ALL NEWS

Johnson: ‘Terrifying limbless chickens’ but little Brexit

Sep 25, 2019, 6:13 AM

twitter deception...

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019, at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Things the beleaguered British prime minister said in his astonishing speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday night: “Pink-eyed Terminators from the future.” ”Terrifying limbless chickens.” ”Your fridge will beep for more cheese.”

Things Boris Johnson didn’t address with any substance: Brexit (though he mentioned it in a quip). The British court ruling earlier in the day that said he acted illegally by dissolving Parliament. The take-no-prisoners politics that some say are threatening his premiership and undermining his influence as Britain’s leader.

Many didn’t know what to expect Tuesday after the court ruling came down hours before Johnson’s inaugural U.N. General Assembly speech as prime minister.

But it’s safe to say few anticipated what he dramatically and energetically delivered: a caffeinated screed about the damage that technology can do if misused — and the glories it can hand humanity if it is delivered properly.

In his notably energetic speech, which ended after 10 p.m. as more than 12 hours of U.N. speeches were inching to their end, Johnson said he was optimistic about technology’s future — if humanity finds “the right balance between freedom and control.”

The first potential future that Johnson mapped out was decidedly dystopian — one where technology permeates every corner of human life, and not in a good way. Digital assistants pretending to take orders — but actually watching you and acting against your interests. Computers that decide what you’ll get, where you’ll be allowed to go, who you’ll be.

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

That is not, he said, a good thing at all.

“Can these algorithms be trusted with our lives and hopes?” he asked, his delivery staccato and his hands jabbing with emphasis. “Are we doomed to a cold and hard future where a computer says ‘yes’ or ‘no’?”

But if things are done right, the prime minister said, a different story could unfold for all of us.

“How do you plead with an algorithm? How do you get it to see extenuating circumstances?” he said. “We need to find the right balance between freedom and control.”

The spirited, tech-focused address was extraordinary given that immediately after it, he was to head back early to his home country to face a maelstrom of political problems — including the consequences of the court ruling and hearty calls for him to resign as prime minister.

In the speech, Johnson mentioned Brexit only once — as a pointed aside while recalling the myth of Prometheus, who was chained to a rock by Zeus and sentenced to have his liver eaten out by an eagle for eternity. “And this went on forever,” he quipped, “a bit like the experience of Brexit in the U.K, if some of our parliamentarians had their way.”

But he said that with the right approach — one of “freedom, openness and pluralism” — and making sure that such voices are hear loudly “in the standards bodies that write the rules,” humanity can deliver itself to a brighter technological future.

“Together, we must ensure that new advances reflect our values by design,” he said, adding: “I am profoundly optimistic about the ability of new technology to serve as a liberator and remake the world wondrously and benignly. Indeed, in countless respects, technology is already doing just that.”

Then, his speech over, he headed to the airport. Within the hour, he was flying home.

___

Ted Anthony, director of digital innovation for The Associated Press, has written about global affairs since 1995. Follow him on Twitter at @anthonyted.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

All News

Wednesday afternoon, a bill banning transgender-related surgery passed its first hurdle on capitol ...

Adam Small

What bills still need action on the final day of the 2024 Legislative Session

SALT LAKE CITY— Friday is the final day of Utah’s 2024 General Legislative Session. State lawmakers are now working with mere hours on the clock to get any remaining bill passed and on to the governor’s desk. Utah House Minority Leader Angela Romero joins us live at 8:15!   One major bill still needing action […]

1 minute ago

Winter conditions...

Carter Williams, KSL.com

Here’s what to expect as remnants of California blizzard head to Utah

Much of Utah is under a winter weather advisory as remnants of California's blizzard heads to Utah. Wind and cold temperatures on the way.

41 minutes ago

food pantries...

Heather Peterson

Food pantries running low due to spike in demand

According to Feeding America, 316,980 people are facing hunger in Utah, and 93,050 are children.

1 hour ago

Now hiring sign...

PAUL WISEMAN AP Economics Writer

US economy grew solid 3.2% in fourth quarter, a slight downgrade from government’s initial estimate

Far from stumbling, the economy grew 2.5% for all of 2023, topping the 1.9% growth in 2022.

1 hour ago

baby feet, utah postpartum retreat helps new moms...

Britt Johnson

Utah company aims to help postpartum moms with special retreats

The founder of Utah Postpartum Retreat said she thinks new moms are at high risk for developing postpartum mood disorders because they lack support.

2 hours ago

Example of a possible future salvage project on Lake Powell....

Derrick Jones

Lake Powell asks for public’s help locating possible salvage

Park officials want to know where sunken vessels were seen as Lake Powell reached record low levels.

3 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Johnson: ‘Terrifying limbless chickens’ but little Brexit