Marseille’s Surveillance and the Endless AI Sense Debate


All over the world, video cameras have become an accepted part of city life. Many cities in China now have a dense network of them, and London and New Delhi are not far behind.

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

Concerns have been raised across the country. But the surveillance rollout has met with particular resistance in Marseille, France’s second-largest city. Last year, President Emmanuel Macron announced that 500 additional security cameras would be given to the city council and placed in a part of the city where many immigrants live.

The rambunctious, rebellious Mediterranean city 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. Perhaps unsurprisingly, activists are fighting back against the cameras, highlighting the overreach and underperformance of the surveillance system. But do they succeed? Read the full story.

—Fleur Macdonald

The must reads

I’ve scoured the internet to find the funniest/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology today.

1 One of Google’s engineers thinks its AI is sensitive
It almost certainly isn’t, but that hasn’t stopped a new round of speculation and debate in the research community. †WP
+ The vice president of Google thinks the network is on the way to awareness. †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 are helping get through the world’s supply chain nightmare. (MIT Technology Review)

3 We make the world too bright
And it harms our nature. †The Atlantic Ocean

4 Leading a deep space mission is even more stressful than you think
New problems arise every day. †Slate
A rocket carrying two NASA satellites failed to enter orbit on Sunday. †Room

5 Meta Explores How Sheryl Sandberg Used Company Assets
Especially 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 speed up drug discovery, if they work. †Neo.Life
+ This startup wants to make electronics from individual molecules. (MIT Technology Review)
+ Doctor check-in software has collected user data for marketing. †WP

7 Even when a TV is turned off, some ads continue to play on streaming services
That is a complete waste of money for advertisers. †WSJ

8 It’s Harder Than Ever To Be A Parent In America
But it’s worth remembering that kids themselves are still incredibly resilient. †Vox

9 Facebook groups are being used to connect young Pakistanis
After the country banned more conventional dating apps, including Tinder. †Rest of the world
+ There is a growing backlash against the apps around the world. †the guard

10 Like it or not, we’re all influencers now
And the endless effort to appease the algorithm makes us anxious. †Real life

Quote of the day

“It took me hours to understand what it was, why I was crying. I realized I was in grief. I mourned the destruction of the earth.”