We live in an era of data breaches, social media addiction, and data abuse. Now more than ever, we need to make tech a force for good and ensure responsible and sustainable tech leadership. For the third year in a row, our co-founders Madeleine and Max, and betahaus member and humanity-driven entrepreneur Evgeni Kuris took part in the festival. Here are some of their stories, impressions, and take-aways.
Every year at the start of September, Copenhagen gathers digital minds and tech experts from all over the world to re-think the direction of tech and set rules for its usage and development. For 3 days, the program includes more than 300 experts coming on stage and more than 200 keynotes with one key focus: how do we develop a more human-centered technology for the future and fix what went wrong in the past?
An important part of Techfestival every year is the CPH 150 think-tank. For 24 hours, 150 specially invited tech leaders get hands-on and come up with a solution to this problem through design thinking methods and sprints. The first year they created The Copenhagen Letter, last year The Copenhagen Catalog with 150 tech principles. And this year, it was The Tech Pledge.
Our co-founders have been attending the festival since the beginning, and have been collaborators on each of these projects. So like we’ve done every year (see our previous blog posts from 2017 and 2018) we wanted to give you a front-row seat at this year’s event. We sat down with Madeleine, Max and Evgeni to learn more about the project and their impressions of the event.
Madeleine: As a business owner, I have to attend many events and every time at the entrance I get a name tag which includes my role and my company. Techfestival creates a space where you leave your work context behind. For a moment, I can forget who I am professionally and I’m seen as the HUMAN Madeleine. And that’s the exact goal of Techfestival - to remind us to put the HUMAN before the BUSINESS.
Max: Unlike most other conferences, Techfestival focuses on a critical reflection on technology and is not just celebrating it. My goal this year was to educate myself about the topic and take time to reflect on my own point of view and how to implement this into my daily life.
Evgeni: How do you restrict tech usage? How do we create good and healthy policies for it? These are questions that I constantly have on my mind. In the way we design systems, there is a big disconnection to the human. So what can we do about it? The politicians and the government, in this case, are not fast enough. So, if we as a tech community don’t do it, there is no way for it to be regulated any time soon. We’ll always be faster than ‘’the system’’.
This year, the Techfestival think-tank gathered 150 people from 40+ countries for 24 hours, to agree on a simple, yet powerful oath for individuals to sign: The Tech Pledge.
The Tech Pledge was made to emphasize the need for a new direction in tech. Similar to the Hippocratic oath for doctors, the Tech Pledge is a promise to make tech a force for good and ensure responsible and sustainable tech leadership. It’s a commitment to driving a new direction in technology.
Madeleine: Last year, everybody had their own project creating the 150 tech principles of The Copenhagen Catalogue. This time they brought back the group feeling and we all worked together, very similar to how we did the first year. However, if The Copenhagen Letter from 2017 was a manifesto, this year the format changed into a commitment.
Evgeni: The challenge this year was to bring The Copenhagen Letter to a new level of concreteness. To make it more acceptable for people outside the tech bubble, to translate it into a more mainstream language and shape it as a joined responsibility. So people participate in it and get engaged.
Madeleine: What is special about these 150 people is that we’re all very lucky to sit in the driver’s seat somewhere and have influenced on the development of tech. Of course, with bigger influence comes greater responsibility. I saw that in this room, we all felt the same pressure. But in a very positive way. In a way of “What can we do to make the situation better for the future?” All together! In a collaborative an active way.
Evgeni: You have the feeling of a community founded on true values. After the event, we look at each other in the eyes and hold ourselves accountable.
Evgeni: My personal highlight of the three days spent at the conference was the Keynote ‘’On Activism Online and Offline’’ by Peter Sunde (co-founder of Pirate Bay). He was talking about activism and it was impressive and so inspiring to see how much courage and passion it takes to fight for what you believe in. I was very impressed that Techfestival. created such an open safe space for talks like this. In the middle of the city, there was an open and transparent conversation on activism and fighting old stigmas.
Max: I really liked the moment after a long session of discussion in the think- tank when our work led to the first tangible results. Every participant wrote down the phrase which was most important for him or her and presented it in front of the group. Seeing all these people and their statements was very inspiring to me.
Evgeni: My favourite statement of the TechPledge is ‘’I will encourage a public dialog.’’ For me, this shows that I’m responsible for explaining further what the pledge is and talking about it in social circles outside the tech community. That’s the only way we can bring awareness to the topic.
Madeleine: At the start of the event, Thomas asked me to share what impact this project had on our betahaus journey. When I thought about it, I was so happy to realize that most of the people on our team somehow just inhaled the whole message and it’s now part of our culture. We have the principles on our walls and everyone naturally takes initiative to spread the message. At the end of the day, betahaus is a physical space where so many people meet on a daily basis. We have a great chance to spread the message through a much bigger platform.
Evgeni: Another inspiring topic that was presented on the stage was on ‘’New Metrics of Startup Success’’ where the founders of Zebras Unite set the zebras as an opposition of the unicorn and explained pretty much the WeWork phenomenon and why it was unsustainable before it even happened. Read more on the topic here.
Max: It’s time to take responsibility for the world we are creating. I encourage everyone to take time to reflect on their own principles and guidelines on technology. The TechPledge, as well as The Copenhagen Letter or The Copenhagen Catalog, can be something to inspire you in this process. After you find out what is important to you, go out and share your perspective and fight against actions which go against it.
Evgeni: We currently live in times where we constantly try to be efficient, but if we stop for a second, we’ll see that there is a difference between being efficient and being effective. There’s also a difference between innovation and progress. This was a great point of discussion at the conference. Is there an alternative but still innovative path with a more human understanding? We always want to be efficient, but what about a slower growth?
Madeleine: The TechPledge and my awareness of the problem puts another filter on everything that I do. We need to get more conscious about our decisions and the pledge is the best way to start.
Evgeni: We should remember that the Pledge is just a starting point. It’s not an end product. We have to act on it! So, how can we look each other in the eyes and hold each other accountable to what we’re creating?
Special thanks to Madeleine, Max, & Evgeni for sitting down with us. We know we are responsible and we care for a more responsible future in tech. Will you take this Pledge your own? Help us ensure a responsible and sustainable future for tech.