UK Prime Minister's Speech on Humane Technology

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York yesterday unleashing his many rousing insights on humane technology. The address is remarkably outstanding, setting a new higher standard for the humane tech community. The UK Prime Minister also invited world leaders to a conference on emerging technologies to be held sometime in 2020 in London, with the aim of agreeing on “a set of global principles to shape the norms and standards that will guide the development of emerging technology”. An excerpt is below.

"When I think of the great scientific revolutions of the past - print, the steam engine, aviation, the atomic age - I think of new tools that we acquired but over which we - the human race - had the advantage,

Which we controlled.

That is not necessarily the case in the digital age.

You may keep secrets from your friends, from your parents, your children, your doctor – even your personal trainer – but it takes real effort to conceal your thoughts from Google.

And if that is true today, in future there may be nowhere to hide.

Smart cities will pullulate with sensors, all joined together by the “internet of things”, bollards communing invisibly with lamp posts

So there is always a parking space for your electric car,

so that no bin goes unemptied, no street unswept,

and the urban environment is as antiseptic as a Zurich pharmacy.

But this technology could also be used to keep every citizen under round-the-clock surveillance.

A future Alexa will pretend to take orders.

But this Alexa will be watching you,

Clucking her tongue and stamping her foot

In the future, voice connectivity will be in every room and almost every object:

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; your smart meter will go hustling - if its accord - for the cheapest electricity.

And every one of them minutely transcribing your every habit in tiny electronic shorthand,

Stored not in their chips or their innards - nowhere you can find it,

But in some great cloud of data that lours ever more oppressively over the human race

A giant dark thundercloud

waiting to burst

And we have no control over how or when the precipitation will take place

And every day that we tap on our phones or work on our ipads - as I see some of you doing now -

We not only leave our indelible spoor in the ether

But we are ourselves becoming a resource

Click by click, tap by tap.

Just as the carboniferous period created the indescribable wealth - leaf by decaying leaf - of hydrocarbons.

Data is the crude oil of the modern economy

And we are now in an environment where

We don’t know who should own these new oil fields

We don’t always know who should have the rights or the title to these gushers of cash

And we don’t know who decides how to use that data

Can these algorithms be trusted with our lives and hopes?

Should the machines - and only the machines - decide whether or not we are eligible for a mortgage or insurance

Or what surgery or medicines we should receive?

Are we doomed to a cold and heartless future in which computer says yes - or computer says no

With the grim finality of an emperor in the arena?

How do you plead with an algorithm? How do you get it to see the extenuating circumstances

And how do we know that the machines have not been insidiously programmed to fool us or even to cheat us?

We already use all kinds of messaging services that offer instant communication at minimal cost.

The same programmes, platforms, could also be designed for real-time censorship of every conversation, with offending words automatically deleted, indeed in some countries this happens today.

Digital authoritarianism is not, alas, the stuff of dystopian fantasy but of an emerging reality."


Boris Jonhson Brexit plan is in chaos. There are who think he might soon be the shortest serving UK prime minister. His proposal for a conference on technology doesn’t make sense in today’s context. Tech countries like the US and
China trade war is getting worse. In the realm of 5G the next generation of high speed mobile technology providing faster data speed and more bandwith countries are now divided of what standards they have to adopt. Some are getting the chinese standard like russia and others. The US and its allies are adopting the 5G nokia and erricsson provided. There is a sense that the internet will be fragmented and divided. The internet will be regulated and controlled by different countries. This is happening now and much worsen by the trade war between the US and China. I think this speech was more of diversion from political discord regarding brexit. I don"t think he was dead serious about it.

I am not a fan of politics. I do find this speech by Boris Johnson interesting though (and genuinely funny at times) as it hits the right notes in many places regarding the ‘progress’ of technology. It is just a speech though and one given by a politician at that, so it is difficult for me to take it as being heartfelt.
Like all historical movements that have eventually resulted in deep and permanent change for the betterment of all, the starting point is always from the ground up and not the top down.
Bring on CHT!

The Center for Humane Technology is actually top-down! It’s founders are of privilege, pretty rich US techies such as Tristan Harris, plus even richer tech capitalists. They don’t talk to us, they speak to the even more powerful, global political leaders and top tech leaders. That’s why CHT members never post here.

Change definately does very often happen from the top down. Ordinary people are delusional to think that they can do very much without any power. You know what I mean. For example, what important executive desicions have you whoever is reading this made today?

The annoncement of a humane tech conference in London 2020, with the world’s big powers there, it doesn’t get any bigger or better. The UK is one of the few countries that can pull this off. The EU (including UK) has been a big loser in tech and also economically, so they have little to lose and much to gain. They need our support, we need to mobalise en force around this event, we can’t make the decisions but we can support those that do.

Boris is described in the Uk as a ‘marmite’ figure. Some people love him and some of course hate him. A bit like Donald Trump and of course they are great friends too. In this speech and thank you for sharing, as I had not seen of heard about it, he uses green mythology and storytelling to get his points across. He is indeed a master at stories, he definitely has shared quite a few stories in his time in politics. Here’s a tweet you may wish to consider. Thanks again! Best, M ツ

This is about one of the most influential countries in the world saying they want to fix the ethics of emerging technologies, and bring the rest of the world with them.

This topic is not about politics, it’s about the world trying to solve the problems of humane technology. It doesn’t matter who is giving the speech. Prime Minister is just a government job, this blonde guy gets paid to work for the government and to deliver speeches and policies, in this case he is talking about humane tech.

Political discussion is forbidden in this forum. I would be thankful if people would please stay on the topic of humane technology.


Thank you for sharing this. I actually think it’s an excellent speech - and shockingly (given than i’m in the UK tech scene), I never saw any commentary about it from within the UK tech community (other than headlines about it’s ‘bizarre references’ - which I found quite humorous - and the fact it was shirking the Brexit issues). Totally agree that this shouldn’t be politicised (or written off as such, but taken on its value as a list of issues that should be discussed at these highest international levels.