Mr. Johnson, in his inaugural address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, outlined the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology. But while his speech offered moments of hope, he also managed to paint a frightening picture of a dystopian future, rattling off a list of potential technological horrors.
“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.”
Mr. Johnson went on to describe a world where “your mattress will monitor your nightmares; your fridge will beep for more cheese.”
He then reflected on the potential for both positive developments and overreach as artificial intelligence becomes ubiquitous.
“A.I. — what will it mean? Helpful robots washing and caring for an aging population?” he asked. “Or pink-eyed terminators sent back from the future to cull the human race?”
His speech was filled with images of a harrowing future, with synthetic biology that delivers “terrifying limbless chickens to our tables” and nanotechnology that could “leave tiny robots to replicate in the crevices of our cells.”
The world must, he said, “ensure that emerging technologies are designed from the outset for freedom, openness and pluralism, with the right safeguards in place to protect our peoples.”
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