WTO: The World Can Fry, But Trade Must Rule

THE world is currently smashing temperature records one after the other, with 2016 now looking very likely to be the third year in a row as the hottest year on record since 1850. Already, we have had hardly any winter anywhere in the world including the Arctic, and smashed the March all-time high temperature record by quite a margin. Two climate experts, Jeff Masters and Bob Henson write, “We are now hurtling at a frightening pace toward the globally agreed maximum of 2C warming over pre-industrial levels.”

Will Machines Replace Human Beings? AlphaGo and DeepMind

ARTIFICIAL intelligence (AI) or machine intelligence has always been a little scary. We picture evil robots controlling the world and making human beings obsolete or, even worse, using us as energy sources as in the Matrix. The defeat by Google's DeepMind – a computer programme – of the world champion in Go, an ancient Chinese board game, has reinforced the apocalyptic vision of machines taking over the world in the popular media.

Ravaging Yamuna Flood Plains: Art of Uncaring, Egoism and Cronyism

INDIA and the whole world has just witnessed the most horrible display of utter lack of concern for the environment by the Art of Living (AoL) foundation led by new-age guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar which organised a massive international cultural festival slap bang on the Yamuna floodplains in Delhi to commemorate 35 years of its functioning. The AOL organisers and its supporters at the highest echelons of the central government brazened out the storm of criticism by environmental groups, scientists, judicial bodies, large sections of the media and the general public.

US-WTO Shadow on India’s Solar Power Plans

IN the last week of February, a panel set up by the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body ruled against India on a complaint by the US in early 2013 that India’s Domestic Content Requirement (DCR) for some solar power projects violated WTO prohibitions on measures that result in “less favourable treatment” of international trade partners. The panel was ruling on an appeal by India in response to the original injunction in August 2015 and essentially reiterated the WTO’s previous decision.

Are Software Patents Finally Dead?

LAST month, the Indian Patents Office released the revised Guidelines for Computer Related Invention (CRI Guidelines), which has finally aligned the Patents Office fully with the Indian Patents Act. This is the third time that software patents have been beaten back in India: the first with the Amendments to the Patents Act in 2005, the next, smuggling it in through the Patents Manual issued by the Patents Office, and this time, through the original CRI Guideline issued in August last year. Each time, these attempts have been beaten back.

The Zika Crisis Needs a Global Response

GLOBAL concerns about a new viral pandemic have started making headlines barely weeks after resolution of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. The virus responsible for panic buttons being pressed, with the WHO declaring a ‘public health emergency of international concern’, is the Zika virus. Threats to health at a global scale in the form of epidemics caused by viruses are now too frequent to view these threats as one-off events. There are structural reasons why we need to be prepared for more such challenges to global health.



CRISPR: Good Science or Evil Science?

A THREE-YEAR old technology of gene editing called CRISPR is now the focus of two major disputes. The disputes are: who (or which team) will get the Nobel Prize for this discovery, and the other, the patent rights over the technology coming out of this discovery. One is the holy grail of science; not the discovery itself, but the public accolade that goes with it. The other is of course the billions of dollars that the patent holders will earn from the monopoly of this technology.