It’s fair to say that the UK Prime Minister is not having a good week, after being humiliated by the Supreme Court which ordered the return of the Parliament he had tried to dissolve, his much anticipated trip to the USA had to be cut short, but not before giving a speech to the UN General Assembly this week on the subject of science and technology.
It was classic Johnson, packed full of verbiage and sprinkled with jokey nods and references to Classical civilisation, but short on detail and research, and peppered with his own peculiar interpretations of complex themes.
Whilst the UK government has identified synthetic biology as a key are of growth. Enacting a SynBio Leadership Council, backing multidisciplinary research centres and investing in platforms to accelerate technology into the market among others initiatives. The UK has fast built a fantastic global reputation for the development of synthetic biology, second only to the USA in terms of the number of start-ups and scale of investment.
For Prime Minister Johnson however, his opinion on synthetic biology comes down to a binary, bizarre interpretation, which he thought appropriate to share with the assembled leaders of the world:
“What will synthetic biology stand for – restoring our livers and our eyes with miracle regeneration of the tissues, like some fantastic hangover cure? Or will it bring terrifying limbless chickens to our tables?”
This unhelpful and inaccurate view will not help an area of huge growth and potential for the UK economy, one that will be likely be particularly important to the nation, when / if the country leaves the European Union.
Synthetic biology is not the only technological development to suffer in Johnson’s speech.
On voice connectivity, he stated “your mattress will monitor your nightmares; your fridge will beep for more cheese.”
Whilst on AI, the influence of Arnold Schwarzenegger looms large: “AI – what will it mean? Helpful robots washing and caring for an ageing population? Or pink-eyed terminators sent back from the future to cull the human race?”
For nanotechnology, it will either “help us to beat disease or will it leave tiny robots to replicate in the crevice of our souls.”
Read the full speech here, or watch an extract below, alternately Black Mirror is available on Netflix if you wish to see a similar dystopian view of what science and technology can deliver.
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