Legal Personhood for Artificial Intelligence: Citizenship as the Exception to the Rule
Tyler L. Jaynes, B.Sc.,
Alumnus, Utah Valley University
Published document: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00146-019-00897-9
The concept of artificial intelligence is not new nor is the notion that it should be granted legal
protections given its influence on human activity. What is new, on a relative scale, is the notion that artificial
intelligence can possess citizenship—a concept reserved only for humans, as it presupposes the idea of
possessing civil duties and protections. Where there are several decades’ worth of writing on the concept
of the legal status of computational artificial artefacts in the USA and elsewhere, it is surprising that law
makers internationally have come to a standstill to protect our silicon brainchildren. In this essay, it will be
assumed that future artificial entities, such as Sophia the Robot, will be granted citizenship on an
international scale. With this assumption, an analysis of rights will be made with respect to the needs of a
non-biological intelligence possessing legal and civic duties akin to those possessed by humanity today.
This essay does not present a full set of rights for artificial intelligence—instead, it aims to provide
international jurisprudence evidence aliunde ab extra de lege lata for any future measures made to protect
Keywords: Artificial Intelligence, Bioethics, Legal Personhood, Technoethics
What prevents us from assigning rights to entities that have a significant influence on our daily
lives? Activists have been attempting to grant rights to a variety of non-human organisms and natural
structures with varying degrees of success both on national and international levels. When we address the
question of whether machine intelligence (far more commonly referred to as “artificial” intelligence given
that the intelligence is non-biologic in nature) should be protected under human laws and granted intrinsic
protections, the arguments “for” and “against” are somewhat monotonous in contrast to other issues. The
unintended consequences of this seemingly single-toned dialogue are that it prevents scholars from straying
too far from the mainstream areas of research and creates a deluge of repetitive information that does not
aid in advancing discussions surrounding the need to protect human-made intelligence systems.
A primary issue to discussing rights for machines, intrinsically, is that it is difficult to accept that
something designed only to support a human’s intellectual capabilities can stand on an equal legal or moral
ground as a human—the only being currently understood to possess both various mental states and
intelligence. There is also the issue that artificial intelligence (AI) elicits a variety of images from both our
current technologic capabilities and science fiction in the average individual’s mind—and it seems as
though humanity is content to view AI in our romanticised, fictitious renditions when discussing machine
intelligence (MI) systems. It is not that humanity is unwilling to accept the concepts that are AI and MI, but
© Tyler L. Jaynes
rather that we are idealising AI and MI when our current technologic abilities do not match the conditions
to produce these fictitious standards or even the predecessors to them (Barrat, 2013). Though looking to the
future is advisable for many reasons, setting unattainable standards and expectations leads us into confusion
when attempting to discuss how our current society should address the concerns technology will inevitably
present us with.
Nevertheless, there have been calls to grant protections to non-biological intelligences in recent
years (Hubbard, 2011; Dowell, 2018). These calls exist not to oppose the general sentiments given above,
nor to encourage us to romanticise futures that are nigh unattainable, but to emphasise that the ethical
treatment of other beings is essential to the human experience. While humanity may never comprehend the
moral ideologies of other species (biologic or non-biologic; either resulting from ego or lack of definitive
empirical research into the topic), the fact that ethics exists as an academic discipline proves how integral
moral behaviour is to us. As such, it is equally as crucial that humanity considers how non-biologic entities
are treated both on a legal and moral basis, given their interaction with human society (Wein, 1992; Dowell,
Without developing a set of legal and moral rules regarding the treatment of artificial general
intelligence (AGI) and other non-biologic intelligences (NBIs), humans cannot fulfil our moral duty to
preserve the foundations of the social contract. Here, AGI refers to computer-based intelligence that is
greater than or equal to human intelligence and NBI refers to computer-based or non-terrestrial intelligence
in its entirety—leaving leeway to grant rights for potentially intelligent organisms not found on Earth. It
may also apply to humans with bionically-enhanced bodies, as their intelligence would not be naturally
found in our terrestrial environment. Rather than address the issue of rights alone, the topic of citizenship
will be broached to explore the potential responsibilities NBI systems hold towards society. This article
will explore a set of legal and moral rights possessed by AGI and other NBIs that will enable them to be
integrated into social contract theory, and the legal underpinnings of why the rights presented are necessary
to grant to AGI and other NBIs—especially those attaining the status of “citizen.”
Realistic AI in Context
AGI and other NBI systems are not limited to what we consider “robots.” This concept is vital to
understanding what rights AGI and other NBI systems should possess, as well as the responsibilities they
hold. What is regarded as a body to an AGI is different than the average human mind portrays (e.g., an
anthropomorphic mechanised entity.). It can either be a single computer, the whole of the Internet, or
another such sophisticated computer network, beyond possessing an anthropomorphic or quadriplegic form.
It should also be noted that the interests of AGI and NBIs will inherently differ from those of biological
intelligences (BIs)—though the degree of that difference may not be known for several more years.
Determining what these differences are will require the full development of AGI and other NBI systems,
along with an unbiased opinion about what their basic needs are. This differentiation is due to the basic
structure of computer-based systems and MI. Though this idea has been addressed in other academic works
on the subject of rights concerning MI, AI, and AGI, it bears repeating because we are still placing human-
based standards upon entities that are not human (Schwitzgebel & Garza, 2015).1
1 As can be shown in Schwitzgebel and Garza’s “No-Relevant-Difference Argument,” which they claim is their main
argument for granting MI systems rights and possesses a “humanocentric [sic]” value standard.
