Meet the brain Macron tasked with turning France into an AI leader

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In his office in Paris's National Assembly, Cédric Villani opens a parcel: it contains a metallic spider. "Lovely," he says, putting it on a shelf, where a collection of spider-shaped objects sits next to his scientific decorations and a photo of him with Mark Zuckerberg. Villani is on a mission. Well, on several missions: the French mathematician, winner of the 2010 Fields Medal – often described as maths' Nobel Prize – sits as an MP for Emmanuel Macron's party La République en Marche, teaches at the University of Lyon, and is running for the Paris 2020 mayoralty. But the expert in mathematical analysis, famous for his academic achievements as well as for wearing spider-shaped pins on his three-piece suits, has a bigger goal: making France a leader in artificial intelligence.