The Polymath Initiative

What is the Polymath Initiative?

The Polymath Initiative is a project that was launched by the GCSP in May 2021. It seeks to address the “silo thinking” which can lead to policy and governance failures when anticipating the consequences of emerging technologies on societies. This initiative aims to reduce gaps in understanding and communication between the scientific community and the policymaking world. By promoting a “polymath thinking” approach, the GCSP hopes to create a community of scholars on emerging technologies that are conscious of the ethical, security and governance implications. To this effect, three professionals, each specialising in an emerging technology (artificial intelligence, synthetic biology and neuroscience) are offered a 2-year fellowship programme at the GCSP, thanks to the support of the Didier & Martine Primat Foundation. It is expected that the selected scholars will then become influencers in their own scientific communities and they will also be equipped to advocate for “polymath thinking” in the field of emerging technologies and be able to bridge the gap between the tech and science communities and the world of policy and decision-makers.

 

Why is the GCSP launching this initiative?

The Global and Emerging Risks cluster is deeply involved in understanding and raising awareness about the security and strategic implications of emerging technologies for international peace and security. Emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, and neurotechnology, are increasingly having deep economic, ethical, social, political and security impacts. However, thinking about the societal implications of these technologies remains siloed. Too often do we see technology developments that are not concerned with policy, and policies that are out of touch with technology. Therefore, there is a need for “translators”, individuals able to talk to both the scientific and the policy communities and bridge this gap. Fostering “polymath thinking” is the key strategy this programme is adopting to overcome silo thinking and help deal with the ethical, security and governance challenges stemming from emerging technologies.

 

The Fellowship Programme

The fellowship programme will last two years and will be conducted under the auspices of the Global and Emerging Risks cluster and the Global Fellowship Initiative (GFI). In their first year, the fellows will be given the opportunity to attend and contribute to GCSP workshops, events, courses in order to familiarise themselves with the issues related to global governance, ethics and international peace and security. In their second year, the fellows will then have the opportunity to contribute to GCSP publications on these topics, in addition. Throughout their fellowship, fellows will have access to the GCSP’s wide network of experts and alumni. Successful candidates should have deep technical expertise in synthetic biology, artificial intelligence or neuroscience and a desire to learn more about the governance and ethical and security implications of emerging technologies and the willingness to share their insights with non-specialists.

 

Support

The Polymath initiative is generously supported by the Didier and Martine Primat Foundation.

The Didier et Martine Primat Foundation is a Swiss-based registered charity. Its purpose is to raise public awareness of the global challenges caused by human activities and help to shape a more responsible world by supporting educational projects and concrete actions that encourage a more conscious and sustainable way of life.

 

Project Team

 

Dr Jean Marc Rickli

Dr Jean-Marc Rickli, Head of Polymath Initiative

Dr Jean-Marc Rickli is the head of global and emerging risk at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) in Geneva, Switzerland. He is also the co-chair of the NATO Partnership for Peace Consortium (PfPC) on Emerging Security Challenges Working Group and a senior advisor for the Artificial Intelligence Initiative at the Future Society. He represents the GCSP in the United Nations in the framework of the Governmental Group of Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS). He is a member of the Geneva University Committee for Ethical Research and the advisory board of Tech4Trust, the first Swiss startup acceleration program in the field of digital trust and cybersecurity. He is also a non-resident fellow in emerging and disruptive technologies and future warfare at TRENDS Research and Advisory in Abu Dhabi and an advisor at Gulf State Analytics in Washington.

Prior to these appointments, Dr Rickli was an assistant professor at the Department of Defence Studies of King’s College London and at the Institute for International and Civil Security at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi. In 2020, he was nominated as one of the 100 most influential French-speaking Swiss by the Swiss newspaper Le Temps. Dr Rickli received his PhD in International Relations from Oxford University. He also studied at the University of Geneva, Bern and ETH Zurich. His latest book published by Georgetown University is entitled Surrogate Warfare: The Transformation of War in the Twenty-first Century.

Read the full bio here

 

Anne Caroline Pissis-MartelMs Anne Caroline Pissis-Martel, Head of Global Fellowship Initiative and Creative Spark

Anne-Caroline is the Head of the GCSP’s Global Fellowship Initiative and Creative Spark. Anne-Caroline joined the GCSP in September 2003 and has held different positions throughout this time. She spent a number of years working with the Director of Special Programmes on diplomatic activities and training courses abroad. She then worked with the External Relations Team and, as its Manager, was in charge of the Centre’s external communications - GCSP website, media relations and publications. She later joined the Emerging Security Challenges Programme as a Senior Programme Officer responsible for the Security and Law activities of the Centre. Since 2015, Anne-Caroline coordinates the GCSP Global Fellowship Initiative and currently also heads the development of the Creative Spark.