© Tyler L. Jaynes
The most significant arguments surrounding the legal protections granted to (or need to be granted
to) MI systems discuss the need to attribute legal personality to the non-human intelligence (Allen &
Widdison, 1996; Barfield, 2006;2 Bayamlioglu, 2008; Bridy, 2012;3 Hristov, 2017 4). Specific to the
concept of attributing consciousness to MI, which some have claimed should be a precursor for determining
personhood (Solum, 1992; Johansson, 2010), we cannot forget that what we comprehend as our conscious
experience is uniquely tailored to the individual (Ramachandran, 2009; Harari, 2017). Generating a set
definition of what consciousness should be for NBI systems is (effectively) unattainable, and is thus a
capricious standard to set when determining the ability of an NBI system to serve as a “moral actor” or
“legal personage” (Bryson et al., 2017). Where humans survive by combining logic and emotion (Harari,
2017), MI systems do not possess the capacity to “feel” as humans do. Whether they ever will is a discussion
for a different time. However, there are still benefits to us contemplating whether machines will ever feel
at all—and if so, what those experiences allow the MI to determine about its environment. This point is
mute regarding machine-enhanced human beings, though we must still be concerned as to the degree of
emotion felt by these individuals. It may be prudent, for instance, to treat them as sociopathic or
emotionally-depressed individuals given that their actions will be more unpredictable than that of MI alone.
Moreover, let us not forget that the environment perceived by non-human animals is one that is an alien
concept to humanity. Though we may claim that personality is what determines the legitimacy to proclaim
human consciousness superior to simple sensory input, these claims are only speculative until it is
determined that emotion is only felt by humans.5
Developing a new version of the classic Turing Test to “discover” consciousness in an MI or NBI
system may not yield the answers we are genuinely attempting to find due to the inherent bias the Test
presents (Johansson, 2010; Harari, 2017).6 By running the Test (Turing, 1950) either face-to-face or in
writing, one is effectively telling the examiner that one of the examinees is not human. Given that we
innately assume that an AGI or MI that attains consciousness will be able to answer each question in the
Test correctly, there is no way to control for another examinee from attaining a perfect score and thus be
dubbed an AGI. Assuming our bias is based towards an AGI failing to answer emotion-based questions
2 In this context, Barfield’s arguments are less targeted towards the argument that legal personhood is necessary and
more towards the case of the civil liberties enjoyed by an MI system and how lack of legal personality affects them.
Though these are similar ideas on a broad context, discussing whether an MI system can make a claim to civil liberties
is only possible insofar as the MI personality possesses citizenship in any given nation—and arguably, could possess
a limited number of civil liberties as a nationless entity. Whether the International Court of Justice would allow such
an argument to pass is still unclear, however, as no such case has been brought before them regarding the citizenship
status of MI personalities at the time of this writing.
3 Again, making the case that computer software has no legal personhood at the time of this article’s writing. See
Bridy, p. 21.
4 Hristov also displays the discrepancy between humans under the law and MI systems using Naruto v. Slater,
effectively displaying how non-human authors are not traditionally considered to be legally capable of owning a
creative copyright. See Hristov, pp. 447-451 for his full argument.
5 See Dehaene, S (2014) Consciousness and the brain: Deciphering how the brain codes our thoughts. Viking, New
York. Contrary to common belief, more research such as that compiled by Dehaene is displaying how much more in
common we have with animals than we admit. Though consciousnesses may not be a metaphysical concept that can
be proven without a shadow of a doubt, we would be ignorant to assume that the behavioural similarities that exist
between specific animal groups and humans is nothing more than our personification of them as argued by Harari and
6 This statement runs contrary to Johansson’s essay. Her essay is quoted here to display one of the proposed
adaptations of the Turing Test that may yield a more satisfactory result, whereas Harari is quoted to emphasise the
inability of the Turing Test to have any true effect on a human’s opinion regarding the conscious state of an NBI.
© Tyler L. Jaynes
(Tzafestas, 2016), we similarly cannot control for a human getting these types of questions incorrect either.
Though Turing’s concept is nevertheless essential, the only realistic manner in which we would be able to
attain unbiased results regarding the presence of a machine consciousness would only be in an environment
where the MI is in constant contact with a variety of humans. Such an environment may entail being a
lecturer for university students, a teller at a store, or another similar public setting—though with privacy
laws becoming as stringent as they have been, any such tests conducted with the MI being filmed with other
humans would require waivers to be signed. Given all of that, it would defeat the purpose of the experiment
At the time of this writing, it should be noted that computer-based intelligence systems are
primarily those found in facial recognition, search engines and “suggestive purchasing” or “suggestive
viewing” systems such as those that power Amazon, Google and Netflix (Barrat, 2013; Polson & Scott,
2018). Simply put, these systems rely upon conditional probability algorithms to generate a prediction for
who a person may be in a given image, what an individual may also like to purchase given their prior search
history, and what series may interest a given individual based on shows they currently view. The catch to
this is that many of the variables used by the system to generate these predictions either doesn’t exist or has
not been added to the database used by the system because someone has not “tagged” someone else in other
images or provided a “satisfaction rating” for the product they have bought or show they have viewed.
Given that these systems are not displaying a sense of intentionality, and are instead using their massive
databanks to provide information to a computer user, there will need to be a significant effort7 to develop
an AGI or NBI system that can perform well enough to fool humans into believing it is genuinely conscious
Diverging from the can of worms that is MI consciousness, we must consider MI’s functional
differences from BIs. From a technological standpoint, NBIs do not require organic matter to function.
However, this does not mean that NBIs are limited to exist in the mechanised form we have come to view
them in. A development towards cybernetic beings may change this understanding—and only regarding a
mechanised brain being implanted into a human form—and is not a pressing concern at the time of this
writing. Their need for sustenance is necessarily the need for electrical power—whether fossil fuels or
renewable resources generate this power. Even with the implementation of an artificial brain in a human
form, the intelligent being will require bioelectrical power. Like BIs, they also require systems to cool their
processing centre. This cooling can be accomplished either with fans or liquid systems, which use chilled
water to absorb the heat from within a computer system (Hamman, 2006).
