Issue 33: which great powers can destroy us?

Vaccine shortfall, great power extinction, mRNA scientists, Neuralink and killer asteroids

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 such as 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.

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Agglomerations - How the US can solve the global vaccine shortfall

Great blogpost that looks at the question of how to increase the global production of COVID-19 vaccines, and how to vaccinate the entire world. Today most of the intellectual property of these vaccines is held by Western countries, while vaccination is progressing extremely slow outside the West. Sharing the IP might be an option here, but requires a number of caveats. I hardly agree with everything the author proposes, but this is one of the better expositions of the question of how to increase vaccine production, and how IP sharing and technology transfer fits into that.

Great Powers, Polarity, and Existential Threats to Humanity: An Analysis of the Distribution of the Forces of Total Destruction in International Security (pdf through Google Scholar)

Interesting academic working paper where the author investigates which great powers have the potential to kill humanity on three counts: nuclear weapons, contribution to climate change and the development of superintelligent AI. Three great powers turn out to have the potential to destroy us: the US, Russia and China. A great paper that mixes insights from internationals relations with of the study of existential risk.

NY Times - Kati Kariko Helped Shield the World From the Coronavirus

Interesting profile of Katalin Kariko, a Hungarian scientist who spent decades in the US pioneering research into mRNA, on which several COVID-19 vaccines were based. Great story involving both scientific conservatism, that blocked her research, and the eventual panning out of a technique assumed to be useless for a long time.

CNN - Elon Musk's Neuralink claims monkeys can play Pong using just their minds

Elon Musk’s brain-computer interface (BCI) start-up Neuralink released a new video, showing a monkey playing the game Pong using a brain implant. BCI’s are a fascinating technology, and they’re receiving more attention because of Neuralink, yet this isn’t new. Animals and people have been able to control things like games for a while now using these types of brain implants. So Neuralink isn’t exactly cutting edge. What is interesting, however, is their electronics and the small size of them, about which MIT Technology Review’s Antonio Regalado wrote a great Twitter thread.

WIRED - How to Survive a Killer Asteroid

Fun article looking at what it would take for a human to have survived the asteroid impact that killed the dinosaurs. The piece goes into the damage such an asteroid would do, how we realised these rocks could hit earth and why you would probably need to go to a tropical, mountain-like place to survive (say Indonesia).

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.