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Transhumanism and law
Kamil Muzyka   Oct 16, 2014   Ethical Technology  

Law generally falls into two incongruent categories: the natural law and the positive law. While the natural law encompasses universally accepted moral principles and social sense of justice, reflecting the zeitgeist or the spirit of time, the positive law ignores these premises, focusing instead on human-mad laws, such as statutory and common law.

In its current state of legal advocacy, transhumanism does not exactly fit into either of these categories, representing an amalgamation of the two. Some transhumanist lawyers support same-sex marriage and morphological freedom, viewing it as the zeitgeist, as opposed to the morality-based fossil socio-legal structure.

Others, seeing death, aging and anthropocentrism as archaic and obsolete, advocate for granting legal rights to individuals in suspended animation and personhood rights to non-humans, such as sufficiently advanced AIs, cetaceans, great apes, elephants, etc.

Transhumanists certainly need skillful lobbyists and litigators in their ranks to effectively advance their cause, but what do they really want? Do they want absolute and unsanctioned by the federal government or international authorities freedom of scientific pursuit, such as chimerical engineering of humans, neural emulation, cyberware, senescence suppressants, cognitive enhancements or morphological modifications, with no legislation prohibiting or inhibiting privately funded research? Or do they want governmental funding for anti-senescence treatment, suspended animation, cyberware implants, and enhancements? 

Do they contemplate the need for enforcing medical treatments, such as vaccination, and establishing a “morpho-law” where proper authorities would supervise and monitor human and non-human modifications and protect the “modified” from the “unstable” and “harmful” mods, or do they intend to follow the “my body, my right, my choice” initiative with all the pros and cons such freedom entails?

So what will the legal system look like in the future? Will the Computer Assisted Everything age dispense with the need for a real life attorney? As the computer technology introduces new means of controlling our environment, it seems likely that future legal services would be provided by our AI assistants, whose skills would certainly exceed the capabilities of any traditional law office. Equipped with the Internet of Things technology proficient at gathering, processing, and analyzing legally significant data from our environment - though relays, sensors, displays, etc. - our AI assistants would instantaneously provide us with sound legal advice in any area of law.

Through continuous environmental monitoring and data processing, such a technology would protect us from falling victim to an accident or a crime or from inadvertently making costly mistakes, such as engaging in criminal conduct or forfeiting our contractual rights. And in case of a mishap, evidence based on data feeds would be sent to the “Authority Grid” where the representing us AI counsel would “flash plead” before the Artificial Judicial Intelligence court presiding in a virtual courthouse, which would then empanel a jury by randomly selecting AI assistants from other users.

This kind of solution would actually simplify the currently automated cargo ship procedures, which would come in handy in the future. Instead of protracted litigation, the Internet of Things technology would perform a data-based assessment, similar to the one performed after a collision of freight ships or mining haulers. The counseling AIs would provide the Judicial AI with a “fact sheet” based either on sensory data, or, if the ship was crewed, on crew’s statements verified against the recorded onboard sensory input.

Although in a semi-postscarcity (dispersedly) feedback-planned economy driven by off-world resource extraction accidents may still occur despite full automation of mining haulers, tug ships, freighters, “moles,” and probes, it would be up to the Judicial AI to render a judgment.

This is already happening in patent law where more and more prior art search firms provide an AI-based searches, and where software developers are experimenting with a computer-automated inventing method.

Would then AI counsels be able to persuade the Judicial AI to rule in their favor by providing legal arguments based on the comparison between the facts provided by sensory input and the relevant case law?

Once the stock exchange becomes automated with flash-trade bots, essentially everyone could take their own virtual lawyer with them everywhere they go, never face a real life judge, and skip the useless paperwork because the AIs would take care of everything.

Finally, there is one last issue we tend to forget. As the society changes in response to cultural currents and advances in science and technology, so does the law. And The law doesn’t revolve only around trade, commerce, rights to safe medical procedures. Criminal law does not remain static, and its concepts of criminal conduct, criminal offenses, and punishment evolve gradually and detectably to reflect those changes. Today the death penalty becomes increasingly recognized as an unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment, and more and more countries are moving away from the traditional imprisonment model toward rehabilitation and resocialization of criminal offenders.

One may wonder whether the justice system could eventually forgo fines (because the notion of currency would become obsolete) and imprisonment (because of extended life span) and focus instead on neuro resocialization which would safely and permanently prevent criminals from committing the same or similar offense in the future.

Because neuro rescocialization could endanger the criminal offender’s personal, morphological, and cognitive liberty, there would be exceptions to its application, mirroring the same precedent as the current attempt to criminalize and persecute vaccination refusal.

But if one’s choice of conduct poses a lethal threat to other members of the society, would the authority, “manned” or “unmanned”, have the right to perform an involuntary treatment? Will the merged, augmented transhumans and AIs ever feel the need to respect one’s liberty when faced with reliable data estimates showing that one’s planned activity could have harmful or damaging effects, or will they automatically disregard one’s freedom to act?

We can also envision an anarcho-individualistic scenario where the AIs would assume the role of personal advisors, and where trans and post humans would not need any laws or robots rendering legal judgments on their actions.

Or perhaps the future legal system would fall in between, with some branches of posthumans merging into hives, while others are free to live their long lives and engage in pursuit of happiness according to their own rules. In either case, neither the nomadic posthumans nor the collectives of merged beings would require physical law offices or courthouses to function properly.

Will there ever arise any kind of tension that could lead to violence between these distinct groups of posthumans? While the post-scarcity economy should eventually eliminate the need to seize new territories or resources, which is the primary cause of armed conflicts, it is likely that post-humans would inherit their progenitors’ innate propensity for violence. The abundance of breathable air never kept humans away from using violence against one another.

In sum, it is up to transhumanists to choose which path on the legislative fork they want to pursue. Will it be the natural law or the positive law, the individualist or the collectivist stance? One way or another, transhumanists will change the law, modify the old rules, and create a techno-progressive society. But to accomplish it successfully, they need proper tools and forward-thinking individuals.


Kamil Muzyka
Kamil Muzyka is a lawyer specializing in industrial property law and technology management, with a focus on issues of artificial intelligence, asteroid mining and international space law.

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