentation DecarbonisationWorldSimulationFuture FoodSystemsSpaceResourcesOceanStewardshipComplex Systems forSocial EnhancementScience-basedDiplomacyInnovationsin EducationSustainableEconomicsCollaborativeScience Diplomacy
1Quantum Revolution& Advanced AI2HumanAugmentation3Eco-Regeneration& Geo-Engineering4Science& Diplomacy1.11.21.31.42.12.22.32.43.13.23.33.43.54.14.24.34.44.5HIGHEST ANTICIPATIONPOTENTIALAdvancedArtificial IntelligenceQuantumTechnologiesBrain-inspiredComputingBiologicalComputingCognitiveEnhancementHuman Applications of Genetic EngineeringRadical HealthExtensionConsciousnessAugmentation DecarbonisationWorldSimulationFuture FoodSystemsSpaceResourcesOceanStewardshipComplex Systems forSocial EnhancementScience-basedDiplomacyInnovationsin EducationSustainableEconomicsCollaborativeScience Diplomacy

Introduction:

Executive Summary

The GESDA 2021 Science Breakthrough Radar provides a unique description of breakthroughs at 5, 10 and 25 years, which may impact people, society and the planet.

A new tool for multilateralism, informing discussions and concerted action

  • Giving a neutral overview on the science trends.
  • Sharing this knowledge as an honest broker with diplomats, philanthropists, entrepreneurs and the general public in order to maximise the chances of a positive use for the benefit of all.

One single point of entry to catch-up with the unprecedented pace of science and technology

  • A carefully vetted overview of what 543 Swiss and World researchers expect to be the most significant science breakthroughs in 5, 10, 25 years.
  • An interactive digital interface to easily visualise the value of anticipation in those domains.
  • The ability to deep-dive and confront opinions thanks to comprehensive references to other key publications and media articles.

Eye-opening reflections on the impacts of future scientific discoveries for people, society and the planet

  • Initial contributions on the implications for international affairs, global challenges, and the SDGs.
  • A synthesis of what society thinks about the examined fields of research.
  • 8 philosophers and ethicists assessing how these science breakthroughs will and are already reshaping the way we see ourselves as human beings, the way we relate to each other as a society and the way we care for our environment.
  • 16 topics proposed for discussion in a new Geneva Science Diplomacy Anticipation Summit.

An interactive rolling instrument for multilateral collaboration and action

  • Updated yearly.
  • Continuously enriched through extended interactions worldwide.

The full set of topics and related research areas can be found in the trends explorer, via the link below.

Trends Explorer

The GESDA Science Breakthrough Radar is made up of 18 scientific emerging topics and related sub-fields, across four broad frontier areas. These are collated below for quick access into the report.

Through the contributions of more than 500 scientists across the globe, 216 breakthroughs over 18 scientific emerging topics have been identified and are presented through an easy-to-read visualisation. This list is extended by a series of invited contributions by leading scientists on topics that will be addressed in future editions.

The radar presents what scientists are working on, how they see their fields evolving and which developments will be important to consider. It is a neutral and fact-based presentation of some of the scientific advances that will impact humanity, with GESDA acting as an honest broker between disciplines, communities and world views.

The GESDA Science Breakthrough Radar is the result of a strategic partnership with the Fondation pour Genève and a close collaboration with open science publisher Frontiers.

It is designed to become, in the coming years, an exclusive decision and action support tool for multilateralism that assesses the dynamics of future scientific advances at 5, 10 and 25 years over the three fundamental questions and the four initial scientific frontier issues identified by GESDA in its 2020-2022 Roadmap.

The three questions deal with essential dimensions of what makes us humans, the way our society evolves and our relation to the environment. They are formulated as follows:

  1. Who are we? What does it mean to be human in the age of robots, gene editing and augmented reality?
  2. How are we going to live together? Which deployment of technology can help reduce inequality and foster inclusive development and well-being?
  3. How can we assure humanity’s well-being while also sustaining the health of our planet? How can we supply the world population with the necessary food and energy, and still regenerate our planet?

The initial scientific frontier issues define four broad areas that have been taken up as starting points, and for which this report presents the science breakthroughs. Those frontier issues are:

  1. Quantum Revolution and Advanced Artificial Intelligence
  2. Human Augmentation
  3. Eco-Regeneration and Geo-Engineering
  4. Science and Diplomacy

This inaugural edition of the Science Breakthrough Radar extends science anticipation by also considering current Debates in society in relation to the themes above and global societal challenges such as the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda and geo-political considerations. It contains:

  • A Debates chapter examining why the topics addressed by GESDA matter. This provides a synthesis of the debates in society on the current challenges facing humanity in relation to the themes addressed by GESDA;
  • A Trends chapter presenting 216 potential breakthroughs at 5, 10 and 25 years. This shows what is cooking in the labs;
  • An Opportunities chapter answering the question “What can we do with it?” This gives an insight into the global challenges, geopolitical issues and societal implications linked to these scientific breakthroughs.

The GESDA Science Breakthrough Radar - a look at the anticipation potential of key emerging topics

All 18 scientific topics considered will see major developments in the coming 25 years. These will reshape how human beings think about themselves, relate to each other and their society, and interact with the environment, our planet and its resources.

The topics are each divided into four sub-fields, and for each one leading scientists provide a description of the current-state-of-the-art and list the most important breakthroughs according to our timescale. The global scientific community involved (543 scientists from 53 countries and 4,000 consulted) provided a value of the “anticipation potential” of each emerging topic and related sub-fields, by assessing:

  1. the estimated time to maturity of underlying breakthroughs;
  2. their potential transformational effects;
  3. the degree of awareness among stakeholders;
  4. the potential impact on the three fundamental questions on people, society and planet.

When combined in the anticipation potential, these four dimensions provide an overall vision of the relative importance in terms of anticipation, as perceived by the scientific community.

A Rolling Report - Initiating the consultation with the global community

Science and technology are moving very fast. New fields of research emerge constantly and new knowledge forces us to update the anticipated trends. The GESDA Science Breakthrough Radar deals with this in three ways.

First, it provides a series of invited contributions from leading scientists on topics of high anticipation potential that need to be developed in future editions. These essays deal with a wide variety of salient topics, such as the importance of seeking life’s origins (Didier Queloz), the potential of geo-engineering (Janos Pastor), the sustainable use of global resources (Ioan Negrutiu), the benefits of developing the skills to think about the future (Riel Miller) and the evolving nature of conflicts through digitalisation (Mriyam Dunn Cavelty, Camino Kavanagh and Anja Kaspersen).

Second, every emerging topic contains a link to curated key resources from the GESDA Best Reads. These provide key publications and media articles on the latest trends in a specific area, reflecting the most up-to-date knowledge on an issue.

Third, the release of the Science Breakthrough Radar launches a continuous interaction with the global scientific community in order to discuss, refine and expand the anticipated breakthroughs.

So what? - Opportunities from science anticipation for diplomacy and society

Finally, the opportunities chapter brings in reflections from Swiss Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis and the Chairman of the GESDA Diplomacy Forum Michael Møller on geopolitical issues and the transition to a new multilateralism (the Pulse of Diplomacy). These reflections are completed by a discussion on the societal and political implications of science anticipation, and how to avoid missed opportunities and existential risks related to the science breakthroughs presented here.

We also present selected examples of how international organisations already engage in science anticipation as part of their mission. The section Includes example from the World International Patent Organisation (WIPO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Sustainable Development Goals Lab (SDG Lab) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

Taken together, Debates, Trends and Opportunities provides the basis to start creating a shared language to discuss and address without delay the emerging opportunities and challenges of the 21st century.