The Copenhagen Letter … manifesto calls for technology to put humans ahead of business

September 21, 2017

Over 150 people, from entrepreneurs to designers to philosophers, have signed The Copenhagen Letter this week calling for better practices in technology and design.

The letter, which was published by Copenhagen’s Techfestival, calls for a “new Renaissance” in the future design of technology to put the human, and not just the “user”, ahead of business.

The manifesto, which is now published in full online, has been signed by authors from Europe and the US, including The Pirate Bay and Flattr founder Peter Sunde and Kickstarter founder Charles Adler, among other analysts, experts, and founders in technology, artificial intelligence, and design.

“The bottom line is that we feel tech is dissociating from social progress and it’s more and more in its own bubble,” said Aydogan Ali Schosswald, co-organizer of Techfestival.

“It’s a good time for Europeans to wake up and say ‘hey this is our idea of tech’ and it’s a little bit more aligned with what we want to get out of tech on a human level, it’s not all about business, it’s not all about growth.”

He added that he hopes the letter will be a conversation starter among tech communities.

“It’s not very difficult to see the options people have, they can sign it, they can respond to it. They can ignore it of course but we want to make it difficult for people to ignore it,” he said.

“The idea here is to really start a conversation and put critical thinking back on the agenda. Why are we doing this? What for?”

The Copenhagen Letter

To everyone
who shapes technology today

We live in a world where technology is consuming society, ethics, and our core existence.

It is time to take responsibility for the world we are creating. Time to put humans before business. Time to replace the empty rhetoric of “building a better world” with a commitment to real action. It is time to organize, and to hold each other accountable.

Tech is not above us. It should be governed by all of us, by our democratic institutions. It should play by the rules of our societies. It should serve our needs, both individual and collective, as much as our wants.

Progress is more than innovation. We are builders at heart. Let us create a new Renaissance. We will open and nourish honest public conversation about the power of technology. We are ready to serve our societies. We will apply the means at our disposal to move our societies and their institutions forward.

Let us build from trust. Let us build for true transparency. We need digital citizens, not mere consumers. We all depend on transparency to understand how technology shapes us, which data we share, and who has access to it. Treating each other as commodities from which to extract maximum economic value is bad, not only for society as a complex, interconnected whole but for each and every one of us.

Design open to scrutiny. We must encourage a continuous, public, and critical reflection on our definition of success as it defines how we build and design for others. We must seek to design with those for whom we are designing. We will not tolerate design for addiction, deception, or control. We must design tools that we would love our loved ones to use. We must question our intent and listen to our hearts.

Let us move from human-centered design to humanity-centered design.
We are a community that exerts great influence. We must protect and nurture the potential to do good with it. We must do this with attention to inequality, with humility, and with love. In the end, our reward will be to know that we have done everything in our power to leave our garden patch a little greener than we found it.

We who have signed this letter will hold ourselves and each other accountable for putting these ideas into practice. That is our commitment.

Signed by

You are invited to sign or answer The Copenhagen Letter, and to share its content.

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