Peace Magazine: Newsworthy

Peace Magazine


• published May 18, 2024 • last edit May 26, 2024

Facial recognition technology – the new tool for verifying identity – seems to be advancing faster than most nations have been able to limit its use. The U.S. needs to act more rapidly, according to a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The system uses trained AI models to extract facial features and create a biometric template which can be compared to the features of another image to produce a similarity score.

The accuracy and speed of these systems have advanced rapidly with the development of deep neural network-based machine learning. The report warns that a government’s failure to regulate the use of this technology would cede decision-making about an issue of great public concern entirely to the private sector and the marketplace.

Perhaps surprisingly, China is among the fast-reacting countries. Already in 2024 the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has issued rules stipulating that facial recognition can only be used when there is a specific and necessary purpose, accompanied by stringent protective measures. Indeed, the use of such technology must receive the consent of the individuals involved. If there is an equally effective alternative solution, it should be considered instead of biometic identification.

The Chinese rules prohibit capturing images or using other personal identification devices in private spaces such as hotel rooms, public washrooms, changing rooms and toilets. Such devices can only be installed in public areas strictly for public safety purposes and must be clearly marked with warning signs.

Any organization holding facial data on more than 10,000 individuals must register with a local branch of the CAC. This registration must detail the purpose of data collection.

February 2024 was the warmest February on record globally, marking it as the ninth consecutive month of record-breaking global temperatures. The current El Nino has been exacerbating the heat caused by human-sourced CO2 emissions and is predicted to continue doing so until this summer, according to modeling by international researchers. The situation brings marine heatwaves, wildfires, and other negative impacts, especially in areas like Alaska and the Amazon.

Now there is a potential 90% likelihood of surpassing historical global mean surface air temperature records from July 2023 to June 2024. There is a significant chance of surpassing the 1.5°C warming limit above pre-industrial levels for the first time, and scientists around the world have been vocal about the urgency of the situation. The UK’s Met Office has forecasted this potential milestone in climate history.

Over 1,000 scientists from 25 countries have participated in demonstrations organized by Scientist Rebellion following the release of a new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. This report underscored the necessity of rapid and profound reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 to avert catastrophic climate effects.

In a recent paper, “Global Warming in the Pipeline,” James Hansen and his co-authors highlight the severity of climate change and the necessity of drastic measures to mitigate its effects. They argue for a global price on greenhouse gas emissions, East-West cooperation to accommodate the needs of the developing world, and interventions to address Earth’s radiation imbalance. To avoid more drastic transformations caused by inaction, these proposed geoengineering interventions include stratospheric aerosol injections and the spraying of salty ocean water to whiten clouds.

COVID-19 is still having an impact worldwide, but with variations in severity and prevalence. The World Health Organization’s epidemiological update from 15 March 2024 reported that the global number of new COVID-19 cases decreased by 44% during the period from 5 February to 3 March 2024 compared to the previous 28-day period. The number of new deaths also saw a reduction, decreasing by 51% in the same time.

Overall, there have been over 774 million confirmed cases and more than seven million deaths reported globally. JN.1 has become the most reported variant of interest (VOI), accounting for 90.3% of sequences in week 9 of 2024.

Like all viruses, COVID-19 will continue to mutate over time. Some mutations may lead to new variants that could be more transmissible, evade immunity from previous infections or vaccinations, or be more or less severe. Vaccines must be updated periodically to address new variants, similar to the flu vaccine.

Increasing vaccination rates worldwide will be crucial in controlling the pandemic, especially in low-income countries where vaccine access remains a challenge. Societies may see lasting changes in work, education, and public health practices, including more widespread remote work, digital education, and enhanced hygiene measures.

Published in Peace Magazine Vol.40, No.2 Apr-Jun 2024
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