Issue 18: from Lithium Valley to the Indo-Pacific

Lithium politics, nuclear assassination, AI replication, muddled vaccine and Indo-Pacific arena

Dear reader,

Welcome to this week’s issue of the Anti-Apocalyptus newsletter. Each week I send you five links about some of the most important challenges of our time: climate change, weapons of mass destruction, emerging technologies, mass causes of death and great power wars. If you haven’t done so yet, feel free to subscribe at the button below, hit the heart button or share this email with anyone who could be interested.

Last week I missed sending out an edition, because I was busy. But now I’m back, with this week’s news for you.

Before we start, however, I wanted to link to this story from the New Yorker. In it they profile Toby Ord, the author of The Precipice, one of the better introductions to the field of existential risks. Make sure to read it!

1. Climate change

Bloomberg - California Wants Its Imperial Valley to Be ‘Lithium Valley’

Interesting article about how California’s Imperial Country, an impoverished area of the state, could be an important source of lithium. This mineral is key for batteries that go in electric cars, and new technology could allow companies to extract lithium from Californian soil, instead of importing it from halfway across the world. It shows the raw resource politics of our fight against climate change.

2. Weapons of mass destruction

NY Times - Assassination in Iran Could Limit Biden’s Options. Was That the Goal?

This week Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top Iranian nuclear scientist who had been leading Iran’s nuclear weapons program in the past, was assassinated. We don’t know who did it, but a top candidate might be Israel, potentially with a go-ahead from the Trump administration. One motive for the assassination might be to scuttle any potential restoration of non-proliferation diplomacy once the Biden administration takes power, and to force Iran and the US into a collision course.

3. Emerging technologies

MIT Technology Review - AI is wrestling with a replication crisis

For all the hype around AI, the field still has deep problems. Replication is one of them. Standard scientific practice dictates that, when you do experiments, you should provide the information necessary for others to reproduce those results. AI researchers hardly do that, particularly at large corporate labs like OpenAI or companies like Google. In turn, that makes it very hard to verify if what they say about their models is really correct.

4. Mass causes of death

WIRED - The AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine Data Isn't Up to Snuff

Recently we have seen good news popping up around vaccines, with two candidates moving faster than expected, and potentially being ready for use early next year. The case of a third vaccine, however, urges us to caution. Their test results were muddled, and thrown together in methodologically questionable ways. Which goes to show that we’re not out of the woods yet.

5. Great power war

World Game - What is the Indo-Pacific?

In its most recent National Defense Strategy, the US marked the Indo-Pacific as a key region to exert hegemony. But what is the Indo-Pacific? In his newsletter Bruno Maçães explores what it means, and what some of the contours and dynamics of this region are. A confrontation between China and the US will probably take place here, so it’s important to know what the future arena looks like.

I hope you enjoyed this newsletter. Feel free to send me comments or remarks by responding to this email. If you haven’t done so yet, please subscribe at the link below, hit the heart button or forward this email to anyone who could be interested.