February 26, 2024

Magna Carta for transhumanists

All sentient entities can rest easy

'Bad King John' signs Magna Carta in 1215 

The Magna Carta was the first in a long series of ancient bills of rights for citizens, great and small, in jurisdictions stretching from Ireland to France to Poland. They were tremendously varied, but one element was common: they all were related to homo sapiens 1.0.

Now the transhumanist movement has drafted a bill of rights for all “sentient entities” – a tall order considering that some of these entities do not yet exist and no state currently has the slightest interest in enforcing them.

The Transhumanist Bill of Rights is the brainchild of Zoltan Istvan, a one-time candidate for US President for the Transhumanist Party. He wrote the first version, which has subsequently been improved by his colleagues.

A few highlights follow.

Who are these “sentient entities”? Human beings, including genetically modified humans; cyborgs, digital intelligences, intellectually enhanced, previously non-sapient animals, enhanced plants or animals which possess the capacity for intelligent thought; and “other advanced sapient life forms”. As often happens in such discussions, it appears that severely-brain damaged humans and babies would not be included.

The Transhumanist Bill of Rights incorporates all the rights in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, although reconciling the two documents will probably provide lots of work for lawyers.

All sentient entities have a right to life (Article III) and a right to ending it, enhancing themselves and an indefinite lifespan (Article IV).

Articles VI and VII might lead a country which adopts the Bill of Rights to bankruptcy in short order: “Involuntary aging shall be classified as a disease” and “All sentient entities should be the beneficiaries of a system of universal health care.” And since there will be no need for work in a society dominated by technology Article XIX also guarantees a universal basic income.

Morphological freedom is guaranteed by Article X. You can do whatever you like to your body.

Article XII deals with reproductive rights: “All sentient entities are entitled to reproductive freedom, including through novel means such as the creation of mind clones, monoparent children, or benevolent artificial general intelligence.”

However, a prominent feature of the Bill of Rights is a concern for privacy. No one may clone another person without his permission. The powers of the state to surveille citizens must be limited.

Forget about water and food: Article XV guarantees something far more life-sustaining: “private internet access” for all sentient entities (dolphins?)

It’s hard to understand what Article XXI guarantees, but it sounds momentous. “All sentient entities are entitled to join their psyches to a collective noosphere in an effort to preserve self-consciousness in perpetuity.”

Finally, all governments are exhorted to avoid fake news (Article XXIV). Lies and fear-mongering should be harshly punished

* Hat tip to Wesley J. Smith

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