The USA example of resistance against Trump in the form of Tech Solidarity quickly gained a following in the Netherlands with TechSolidarity.nl and here in Berlin with some Tech-Solidarity-Berlin. I’ve had a small role in both of those groups’ creation but I’m currently not an active participant.
Tech Solidarity’s success is of course unique to the local environment and Pinboard’s prior activism in tech. That said there are a lot of similarities that make similar movements over here possible and necessary. The Netherlands and Germany have elections this year and are faced with similar populist disruptions. The technology industries here are also very heavily dependent on expat workers who have specific issues and interests. Maybe the time is ripe for people in technology to organize themselves.
The idea of the Berlin organization is not to duplicate efforts. There are already lots of initiatives in Berlin that address most parts of this agenda. What tech solidarity should do here is 1. posit an encompassing vision of what we want to achieve and that it is possible to achieve that together 2. function as a switching board to match people who want to do things with things that need people.
I’m associated with the Berlin meetup but I haven’t attended any of the American events so we had to piece together what we thought would be an agenda for our local context. I suggested these five points that I personally think are relevant and critical right now.
- Maintain the freedom of movement and other liberal values that make Berlin and Europe an amazing place to live and work.
Europe is an unique place in the world—increasingly so, though not as unique as we might like to think. The high standard of living and freedom enjoyed here attract people from all over the world.
Those positive qualities and the new people they attract are not seen as positive by all Europeans alike. Populist movements want to close borders, go back in time and tear down the institutions of our liberal open societies. These measures will affect foreign workers and immigrants much more than they will local residents.
What can we do to maintain and strengthen our local social democracies, the institutions that make up Europe and how can we scale out these values?
- Make it so that foreigners in Berlin can and do participate in local civil society.
This is not just a problem for foreigners but they suffer from much higher hurdles when it comes to this. Foreigners are often here temporarily, usually do not speak German and do not get to vote. It is harmful to both residents and to society as a whole for people to be disenfranchised.
What can be done right now to circumvent those limitations and what needs to be done in the future to create a more vibrant and inclusive civil society?
- Support diversity initiatives of all kinds in the workplace.
In most tech companies in Berlin diversity is neither valued or practiced. Diversity has proven benefits to everybody involved. Also by not starting to practice this now the industry is putting themselves on the back foot when it comes to the future.
What can we do to increase the awareness and practice of diversity?
- Use our skills and resources to help local immigrants and refugees.
People working in technology have access to an immense amount of economic and social opportunities. People who are new to Berlin or who have already lived here for a while should have access to the same opportunities and be able to contribute their efforts and perspectives.
How can we educate and include people without traditional paths into technology and make the sector as a whole more open and inclusive?
- Formulate actionable positions on professional ethics (data retention, car exhausts etc.).
We need to formulate ethical standards for people working in technology and back them up when they need to abide by them. The potential to do things that are unethical and harmful is increasing just as quickly as technology’s influence but not everything that is possible should be economically determined. Laws are not a sufficient protection since they can be weakened or removed due to changing political circumstances.
What are ethical red lines that we can agree upon and what is practical support we can offer people?