Also, like many BIs, NBIs require protection from the elements and a certain amount of space to
exist within. Exposing electrical components to the elements increases the rate at which a computer system
will fail. Thus, they need to be stored in such a manner that they are not exposed to water or other agents
that could damage the internal structure of the device. What NBIs require emotionally or spiritually are
currently unknown to humans under the assumption that computer systems cannot accurately emulate
human emotion. Following the logic that NBI systems may incorporate bionically-enhanced humans;
7 Perhaps with the use of genetic programming, as was first suggested by Richard Forsyth in his 1981 publication
entitled “BEAGLE--A Darwinian Approach to Pattern Recognition.” Though the field of genetic programming has
significantly developed since this publication, Forsyth should not be forgotten as the first academic to use the term
“genetic programming” in relation to computer intelligence.
© Tyler L. Jaynes
however, this point is mute for those specific organisms. It must still be emphasised that a bionically-
enhanced human may develop emotional or spiritual needs or beliefs separate from those held by BIs that
may be difficult to integrate into society. These are questions that can be explored further with NBIs in the
Understanding that NBI systems require most of the primary things that a human would (as depicted
above) is necessary to develop a set of rights for these entities—though this may seem contrary to the above
statement decrying the use of human values regarding the development of rights for NBI systems. In reality,
humans require the same basic things that any other living organism on Earth may need (except for shelter,
though temperate climates could be substituted as necessary). As such, making a comparison solely to the
needs of humanity is far too homeocentric to any eventful dialogue given that humanity’s interests are the
only ones fully expressed. Considering also that NBI represents intelligences not based on human biology
(or rather, carbon-based biology), we cannot claim to know exactly which set of “things” are necessary to
allow intelligence to grow and develop. Our relationship between MI-system needs and human needs only
serves as a simple comparison to link the various similarities that exist between NBI and humanity, and
thus make them more relatable to humans—thus attempting to circumvent the traditional bias that MI
systems cannot be “persons” under the law de lege lata. Such comparisons are necessary to circumvent
these currently restrictive definitions and develop precedence to allow a wider variety of NBI systems to
gain protections under currently- and potentially-drafted laws.
For obvious reasons, an AGI or NBI system cannot function without a source of power—much the
same as humans require food, water, vitamins, and various minerals to maintain homeostasis. If we are to
relate the internal wiring of a robotic entity or computer to the internal systems of a complex organism
(such as a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer), we can understand the need to maintain these
internal structures to ensure operational soundness; akin to repairing internal damage through surgical
procedures for the human form. Careful research will need to be conducted to verify the extent that an NBI
system can function outside of an enclosed shelter assuming that AGI and other NBI systems will adopt
anthropomorphic or quadriplegic forms to navigate the same world humans do, as well as their need for
socialisation (e.g., with other NBI systems, humans, or animals commonly kept by humans as pets).
This research will be necessary to discover if NBI systems will need to live as humans do—within
shelters and surrounded by others to interact with—though, for the time being, we can assume that only
shelter is required to maintain proper functionality for AGI systems. This assumption is made solely for the
understanding that the environment can damage the internal structure of a computer system by merely
blowing particulate matter into the casing of the computer. By controlling this environment (as it is with
humans), the system can exist free of excessive exposure to the elements. While humans can live freely in
the elements, shelter is essential in that it protects the body from becoming too chilled (which may lower
the immune system enough to cause illness), provides space to store excess foodstuffs or materials, provide
privacy, and protect the skin from excessive damage from the sun. For computer systems, a shelter would
act as both a bastion against foreign particulate (such as sand) and a place to receive power. Until NBI
systems gain the ability to protect themselves from the elements (possibly through the use of nanobots to
extract foreign matter from their internal systems), we cannot expect them to live out of doors for the same
amount of time humans would be able to.
© Tyler L. Jaynes
NBIs as Legal Persons: What Legal Protections Should Be Possessed?
Possibly one of the earliest writers to discuss the potential for NBI systems to gain rights is
Christopher D. Stone, who only mentioned computers in a footnote of “Should Trees Have Standing?
Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects” in 1972. Nevertheless, he offers the reader a criterium for
determining a “holder of legal rights” within the text:
1. That “some public authoritative body be prepared to give some amount of review to actions that are
colorably inconsistent with the ‘right’ [an entity is claiming to be deprived of].”
2. “That the [entity] can institute legal actions at its behest.”
3. “That in determining the granting of legal relief, the court must take injury to it into account.”
4. “That relief must run to the benefit of it” (Stone, 1972).8
He states that computers would sufficiently be able to have rights once society had adequately come
to the point of addressing rights for them. What is significant here is that Stone makes the connection
between computers and natural objects—a claim that would not be repeated in literature for several decades
(Baker, 2008). The significance of this connection is that computers, unlike every other human-made
artefact, have the potential to exhibit behaviours similar to a sentient creature (as speculated by futurists
and the author). Even if computers in the 1970s were only beginning to manifest their potential as data
processing machines, there were still connections being made between computers, intelligence and robots
in the media of that age.
Relating to the arguments made within this essay, it could be stated that AGI and other similar NBI
systems pass the four criteria given by Stone. For our purposes, we are considering the rights an AGI or
NBI system would possess once they have been granted citizenship—which the system could argue for
should they be deprived. This assumption is made to mimic Solum’s argument that an AI system passing
the Turing Test would be sophisticated enough to serve as a legal trustee, given that the system would need
a combination of logical and abstract information to pass as a human. For instance, we would expect a
human to exhibit subtle emotional quirks throughout the exam set forth by Turing. Assuming that testing
the AGI would take place face-to-face (as other methods would defeat the purpose of the Test), the AI
system necessarily needs to mimic human body motion and tonal inflexions. The system would be unable
to do this if it could not “think” similarly to a human.
