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Boris Johnson plans London summit to establish global tech guidelines

Boris Johnson has unveiled plans for a London tech summit to address his concerns about the rise of an “Orwellian world, designed for censorship, repression and control”.

Speaking to the United Nations in New York this week, the British prime minister warned of the development of “pink eyed terminators”, “limbless chickens” and a “giant dark thundercloud [of data] waiting to burst”.

But he also talked up the opportunities presented by technology, particularly in the fields of medicine and healthcare.

“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,” Johnson told the UN General Assembly.

“Today, nanotechnology […] is revolutionising medicine by designing robots a fraction of the size of a red blood cell, capable of swimming through our bodies, dispensing medicine and attacking malignant cells like some Star Wars armada.”

In a pitch to make the UK a “global leader in ethical and responsible technology”, Johnson invited heads of state to London in 2020 to agree a set of global principles guiding the industry’s development.

Over the last two years, ministers have repeatedly stated their desire for the UK to play a leading role in the global debate about the ethics of new technology.

But critics have cast doubt on the extent to which Britain can shape the debate on tech ethics when it is leaving the EU and the world’s largest tech companies reside in the US and China.

NS Tech has asked the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for more details about Johnson’s plans for the summit. We will update this piece if we hear back.

“A giant dark thundercloud of data”: read Boris Johnson’s UN speech in full