As part of the Techfestival last week, the Copenhagen 150, which this time included me, came together to write a pledge for individual technologists and makers to commit their professional lives to. A bit like a Hippocratic oath, but for creators of all tech. Following up on the Copenhagen Letter, which was a signal, a letter of intent, and the Copenhagen Catalog which provide ‘white patterns’ for tech makers, this years Tech Pledge makes it even more personal.
- to take responsibility for what I create.
- to only help create things I would want my loved ones to use.
- to pause to consider all consequences of my work, intended as well as unintended.
- to invite and act on criticism, even when it is painful.
- to ask for help when I am uncertain if my work serves my community.
- to always put humans before business, and to stand up against pressure to do otherwise, even at my own risk.
- to never tolerate design for addiction, deception or control.
- to help others understand and discuss the power and challenges of technology.
- to participate in the democratic process of regulating technology, even though it is difficult.
- to fight for democracy and human rights, and to improve the institutions that protect them.
- to work towards a more equal, inclusive and sustainable future for us all, following the United Nations global goals.
- to always take care of what I start, and to fix what we break.
I signed the pledge. I hope you will do to. If you have questions about what this means in practical ways, I’m happy to help you translate it to your practice. A first step likely is figuring out which questions to ask of yourself at the start of something new. In the coming days I plan to blog more from my notes on Techfestival and those postings will say more about various aspects of this. You are also still welcome to sign the Copenhagen Letter, as well as individual elements of the Copenhagen Catalog.
“to invite and act on criticism, even when it is painful.”
The line I quote probably serves a different purpose, but it triggers a thought.
I miss something in this pledge. One of the biggest set-backs for the use of online communication technology is the never ending stream of verbal abuse, especially for the ‘less popular’ ones in our societies (more specific: women and people with darker skin than nordic white). For a lot of people communication technology is no longer safe to use in our public space.
I guess I miss something more explicit in this Tech Pledge that guards online safety for all.
I’m wondering, is this Tech Pledge geared towards all technology designers? E.g. the ones creating fridges? Or is it only intended for engineers who build software?
While the pledge applies to all people making technology, so including the fridge makers, the discussions revolved more around the current frontiers, of digital tech (although that currently includes fridges), biotech, ai, nano, etc. It certainly doesn’t mean just online or digital.
Communication technology as a safe public space is definitely in scope of intended outcomes. The pledge is however less about what tech should be, and fully about what an individual tech creator should (be ready to) do. A key element is take moral responsibility for how your technology is not only created but also used, and if it takes a detrimental turn attempt to either fix it, or denounce it as something you don’t want people to use anymore. E.g. Twitter founders Stone, Glass, Williams and Dorsey have an ongoing responsibility for the visible toxic behaviour on Twitter, despite some no longer being involved, just as much as any current Twitter coder has. The pledge says to do take that responsibility as an individual. Instead we get mealy-mouthed and late responses from Twitter as a company, if any.
I think that most if not all items in the pledge point the way to making our communication technology enabled public spheres a save space for all, for each individual in building and providing them.