TechPledge

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The TechPledge is a Hippocratic oath like pledge for individual tech professionals. It is aimed at promoting human centered technology and at instilling reflective practices around tech as a key responsibility for tech professionals.

It was written during the 2019 TechFestival by the ‘Copenhagen 150’ a group of people in tech in diverse roles from over 40 countries, in 24 hours.

In the days after launch some criticisms were voiced, which are gathered below. This so it is possible to formulate a response, and perhaps adapt the TechPledge when warranted.

  • The pledge doesn’t have teeth. We need laws and regulation.
  • My specific technology(-concern) isn’t mentioned (e.g. nanotech, AI, Facebook, nuclear energy etc)
  • My specific societal concern isn’t mentioned (e.g. toxic online behaviour, verbal violence, misogyny, bigotry, hate)
  • Issues taken with specific wording (e.g. addiction, control)
  • This will not change any company’s behaviour
  • It’s too long / not concise enough (The Techpledge is 238 words, the English translation of the Hippocratic oath and the modern Geneva version are both over 300 words and the Hipprcatic oath has endured two and a half millennia
  • Will it actually be persuasive to prevent creepy (yet lucrative) behaviour?

(to be structured/added)
On addiction:
Person 1 (original tweeter:) Yes manipulation and influence exists. Yes, design shapes behavior in context. Yes, techs habits, but more like candy than heroin.

On control:
Me: It needs to be taken in the flow of the context of the techpledge.org as a whole. In that context I find it’s clearer what’s meant. For control I’d had suggested manipulation. I agree that maybe too much hinges on current perceptions of dark patterns and less timeless. That said calling out dark patterns is important. Perhaps the pledge should have said that, not willing to cooperate in designing/deploying dark patterns.
Person 2: If you are intentionally using “dark patterns”, you are intentionally using psychology to compel or addict.
Person 3: But mostly it does not make much sense. For instance fighting for democracy may in some cases entail deregulating tech or increasing control.
Me: I think you’re reading ‘control’ differently here. Control and boundaries are needed elements in any complex environment, just as allowing for emergence and experimentation, for sure. Intentionally and opaquely aiming for compulsion is a diff type of control, though.