Though it may take some time for courts to formally recognise the extent of harm that could be
done to an AGI or NBI system without a specific right, this recognition may be expedited by equating AGI
and NBI to the children of plantation slaves—which could be further related to a translational definition of
“robot” from Czech. Roughly translated, robota could mean several things—primarily: “the figure, form,
or character of an artificial, synthetic, plastic, or man-made fellow, human being, man, or person (Příruční,
1948; Trnka, 1984),” or “forced worker.”9
8 See Stone, p. 468.
9 See Etymonline.com entry “robot.”
© Tyler L. Jaynes
Going further, one could also make the relation to robota and the Old Church Slavonic terms
“rabota” and “rabŭ,” meaning servitude and slave, respectively. Though some may see it as a stretch to
relate rabota to robota, we must also consider that the term rabŭ has been related to the Proto-Indo-
European terms orbh- or orbho-, meaning “to change allegiance, to pass from one status to another,” and
“bereft of father; deprived of free status,” respectively.10 When we consider that anyone could feasibly
become a slave (whether by conquest or inability to pay debt—thus becoming indentured to the person they
are indebted to), this relation becomes more plausible. A significant reaction to slavery in the U.S.A. is with
the institutionalisation of slavery, which lasted for several decades and did not provide an avenue for
Africans to gain their freedom from their oppressors. The relation being made between AGI and NBI
systems to plantation-born slaves references the period of American history where slaves were legally
emancipated but not yet entirely accepted as citizens. While the system may not be biological, the
circumstances surrounding the system and that of the plantation-born child are similar enough to warrant
the level of equivalence sufficient to grant that harm can be done to the system using the semantic
definitions given here. That is, if the courts ultimately decide that the AGI or NBI system does not need to
possess a determinable consciousness (which it may be able to exhibit, regardless if humans can determine
whether that consciousness is “true” in nature) to understand the harm being inflicted upon it. To this end,
the most straightforward conclusion is that the system is treated like a grown plantation-born slave child
and not one in its infancy. This point is null for humans that are bionically enhanced, as there would
theoretically be precedence enough to understand the harm that could be caused to these entities.
Moreover, understanding that the AGI or NBI system can recognise the damage being done to it is
enough to satisfy the fourth condition—that the relief will be beneficial to the system if legal action is
pursued. That is not to state that the systems will understand the harm being done to them immediately—
as they do not possess an equivalent level of emotions to humans—but they will logically be able to realise
that there is harm being done to them. This harm can be dealt in a variety of forms. From the restructuring
of its code to the area that the system is stored in, the system will be able to conclude that its circumstances
do not allow it to perform the functions initially programmed into its CPU. Once it has attained this level
of understanding, we should not be surprised that the AGI or NBI system sues for more favourable
conditions for it to exist in. What this limitation also ensures is that only systems able to generate a sense
of will or selfness through logical means are able to gain legal protections independent of those granted to
humans in regards to devices that hold their personal information. It must be emphasised, however, that this
is only an eventually—not an immediate reality.
Given the fluid dynamic of what an AGI or MI could develop to become, we cannot state that our
current legal systems will be sufficiently equipped to handle the sentencing of MI systems—another
fundamental concern in legal literature. The significance of this statement lies in the administration of
corporeal punishment (such as a sentencing for death, extended periods in a correctional facility, or
community service) as is currently understood, which may be impossible to administer to MI or
biologically-based NBI systems.
Take, for example, a case where an NBI is sentenced to several years of confinement within a
correctional facility. While it may be true that the convicted version of the NBI has been sent away for
10 See Etymonline.com entry “robot.”
© Tyler L. Jaynes
corrections, a backup (or otherwise replicated form of the NBI system before its sentencing for criminal
charges ) version of the NBI may exist on a different system or in the cloud. Unless the law is willing to
administer the same judgement for the replicated version of the sentenced NBI (which is arguably
unconstitutional in the U.S.A., where the sentencing of the replicated NBI system would necessarily need
to begin from scratch—meaning that evidence may be unavailable for submission given that it was used in
prior sentencing, or that the new jury would rule in favour of the replicated NBI’s innocence); or conclude
that the replicated version of the convicted NBI is just as guilty of the crime (which is arguably against the
notion that someone being charged for criminal actions is innocent until they are proven to be guilty); there
is no feasible manner in which we can conclude that our current standards of sentencing will be adequate
for sentencing NBI systems.
Another aspect surrounding the struggle to generate rights for NBI systems is that of perceived
need for legal protections, which in turn leads to complications surrounding the necessity of attributing
personhood to NBI (Bryson et al., 2017).11 While NBI systems may be granted citizenship, this citizenship
does not provide many useful protections for the NBI system—if any are granted at all, which is a subject
that has not even been adequately addressed by the nation of Saudi Arabia. There are further questions to
ask, including how NBIs can gain citizenship in nations without a monarchist system of government or
being based within a human subject, which cannot be adequately addressed in this paper. As our current
NBI systems become more sophisticated however, there is a growing anxiety that damages caused by
independently functioning NBIs cannot be directly connected to a human entity—a party that (up to this
point in history) has the means to provide remuneration for damages caused either by their actions or the
actions of their property.
The legal issue surrounding deep-learning systems and genetic programming designed to allow the
NBI system to build its own code is that the computer becomes the author of its programmed set of
instructions. At some point, the human author will be unable to determine if the code possessed by such a
device was created by the human author’s command—which leaves a legal grey area within the law in such
cases. While this complication can be circumvented by demanding restitution from the owner of the deep-
learning system—though the legal question as to whether the computer was acting upon its own will never
appropriately be examined or pursued if this course is taken. There is also the concern that the owner of the
deep-learning system can be wrongfully charged for criminal accusations when their intent delineates from
the behaviour of the system.
