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Hive Minds: Law, Superorganisms, and Identity
Kamil Muzyka   Mar 5, 2014   Ethical Technology  

Transhumanism is mostly shown, as a next evolutionary step of humans, which as we know, is transitory. From a legal perspective, transhumanism brings many hopes, promises, but also questions and problems. My prior articles concerned mainly the case of mind uploading, whole brain emulation and artificial intelligence’s. This one will concern something more complex.

Brain computer interfaces will allow humans to remotely operate machinery, directly access computer data and the internet exchange “thoughts” (signals that are later translated by software and the recipients brain) in a P2P manner1. Besides the case of illegal file sharing through memory exchange, mental sexual abuse or hijack attempts, which should be prevented through proper hardware and software solution, there is a question of mindbridges.

If two people agree upon a full thought sharing, resembling the popular idea of telepathy, there is a possibility that their “cooperative effectiveness” would immensely increase. That would be seen as a fine solution for artists of different kind, or even scientists working on some major project in an R&D department. On the other hand, would they still be the same people capable of even function properly, given the raw conditions on which their brains would work?
In the case of Homo sapiens merging with an AI, say ones own exoskeleton, personal assistant, or an exocortex operating system would be a more “owner-property” relation, with the leading role of the human.

The case of two or more people merging their minds into one “overmind”, “collective” or “hive mind” would require a software solution, a prime operative for them to function properly, and purposefully. These “Gestalt” like entities, assuming that their personal distinctions have blurred and would be unable to properly function in the society as standalone units, would require an adequate software, that would form its own personality, thus controlling the “mind hive” in a properly efficient manner.

Taking a group of five people, working in a R&D section of a company, interconnected neurally by extensive implants in order to increase their efficiency would be amazing. It is said that two heads are better than one, but in this case it would be similar as with taking different fruits and putting them in a blender. You don’t get superfruit, just a multiflavour pulp, although some substances, when mixed together, give an unexpected effect. But the company / scientists / academics does not need a “collectively conscious” staff, rather an effective team. That is where a software or even a “wetware” would come in handy. Its purpose would be to coordinate the hive in such manner, that the research, data processing and idea exchange would be done faster, if not immediately. This wetware, call it the Queen, would in some way act as the central personality of the members of the hive, which could consists of humans, but also AIs, non-human animals (like cetaceans) or even plants.

Plants themselves can be seen as such hives, as they respond to stimuli individually, but they communicate with each other via fungi2, use complex methods to fight herbivores34, sense those plants who aren’t from the same genus and use root chemicals to kill them5. Plant roots also show the aspects of swarm intelligence6, so no wonder that there is a Plant Rights movement7.

The same thing goes for superorganisms, colony organism and insect swarms, but they’re rather less complex as, than a collective of individuals with brains aided with computers, neural implants and exocortexs would be. This mentioned group that exchange thoughts and concepts immediately between every member, or solves complicated abstract tasks individually, fragmentally or collectively would have “a mind of it’s own”, but then again, an AI operating their communication, and preventing their “consciousness” from dissolving or falling into solipsism, should be working in the background. This would allow a third party to communicate with the hive directly, via a member.

So if we have just established a hive as a department, what would prevent us from creating such a “neuro-grid” through the whole essential group staff?

Some people tend to view corporations in that way8, where all employees, managers, executives are interconnected, and in some cases, there is little personal responsibility, or the responsibility of an individual member is foggy, due to separation of decision making form the actual execution in some corporate structures (as in direct democracy). Having in mind the notion that a corporation tends to be viewed as a collective individual, consisting of thousands of dispersed worker, but being treated as a single natural person,9 it is still limited only to the freedom of speech10, legal capacity, but as far as the US patent law, they cannot be viewed as inventors, but as assignees of the patent application, whereas in the case of copyright law they can be seen also as the author11. This also brings the issues of religious liberties12, or privacy13, as well as proposed voting rights or the right to run for an office14. There was a parody of a corporation running for the congress in 2010, after the supreme court has ruled in the favor of corporate personhood15 has been set up by Murray Hill Inc. Besides it being an intended parody, the later interview with the campaign’s manager William Klein on the MSNBC16 has shown one very essential thing, from a transhumanist point of view. Claiming that corporations could operate through virtual agents, holographic avatars etc.

Apart from it being the same case with legal personhood of artificial intelligence entities171819, the corporate personhood template would fit ideally for hiveminds. We have to take into account that those collective entities, consisting of humans, uploadees20, AIs, animals and plants would have to interact with the surrounding legal environment21, if we’re to talk about a pre-technological-singularity scenario. Such collective entity would be able to interact with other collectives, merge and divide, creating or acquiring other subsidiary collectives as a “parenting” collective. Analogously to holding companies and corporations, respectfully.

We should keep in mind two things. First of all, not all human beings would comply or be a part of such collective, thus their personhood status. Second thing we should keep in mind is that such collective has the opportunity to be more efficient than traditional corporations, due to better resource control.

Members of such collective, if by member we mean a permanent unit, wouldn’t probably engage in non-productive leisure activities, thus less resources, financial or other, would be wasted. Another important thing is the lack of rivalry, popularly known as “the rat race”.

While many corporations create the environment for positive creative competition, the one human element starts to rival other human elements, thus, focusing not on “getting the job done” or “meeting the deadline” or improvement, but on covering their backs from plots and mischief, made in order to put that particular person out of the company, or that persons office in order to get promoted.

Removing this flaw would increase the productivity of the collective. This also brings the case of corporate punishment22, and liability. Assuming that the collective truly acts as one utilitarian superorganism, it can be only held liable as a whole, for no specific part of its dispersed structure is solely responsible for decision making, and also assuming, the dispersed AI acts only as the fuzzy software infrastructure, allowing the hive to communicate with other entities.

‚ÄčIt might look a little bit “borgist”23, as well as once a permanent member might not be able to go back to a standalone state, either due phantomological issues which would be the probable case with “dismembering”. This would make “selling one’s soul to the corporation” literal. One must bear in mind that as far as this is a plausible scenario, until we run tests on real live subjects, the corporate personhood of hive minds remains just another thought experiment.

A different case would involve multiple person entities. Assuming that it is no longer viewed as a disorder24, but as either independent beings, contained in the same body, or shell in the case of humans and AIs, where the responsibility is being held collectively, by the body’s owner (the primary) and the perpetrator who used it to carry out a criminal conduct.

This is a very difficult case, if there is no way to extract the “guilty” person out of the brain of the body, though with appropriate cerebral implants, or with data storage devices, one could isolate and extract the perpetrator, and trial or even sentence it afterwards. On the other hand, such entities can be granted legal personhood, thus being held liable as a whole, instead of individual persecution.

Outside of the struggle for personhood rights for non-human animals and human made artificial intelligences, we must also recall the important factor to exercising one’s legal capacity. It is the physical ability to exercise one’s legal rights, and that is where we need technology and organized support, otherwise it’ll be just another legal fiction.








7 although much
opposed by the animal rights movement, there are only several of
serious organizations and individuals advocating Plant rights













20 Though it might be controversial, the Ukrainian Transhumanist
organization “Aryan Legacy” proposes creating a hive mind consisting only
uploaded personalities in order to govern the state,






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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