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UK prime minister warns of Google influence and ‘pink-eyed terminators’

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London to host a summit on the design of emerging technologies

World Leaders Address United Nations General Assembly
UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s UN speech
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In a somewhat bizarre and rambling speech at the United Nations, British prime minister Boris Johnson has warned of the influence of Google, Alexa-powered gadgets, and “pink-eyed terminators sent back from the future to cull the human race.” Johnson warned members of the United Nations that “it takes real effort to conceal your thoughts from Google,” and that in the future technology could be used to keep every citizen under round-the-clock surveillance. Johnson’s speech was meant to warn of the effects of unregulated technology, and call for the UN to work together on a common set of global principles for emerging technologies.

“Your mattress will monitor your nightmares, your fridge will beep for more cheese, your front door will sweep wide the moment you approach, like some silent butler,” said Johnson on Monday, before warning that smart Internet of Things devices store everything “in some great cloud of data that lowers ever more oppressively over the human race.”

Johnson also warned that voice connectivity will be in every room and almost every object, and that “a future Alexa will pretend to take orders, but this Alexa will be watching you, clacking her tongue and stamping her foot.”

Weighing up whether robots, algorithms, and services from tech companies could be used for good or evil, Johnson also opined that robots could be “washing and caring for an aging population, or pink-eyed terminators sent back from the future to cull the human race.” He also bizarrely compared Brexit, the process of exiting the European Union, to Greek mythology.

For all of the warnings about emerging technologies, Johnson’s overarching point is that the design of emerging technologies must find a balance between freedom and control, and innovation and regulation. “The mission of the United Kingdom, and all who share our values, must be to ensure that emerging technologies are designed from the outset for freedom, openness, and pluralism, with the right safeguards in place to protect our peoples.”

Johnson has now invited members of the UN to a summit in London in 2020 to debate ethical and responsible technology. “How we design the emerging technologies behind these breakthroughs and what values inform their design will shape the future of humanity,” says Johnson. You can watch the entire speech, below.