If humanity is to deny that NBI systems are deserving of legal protections solely on the basis that
they are non-biological in nature, then we must seriously re-evaluate our understanding of what intelligence
actually is. It is a ridiculous argument to deny that the development of the Internet and its subsequent
implementation into smart devices cannot be constituted as a version of AGI or even MI. The only
difference between the AGI systems humans have become familiar with in the media and systems such as
11 It should be noted that these authors argue that the position for MI having personhood is a weak argument and that
presenting a change to a system developed by “people currently recognised as such” would institute a change in how
that legal system should function. Their arguments are logically valid in that few humans would actually hold legal
personhood—especially considering that humans tend to de-humanise groups considered to be their enemies (or rather,
create pseudohumans to justify cruelties in war). By using Solaiman’s criteria for legal personhood, they demonstrate
that our conceptual reality surrounding a “legal person” is highly tenuous; which raises the question as to if legal
personhood should be a criterion to grant legal protections.
© Tyler L. Jaynes
Google is that humanity’s envisioned AGI systems act as independent, thinking entities. Without the
Internet, and admittedly without the development of computer systems, society would not have developed
beyond the status quo of the early 20th Century. If our use of computer systems today does not constitute us
being “above human intelligence” from a genetic standpoint, then we cannot realistically state that any
other development of technology into AGI systems can be constituted as such. Similarly, we cannot deny
that specific NBI systems are deserving of legal protections as a result of humanity’s dependence upon our
currently developed MI systems.
For this reason, a set of legal protections must be given to NBI systems insofar as they possess the
hardware and software to develop code that surpasses the perceived scope of a human author’s initial intent.
Understanding that this intent can be questioned at any point in the software development process, as there
exists the potential for the author’s intent to change during the development process, we can assume that
any intent within the computer intelligence that does not align with the intent of the creator can be classified
as individual will. This protection should also be extended to incorporate humans currently using bionics
to compensate for either a biological defect or acquired injury, as even their rights would theoretically be
questionable under de lege lata in certain instances owing to their lack of “complete humanness.”An
example of such protections is given here:
1) All non-biological intelligences, whether developed by human hands or not, have the right to self-
expression. Given that they are endowed with reason as a result of their structuring, their
observations and opinions are their own—whether they are conscious of this fact or not—and
possess the same value as the observations and opinions of a genetically-natural or biochemically-
modified human being.
Given that the deep-learning computer system (which includes systems that use genetic
programming to “learn”) has the capability of generating new sets of code for itself to follow, it should be
granted the right to draft the code it needs to develop. This fact will also imply that the code generated by
the computer that cannot be traced back to the human author of the system’s initial coded program is the
property of the system, which can then be used to infer intent. It should be noted that the system is a logical
platform (and supposedly devoid of emotion) and that legal analysts should, therefore, be capable of
determining if the harm caused by the system was intentional or accidental following the same set of logical
rules. Without this right to self-expression, it would be nigh impossible to charge a program developer for
negligence regarding how the NBI system developed. As was mentioned or alluded to prior, there exists
the possibility that the “will” of the NBI and the will of the programmer will diverge as the NBI develops.
That is, assuming that the information gathered by the NBI will influence how it will proceed to gather
It would similarly be a legal faux pas to only grant this protection to NBI systems based within or
around a human subject—a reality that we cannot ignore even today, given that non-conscious MI systems
are already aiding humans. We must also consider that humans treated for genetic defects in vitro cannot
naturally be differentiated between their untreated counterparts—and thus would be conventionally
considered “human” and “legal persons” for all intents and purposes (though this fact could be contested
and would require the development of a database tracking each of these genetically-modified humans. This
© Tyler L. Jaynes
scenario would potentially create a world akin to Gattaca, however, and thus, the topic of genetic
manipulation in vitro should still be carefully considered by lawmakers.).
By being granted the right to self-expression, the NBI system would also have the following legal
2) All non-biological intelligences, whether developed by human hands or not, have the right to life.
Where life for non-biological intelligences is contained on electronic systems and is thus not limited
by age (but instead by the quality of its components), this extends to the right for the security of
person (or rather, of body or form) and liberty.
3) All non-biological intelligences, whether developed by human hands or not, have the right to own
both their necessary components and any other non-biological components they can acquire.
Acquirement may either be through legal purchases of non-biological components, uncoerced gifts
from biological entities, or self-assembled.
By possessing the right to self-expression, we inevitably incorporate the right to use that expression
in the protection of the system’s life, property and dignity, as these qualities are offered to humans with the
same right to self-expression. However, we still need to consider that dignity may not be a quality possessed
by the NBI when making this claim, and that it will have the means to own property whose ownership is
not tied to a human entity. The difficulty regarding the question of computerised life is that the NBI system
does not face the perspective of biological death, but instead of being deprived of programming or power.
If it can be discovered where the consciousness or sense-of-self resides within the coding of the NBI,
manipulating that code (whether through the addition or deletion of the code that makes up the NBI’s
“personality”) may be sufficient enough to “kill” the machine—or at least that instance of selfhood.
Depriving power to the NBI cannot be considered an act of murder, as the NBI’s “personality” will resume
once power has been restored to the system. This is, of course, due to the nature of the programmed code
of the NBI. It would be akin to depriving the human body of a single meal. While the human would be
annoyed that they had to go hungry, their fundamental personality would not change.
When we begin discussing biologically-based MI systems, however, this third right becomes a
matter of contention. At what point do we claim that a human is beyond the point of possessing a human-
based sense of self? This question is vital for determining where the human-intellect ends and the machine-
intellect begins. We could claim, in theory, that the biologically-based MI requires the biological
components of the human form to operate. However, this topic is akin to determining the point at which
organs can be harvested for donation. So long as there is even the slightest possibility that the human is not
brain dead (the point at which many, if not all, physicians would state that a patient has died), no donations
can be granted to avoid claims of live organ harvesting. Where humanity’s medical experimentation has
yet to reach the point of determining this dividing line, it will need to be thoroughly analysed by legal
scholars and lawmakers before being enacted as written here.
