The Sagan Oath is an attempt to fill a disturbing void in the tech sector where technologists do not have a method to verbalize what is their purpose from the perspective of being active contributors of Digital Spaces and platforms that protect their users.
In the same spirit of the modern Hippocratic Oath (in which it is directly inspired at the time of its conception), the Sagan Oath attempts to express verbally the responsibilities that technology engineers should embrace.
The existence of the Hippocratic Oath allows doctors to understand what is it that they are protecting in a way that is relatable: Life - for which the concept of borders are unknown. As a result, doctors can pledge their knowledge to protect their patients, anywhere in the world they may be needed.
In the absence of such a covenant, technologists have struggled to generate the same global movement. The consequences have been painfully observed: technology is not currently designed with the objective to protect its users at its core.
The IO Foundation aims at complementing the DCDR Framework with an Oath that can help technologists to understand their fundamental role as Next Generation of Rights Defenders.
I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
I will respect my fellow citizens, for their problems and data, which is them in essence, are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a digital twin, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to erase a digital twin; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own technical prowess. Above all, I must not play at Digital God.
I will remember that I do not treat a dataset, a schema, but a citizen and their authentic digital twins, whose improper manipulation may affect the citizen’s family’s safety and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for people’s data.
I will strive to design architectures and to implement technology that embeds all existing protections whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those with access to technology and those who don’t.
If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of building digital spaces that encourage societal growth while ensuring safety by design.
[Work in progress]
Licensing and distribution
As all materials created by The IO Foundation, the Sagan Oath is published under TIOF Public Licensing Model.
The Sagan Oath, as any other component of the DCDR advocacy, is subjected to improvements.
Finding a suitable name for an Oath is no obvious task and no matter the final decision it will inevitably be subject to differences of opinion.
In the spirit of naming this Oath upon a inspiring, recognizable name, the following options were considered:
A scientist, in appreciation to his or her contributions in the domain of technology
A technological turning point in the shape of an invention or an event
Many names were considered such as Asimov, Babbage, ENIAC, Feynman, Tesla, von Newmann, Turing, Cray, Shannon or Postel. All of them contributed to the history of the technology we enjoy nowadays.
The final decision, albeit seemingly simplistic, was based solely in the recognition of what Carl Sagan represented in the dissemination of science to the general public. He was an expert that explained the necessary to citizens so that they could be informed and responsible users.
We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.