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Boris Johnson UN speech
Via YouTube

Boris Johnson predicts a dystopian AI future in surreal UN speech

The prime minister rambled about mattresses that monitor your nightmares and limbless chicken dinners in his inaugural talk at the General Assembly

In the first two months of his ruling, Boris Johnson has lost control of parliament, been denied a general election, and been unlawful, so it’s no wonder his speeches are becoming increasingly incoherent. Yesterday, the prime minister lost his head at the UN – maybe slowthai still has it? – rambling about the future of artificial intelligence and technology, and comparing himself to a Greek god (LMAO).

After taking to the podium in New York, a lost-looking Johnson addressed his “faithful, late night audience”, before diving into a speech that visibly melted the brains of everyone there. “Digital authoritarianism is not, alas, the stuff of dystopian fantasy but of an emerging reality,” the prime minister declared.

This isn’t the first time a world leader has used valuable air time to discuss the supposed dangers of technology; in July, Trump held a weird social media conference where he complained about his dwindling follower count, and invited right-wing provocateurs but absolutely no one from actual social media platforms. The following month, after tragic mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, the US president blamed social media for inciting violence, forgetting that his own Twitter account is largely responsible for real-world abuse.

Until now, Johnson hasn’t been as vocal as Trump about the evils of technology, so I guess it was high time he joined in with his own blabbering complaints. Side note: yes, there are moral and ethical dangers when it comes to the advancements of technology, but neither of these men talk about them remotely intelligently. So, without attempting to explain WTF is going on, I will now unpack key quotes from Johnson’s bewildering speech. Here! We! Go!

‘IT TAKES REAL EFFORT TO CONCEAL YOUR THOUGHTS FROM GOOGLE’

Google can already read our minds, so this a reductive sentence in Johnson’s dystopian future forecasting. The best bit of the quote actually comes from the full soundbite: “You may keep secrets from your friends, from your partners, your children, your doctor – even your personal trainer – but it takes real effort to conceal your thoughts from Google.” Johnson is obviously very good at keeping secrets, managing to father mysterious love children from numerous affairs and avoid publicly discussing the recent domestic row with his girlfriend, so it makes sense that he’d fear mind-reading technology. Mentioning a personal trainer here seems like a bit of a reach though – Johnson in lycra doing squats in his living room? No.

‘WILL SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY BRING TERRIFYING LIMBLESS CHICKENS TO OUR TABLE?’

Why is Boris Johnson obsessed! With! Chickens! When he’s not calling Jeremy Corbyn a ‘chlorinated chicken’ or spending £375 to make him look rugged and handsome in a chicken suit, the prime minister is apparently musing what kind of chicken dinner he’ll be served in the future. “What will synthetic biology stand for,” he questioned, “restoring our livers and our eyes with miracle regeneration of the issues, like some fantastic hangover cure? Or will it bring terrifying limbless chickens to our tables?” First of all I’m surprised Johnson even knows what a hangover is given he previously told GQ that coke and weed have “no pharmacological, psychotropic or any other effect on me whatsoever” (legend). Secondly, I really don’t see why synthetic biology would give us limbless chickens given it’s defined as the “re-design of existing natural biological systems for useful purposes”. A limbless chicken would have absolutely no benefit in the wild – what Johnson has done here is simply describe a chicken nugget.

‘YOUR FRIDGE WILL BEEP FOR MORE CHEESE’

This is my favourite quote ever uttered aloud by another human being. After running this by my colleagues in the Dazed office, I’ve learned that Johnson is referring to fridges that will one day be able to autonomously reorder food when stock is low. Obviously when coming out of the prime minister’s mouth, it’s utter nonsense. The full quote is: “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.”

Can we just take a minute here to question why Johnson is inventing weird, pointless technologies in his brain instead of recalling parliament and, you know, resigning. Who gives AF if my mattress will soon be a giant dream journal, quit your job!

‘ALEXA WILL BE WATCHING YOU’

“A future Alexa will pretend to take orders,” Johnson warned the UN. “But this Alexa will be watching you, clucking her tongue and stamping her foot.” Nice use of verbs! This is actually one of Johnson’s more creative future visions – he’s advanced Amazon’s virtual assistant from lowly machine, to a living, breathing, human-shaped boss bitch. The greatest thing about this invention is the fact that Alexa not only sasses you, but actually hoodwinks you by pretending to take your order without any intention of seeing it through. A queen TBH.

‘WILL AI SEND PINK-EYED TERMINATORS BACK FROM THE FUTURE TO CULL THE HUMAN RACE?’

Wow I hope so! Robots with pink eye! “AI – what will it mean?” The prime minister begged, tears streaming from his eyes. “Helpful robots washing and carrying for an ageing population? Or pink-eyed terminators sent back from the future to cull the human race?” We’re already culling the human race by burning fossil fuels, allowing illegal deforestation, and ignoring warnings about the climate crisis, so pink-eyed terminators aren’t really something to be afraid of. Maybe if conjunctivitis-riddled robots take out right-wing climate deniers, the planet will have a chance of surviving. 

SOMETHING ABOUT BREXIT?

Here, Johnson compares himself to a Greek god of fire and then links the analogy back to Brexit. He said: “When Prometheus brought fire to mankind. In a tube of fennel, as you may remember, that Zeus punished him by chaining him to a Tartarean crag while his liver was pecked out by an eagle. And every time his liver regrew the eagle came back and pecked it again. And this went on forever – a bit like the experience of Brexit in the UK, if some parliamentarians had their way.”

Who would remember this? (OK, fine, apparently this is quite a famous reference, but it’s still a niche thing to discuss at the UN). What’s a Tartarean crag? This part of the speech is the weirdest because he’s suggesting that he’s a victim of Brexit who’s being bullied by other MPs. Although this is worlds away from the truth, I guess it makes sense that he believes it given the decisions he’s made so far as prime minister. I mean, I do like the idea of the opposition pecking out his liver – maybe he isn’t describing a dystopian future after all.