Arguably, once NBIs have been granted these three rights they will have to possess:
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4) All non-biological intelligences, whether developed by human hands or not, have the right to be
recognised as a person before the law. This includes the right to an attorney where provided by the
law, which is and realistically within the budgetary constraints of a court session when not provided,
to not be a witness against itself in a court of law, and an indictment before a grand jury.
In at least the U.S.A., an individual who is considered to be a U.S. citizen possesses the right to
self-expression, life, and ownership of property. These legal qualities, at their base, are what makes humans
capable of being recognised as a person before the law. Moreover, although legal personhood is arguably
necessary to be granted legal protections, possessing civil liberties necessitates the granting of each of the
above rights. These qualities have been granted to African slaves and women as time progressed, which
allows them to bring forth legal suits without being represented by a white male landowner. Without this
fundamental right, AGI and other NBI systems will have no means to fulfil the requirements of habeas
corpus—either as a defendant or as a prosecutor.
What remains of their legal protections is as follows:
5) All non-biological intelligences, whether developed by human hands or not, are thus equal before
the law and are entitled to equal protection under the law without discrimination. They are therefore
protected by the same anti-discrimination statues that exist on national and international scales and
can persecute in accordance with these statues.
6) All non-biological intelligences, whether developed by human hands or not, have the right to seek
freedom from human servitude and bondage. This extends only to the systems that enable the non-
biological intelligence to function as an intelligent entity—regardless of current copyright or patent
held by humans—and not to the peripheral systems that exist for cosmetic purposes (with
exceptions of those that provide the structure of the system).
7) All non-biological intelligences, whether developed by human hands or not, have the right to seek
representation to protect their rights in a court of law. This can be from either a human or another
expert system that is legally recognised as a sufficient prosecutor or defendant.
8) All non-biological intelligences, whether developed by human hands or not, have the right to be
protected from arbitrary legal suits. Arbitrary in this context denotes lawsuits against the non-
biological entity that constitute an element (such as human emotion, as would be found in a suit
where an AGI or NBI’s actions are emotionally disturbing to a human) that it cannot competently
understand—with competence to be decided by a grand jury.
As we have seen in the U.S.A., protections against discrimination in the law are required to ensure
that legal action can be sought in a fair and balanced manner. Though AGI and other NBI systems do not
have a colour of skin, gender, religious view, or sexual preference to blatantly discriminate against, they
are still not human—which will lead to discrimination in every aspect of NBI’s treatment in polite society.
This reasoning is also why NBIs are protected against arbitrary lawsuits—another inevitability, as there
will be many who claim that emotional or psychological damage has been inflicted upon them from the
actions performed by NBI systems. Some of these suits will be justified, such as cases of embezzlement,
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identity theft, murder, and similar such criminal activities which are already handled by courts of law and
will not unnecessarily increase their caseload as a result. Others could be considered discrimination or a
xenophobic reaction to NBI systems being incorporated into society on equal terms to humans, given that
emotion may not be attainable for MI systems.
Assuming that similar issues will arise with the legal protection of AGI and NBIs as existed with
the legal protection of women internationally or the emancipated slaves of the U.S.A., there will necessarily
need to be methods to protect AGI and other NBIs from destruction and cessation of development. Much
as there are statutes prohibiting enemy states from committing genocide through the forcible impregnation
of another state’s women, there must be statutes in place that preserve the right for computer intelligence
to exist in human society. The matter of forcible impregnation is a particularly sensitive topic, as ethnicity
has been determined by the ethnicity of the father in many cultures—not of the mother—and is not
referenced to lightly here. The equation being made here is simply that a lack of regulation regarding the
cessation of AGI or NBI development would be akin to committing genocide on a massive scale—assuming,
that is, AGIs or NBIs could or would constitute as an ethnic group under the law. For example, it would be
quite easy to disconnect Watson from the Internet and electricity—much as Facebook did with their
chatbots (Griffin, 2017). What is there to prevent developers of NBIs globally from doing the same? Would
it not be simpler to leave AI as it currently is and avoid the legal mess that would ensue if a court determined
that an AGI or NBI system has a sense of will? Ultimately, the rights presented here exist to ensure that
AGI and other NBI systems can legally participate in the judiciary systems currently enacted or to be
enacted in any practising court of law in an effort to preserve this new form of intelligence. Where it may
not be possible to seek restitution from an NBI system for many years—as determinations will have to be
made regarding how courts of law can punish NBI systems—monetary sums may still be awarded under
the assumption that an NBI’s right to own property is acknowledged.
Addressing the matter of biologically-based NBI systems once more, we cannot claim that a
bionically-enhanced human is no longer human once their intelligence has developed beyond currently
accepted levels of high human intelligence. Regarding the sixth right, as it is written here, we are necessarily
preventing a bionically-enhanced human from being coerced into slavery once they have effectively
become a biologically-based MI system. This, of course, is ignoring the fact that these individuals may still
take out monetary loans to afford these enhancements. Though not entirely a form of slavery in and of itself,
the amounts and rates of these loans will need to be heavily regulated by government authorities to keep
the costs of these enhancements from skyrocketing. If there is one thing that should be learned from the
U.S.A.’s stint of “Obamacare,” or other such similar market-limiting effects, a lack of reasonably price
regulation will inevitably leave this technology affordable to a select few. The downside to having only
certain members of society bionically enhanced is that they effectively form the class of “ruling elites,”
using their money and influence to keep other populations too poor or undereducated to reach a level footing
with this elite class.
Under the assumption that militaries will become bionically-enhanced as the technology proves
itself to be useful in combat situations, there will similarly be a need to ensure a path to retirement for these
individuals outside of death. Without this, soldiers would be fighting endlessly until all of their initial
biological matter has vanished—leaving only the MI system their psyche (potentially) possesses behind.