She holds a Master’s Degree (LL.M.) in International Humanitarian Law, jointly awarded by the Law Faculty of the University of Geneva and the Graduate Institute of International Studies (HEI). She studied Law at Pierre Mendes France, University of Grenoble (France), and after her Maîtrise with specialisation in European Law, she obtained a Diploma from their European Summer Academy on "Europe in Transition".

Prior to her employment at the GCSP, she worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Athens (Greece), and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) in Geneva. Anne-Caroline speaks English, French, Greek, Spanish, Italian and German.

Read the full bio here

 

Federico MantellassiMr Federico Mantellassi, Research and Project Officer

Federico is Research and Project Officer at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy where he works since 2018. Under the Polymath Initiative, Federico conducts research on the security, societal and ethical impacts of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, synthetic biology and neurotechnology. He also handles the coordination aspects of the initiative. Previously, he assisted in the organisation of executive education activities and was the project coordinator of the annual Geneva Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge. He holds a Master’s Degree in Intelligence and International Security from King’s College London, and a Bachelor’s Degree in International Studies from the University of Leiden. Federico speaks Italian, French, and English. 

 


Fellows

RicardoDr Ricardo Chavarriaga, Executive-In-Residence, Global Fellowship Initiative

Ricardo Chavarriaga has more than 12 years of experience in research on human-machine interaction, brain-machine interfaces, and artificial intelligence. His work is focused on the responsible development of technologies that promote beneficial, humane interaction between human and intelligent machines. 

Ricardo is the head of the Swiss office of the Confederation of Laboratories for AI Research in Europe (CLAIRE); Senior researcher at Zürich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) and associate fellow at the Geneva Center for Security Policy (GCSP). Dr Chavarriaga is also chair of the IEEE Standards Association industry connection group on Neurotechnologies for Brain-Machine Interfacing, and Subgroup Chair of the IEEE P2863 Working group on Recommended Practices for Organisational Governance of AI.


Dr Sandra Scott Hayward

Dr Sandra Scott Hayward, Senior Lecturer, School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Queen’s University Belfast 

Sandra Scott-Hayward is a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) with the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and a Member of the Centre for Secure Information Technologies at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB). She began her career in industry and became a Chartered Engineer in 2006 having worked as a Systems Engineer and Engineering Group Leader with Airbus. Since joining academia, her research has focused on the development of network security architectures and security functions for emerging networks, specifically proposing security designs and solutions for softwarized networks exploring machine learning and programmability.  She received Outstanding Technical Contributor and Outstanding Leadership awards from the Open Networking Foundation in 2015 and 2016, respectively, having been elected and serving as the Vice-Chair of the ONF Security Working Group from 2015 to 2017. Amongst many other service memberships, she is an Associate Editor of IEEE Transactions on Network and Service Management. She is Director of the QUB Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Education (ACE-CSE), one of the first universities to be awarded this recognition by the U.K. National Cyber Security Centre. Sandra is a passionate advocate for interdisciplinary research and education.


Dr Kevin Esvelt

Dr Kevin Esvelt, Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab

Dr Kevin Esvelt, Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab: Kevin Esvelt is director of the Sculpting Evolution group, which invents new ways to study and influence the evolution of ecosystems. By carefully developing and testing these methods with openness and humility, the group seeks to address difficult ecological problems for the benefit of humanity and the natural world.

Prior to joining the MIT Media Lab, Esvelt wove many different areas of science into novel approaches to ecological engineering. He invented phage-assisted continuous evolution (PACE), a synthetic microbial ecosystem for rapidly evolving biomolecules, in the laboratory of David R. Liu at Harvard University. At the Wyss Institute, he worked with George Church to develop the CRISPR system for genome engineering and regulation, and he began exploring the use of bacteriophages and conjugation to engineer microbial ecosystems.

Esvelt is credited as the first to describe how CRISPR gene drives could be used to alter the traits of wild populations in an evolutionarily stable manner. And recently, he and his Sculpting Evolution group devised a new form of technology, called ‘daisy drives’, which would let communities aiming to prevent disease alter wild organisms in local ecosystems.

By emphasizing universal safeguards and early transparency, he has worked to ensure that community discussions always precede and guide the development of technologies that will impact the shared environment.


Partners

Martine and Didier Primat Foundation
Didier & Martine Primat Foundation

 


Publications

  • Damian Eke, Amy Bernard, Jan G. Bjaalie, Ricardo Chavarriaga, Takashi Hanakawa, Anthony Hannan, Sean Hill, et al. 2021. “International Data Governance for Neuroscience.” PsyArXiv. June 1. doi:10.31234/osf.io/esz9b.​​​​​​​


To learn more about the GCSP’s Global Fellowship Initiative click here

To learn more about the Global and Emerging Risks cluster click here