Marseille’s surveillance fightback, and the endless AI sentience debate

Across the world, video cameras have become an accepted feature of urban life. Many cities in China now have dense networks of them, and London and New Delhi aren’t far behind.

Now France is playing catch-up. Since 2015, the year of the Bataclan terrorist attacks, the number of cameras in Paris has increased fourfold. Police have used such cameras to enforce pandemic lockdown measures and monitor protests.

Concerns have been raised throughout the country. But the surveillance rollout has met special resistance in Marseille, France’s second-biggest city. Last year, President Emmanuel Macron announced that 500 more security cameras would be given to the city council and placed in an area of ​​the city that is home to high numbers of immigrants.

The boisterous, rebellious Mediterranean town sits on some of the fault lines that run through modern France. Known for hip bars, artist studios, and startup hubs, it is also notorious for drugs, poverty, and criminal activity. It’s unsurprising, perhaps, that activists are fighting back against the cameras, highlighting the surveillance system’s overreach and underperformance. But are they succeeding? Read the full story.

—Fleur Macdonald

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun / important / scary / fascinating stories about technology.

1 One of Google’s engineers thinks its AI is sentient
It’s almost certainly not — but that hasn’t stopped a new round of speculation and debate in the research community. (WP $)
+ Google’s vice president thinks the network is striding towards consciousness. (Economist $)
+ Machine consciousness is the debate that never goes away. (MIT Technology Review)
+ Text-to-image AI DALL-E struggled to draw a self-portrait. (Motherboard)

2 The rise and rise of digital twins
Experimenting with digital copies of everything from vital organs to planet Earth can help simulate disasters. (BBC)
+ How digital twins help weather the world’s supply chain nightmare. (MIT Technology Review)

3 We’re making the world too bright
And it’s harming our wildlife. (The Atlantic $)

4 Leading a deep space mission is even more stressful than you imagine
New problems crop up every day. (Slate $)
+ A rocket carrying two NASA satellites failed to make it into orbit on Sunday. (Space)

5 Meta is investigating how Sheryl Sandberg used company resources
Mainly in relation to her own personal projects, including the promotion of her second book. (WSJ $)

6 A microchip that tests for more than 200 viruses could be on the horizon
Molecular electronics could accelerate drug discovery — if they work. (Neo.Life)
+ This startup wants to make electronics out of single molecules. (MIT Technology Review)
+ Doctor check-in software has been gathering user data for marketing. (WP $)

7 Even with a TV is turned off, some ads keep playing on streaming services
Which is a complete waste of money for advertisers. (WSJ $)

8 It’s tougher than ever to be a parent in America
But it’s worth remembering that children themselves are still incredibly resilient. (Vox)

9 Facebook groups are being used to couple up young Pakistanis
After the country banned more conventional dating apps, including Tinder. (Rest of World)
+ There’s a growing backlash against the apps around the world. (The Guardian)

10 Like it or not, we’re all influencers now
And the endless effort to appease the algorithm is making us anxious. (Real Life)

Quote of the day

“It took me hours to understand what it was, why I was weeping. I realized I was in grief. I was grieving for the destruction of the Earth. “

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