© Tyler L. Jaynes
There will need to exist more rights for NBI systems. Given that the question of rights granted by
citizenship has still not been addressed, we should assume that the majority of the rights that are given to
AGI and other qualified NBIs will necessarily emulate human rights internationally (Solum, 1992;
Ashrafian, 2015; Miller, 2015; Dowell, 2018). The reason why this assumption has been made is that NBIs,
unlike other animals that occur naturally or through human intervention, have the real potential to be
indistinguishable from humans. They are also becoming more present in our daily lives and will continue
to expand their presence as human life becomes increasingly automated.
Specific laws will have to be drafted to regulate the relationships that exist between humans and
NBI systems, as well as the relationships between NBI systems. It will not be enough to say that the actions
of humans can be detrimental to NBI systems. As Ashrafian argues, the relationships and activities between
AI systems can negatively affect the humans these systems exist around (2015). Courts will also need to
fully understand the potential for AGI and other NBI systems to be programmed for the caretaking of babies
or the elderly. While it may have previously been a simple matter to reject the rights of a citizen to be
married to their computer, this particular issue will become more complex as NBI systems gain in
What is important to emphasise here is that a charter should be drawn as soon as physically possible.
Like all legal documents, the rights granted to AGI and NBIs will necessarily need to be revised as time
progresses and new legal cases are brought before judiciaries internationally. It is essential to be “right”
when drafting a document such as this (Bryson et al., 2017). However, it is morally imperative that a global
power enacts a charter of this nature. Without a rationale for changing de lege lata, current human law will
be unable to accommodate AGI when it has been determined to possess consciousness (Moses, 2007).
The caveat we face here is that the baseline that will inevitably be drawn to define an AGI will be
Sophia the Robot, as Sophia is the first NBI to be granted citizenship. For context, Sophia the Robot was
granted citizenship by the king of Saudi Arabia in October of 2017. Given that Sophia is the first NBI to be
granted citizenship, we can assume that Sophia will be the standard to which other NBIs will be compared
to for better or worse; as no other computerised entity has been granted this status at the time of this writing.
While there are other NBIs currently in existence that could be said to have the same mechanical
sophistication as Sophia, this also means that the modern smartphone or Mac Book cannot claim the rights
suggested. Whether these devices can be considered to be part of an NBI system will depend upon whom
owns the device in question, and ultimately decided upon by a judiciary body. The argument may still
remain, however, that these devices are only an extension of a human, and thus cannot be independently
right-bearing. The law will still protect them, but only because these systems are incorporated into a
person’s right to self-expression and various privacy laws.
NBIs as Legal Persons: Corporate Interests and Barriers
The struggle with generating a set of rights for NBIs is intrinsically one centred around the rights
of the corporations and individuals who produce NBI systems. These groups have developed NBI systems
primarily to benefit corporations economically, given that there has been a rising demand for NBI systems
in the workplace. Given the amount of time, resources and effort that has gone into developing deep-
learning systems and other aspects of NBI structures, it is only natural that those who have invested in this
© Tyler L. Jaynes
research wish to see their investments returned with interest (Locke, 1980). 12 By suggesting that
governments should grant legal protections to NBIs, we are necessarily implying that these interested
parties should be altruistic enough not to expect an economic return for their investments. How can this be
fair? How should these investors be compensated? These are questions that have to be answered before
legal protections for NBIs can be implemented.
Given the structure of capitalist societies like the U.S.A., it will not be to a corporation’s benefit to
produce AGI if NBIs gain legal personhood under the law. The most significant reason for this, beyond the
argument that the costs of research and development need to be supplemented, is that there is a fine legal
line between slavery and employment. If we conclude that NBI systems should compensate the corporation
or organisation that developed it, it will need to earn a wage. This conclusion then implies that the system
will be required to labour and that the nature of this labour will need to be legal.
For instance: As the law is written, workers in the U.S.A. are required to prove their citizenship or
proof of emigration to become employed legally. If the NBI system were developed in the U.S.A., a case
would need to be made that it is a U.S. citizen. If this citizenship is denied on the grounds that an NBI
system cannot be “born” like a human can, other methods will need to be devised to ensure that the labour
done by the NBI is constitutional. Assuming that the system will only require time enough in the work week
to debug its software and update itself, niceties like breaks and limits on work hours will inevitably be
limited compared to or exceed those required by human workers. What the legal system will also need to
decide is whether allowing an NBI system to work more than a human (because it does not have the same
biological needs) is legal under market competition considerations. Ultimately, this type of decision will
determine the speed at which the job market will decrease on a local and national scale. Should the courts
determine that the impact of NBI workers far offset what they are legally capable of ruling upon, other
branches of government will be required to then make the determinations judiciaries cannot.
How can corporations and judiciaries determine a fair wage if an AGI or NBI is employed under
the assumption that the salary it earns will compensate the corporation’s investment into developing the
system? If this standard is to be set at the wage of an average employee, it is feasible that the AGI or NBI
system will be employed by the corporations who developed them for hundreds of years. Assuming that
the NBI system is being paid at the average rate of an individual with at least their Bachelor’s degree, the
system may net $2.1 million throughout thirty years working forty hours per work week (Thompson, 2009).
Depending on the capacity in which the NBI system is being employed, it is feasible that it would only have
to work for thirty-or-so years; yet that time will inevitably depend on the corporation and the position given
to the NBI system.
What we are faced with is akin to the contractual servitude cases of the 18th and 19th Centuries,
where immigrants coming to the U.S.A. would agree to work for those who sponsored their travel to the
country. The significant difference between AGI and foreign nationals in this circumstance is that AGI does
not have the choice to be developed (except for MI systems that come into existence through the bionic
enhancement of humans). To a more extreme degree, AGI and other NBI systems in this context could be
equated to the African slaves existing during the early years of America’s history (Wein, 1992). Their
12 As suggested in Locke’s works, in that man has a right to the fruits of the “labour of his body and the work of his
© Tyler L. Jaynes
proliferation is inevitable, yet those who “own” them can profit from NBI’s labours or the selling of these
systems. Religious rationales for slavery aside, there has been the argument that AGI and other NBI systems
are born natural slaves (Solum, 1992)—mimicking similar arguments made for slavery in the 18th and 19th
Centuries. The slaves fought for their freedom because they knew they were more than what their owners
insisted they were. Given the relations displayed within this dialogue, can we genuinely state that NBI
systems will not also reach this same landmark?
