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."