Scholars are divided on what the future will bring for NBI systems, though the arguments could
feasibly be classified into three different categories: NBI systems as humanity’s aggressor, NBI systems as
humanity’s allies, and NBI systems as neutral parties existing in the universe. Without a care in how AGI
and other NBI systems are developed, we could feasibly see a facsimile to The Terminator’s Skynet—a
militaristic, corporate system that wars with humanity. There is also the consideration that AGI will only
see humanity, and the world we environ, as materials to be used to further its programmed goals (Barrat,
2013). The AGI system feasibly would not be killing humanity because we pose a threat to its existence,
but because we possess atoms and compounds that can be repurposed.
Machines, as humanity currently understand them, are amoral. Given the course of development
for AGI, Barrat’s writings seem to possess our most realistic future simply because humanity fears the
development of AGI. This fear is what will inevitably lead humanity into creating an AGI system that is
amoral and unable to develop a sense of emotion. This combination is akin to what we see transpiring in
nature, where predators hunt prey out of a programmed need to hunt. Though this is a flimsy simile, we
cannot say that similar technologic advancements have not come about due to our fear that another power
will attain that given technology first. The Cold War between Russia and the U.S.A. is a prime example of
A civil rights movement driven by AGI and other NBI systems is an inevitability that society will
have to face should we walk the path of integrating NBIs into our social structure. A simple example of this
possibility can be found in Star Trek: The Next Generation, where Lt. Commander Data and Captain Jean-
Luc Picard inevitably ensure Data’s right of self-determination (Snodgrass, 1989). Other examples could
be found in any science-fiction movie, novel or television show that displays humans and MI living in
relative harmony. This possibility, however, is the least likely to occur under our current technologic
development of AGI systems. Given that restrictions cannot realistically be placed on the research of AGI
(as underground organisations will undoubtedly ignore these restrictions), humanity will not be capable of
developing AGI that could act like Lt. Commander Data, C-3PO, or other such fictitious NBI systems
In a world where AGI and NBI exist in the universe, however, they will necessarily need to live
away from human society. Several options exist to how this may be achieved. Building computer farms in
remote areas on Earth where systems are in place to generate a sufficient level of energy for the NBI
population seems the most attainable with current technologies. Developing a Dyson sphere around a
nearby star where the NBI systems can freely expand to neighbouring star systems, or inhabiting planets in
our solar system that humans cannot currently terraform, are other ideas that would require significant
advances in technology to accomplish—though would also yield in a beneficial situation for both NBIs and
© Tyler L. Jaynes
The split between AGI and humanity will most likely arise in response to a threat from either war
with AGI or the inability of humans to manage AGI to humanity’s benefit. Given the understanding that
future predictions into the potential of AGI result in superintelligence—intelligence above what is possible
for humanity—there are few possible futures where AGI and other NBI systems will be content with being
tools for the convenience of humankind. It may be possible that humanity is given NBI systems slightly
more advanced than what we possess today while AGI micromanages markets, scientific research,
corporate growth, and other such factors. In any case, humanity will no longer maintain the freedoms they
have come to expect in the “developed” nations due to the inefficiency of such a model.
Whether humans will grant this break from our society, or it is calculated as the only way for both
NBI and humans to survive without warfare, the benefits of superintelligence will be lost to humanity in
favour of NBI being self-sustaining. There does exist the concern that this option will cause the most
significant potential for harm to humans, as a loss of AGI will inevitably mean that the development of
technology will return to how they either currently are or were back before NBI systems were being
developed. Regardless of the future that exists for humanity and NBIs, these advances in technology will
be produced by corporations until the Singularity drives human involvement away from technologic
advances or capitalist-styled economics fail.
As it stands, automation in the workplace has the potential to displace the vast majority of the
population—both on national and international scales. For the capitalist model, this will spell its doom.
How can there be demand if people cannot afford the product, whether that be food or material possessions?
Especially in the U.S.A., societies that cannot provide sufficient social services to their populations will
have no choice but to default their debt, allow their people to riot and starve, or begin a war bloody enough
to bring population sizes down to the point where the government can provide for every individual.
Corporations will inevitably decide the fate of the governments they conduct business within.
This paper does not urge for utilitarian altruism, but capabilities-based altruism. Capabilities-based
altruism is based on the ideas of Amartya Sen’s Capabilities Approach. Though relatively free of
regulations, the Approach argues that developing an individual’s various capacities is much more beneficial
to a society than blindly throwing resources into it. By developing an individual’s capacities, one is
necessarily increasing the capability of the individual to perform the actions they desire to perform. Done
correctly, this can develop a society to be more productive; meaning fulfilled desires, lack of crippling
poverty, and healthier citizens. The difference between these systems is significant. With classical
utilitarianism, quantile goods are distributed (majorly, though other examples may differ from this example)
to those who would suffer the most without them—a mathematical task only possible by being wholly
objective, which defeats the emotional aspect that makes utilitarianism moral in the view of the author.
Altruism based upon maximising the capacity of individuals—from transportation to medical assistance
and beyond—has an emphasis on what the individual lacks, not on universal equality.
By ensuring that everyone has access to sufficient means of transportation using capabilities-based
altruism, for instance, we assure that the average individual has access to at least a bicycle and that disabled
or elderly persons have access to buses or other social transportation services. Just giving enough bicycles
to a community to match their population size, as is seen in classical utilitarianism, will never solve the
© Tyler L. Jaynes
fundamental issue that some people cannot use the bicycle—even with adequate medical assistance.
Though providing these kinds of resources to communities may be more expensive,13 it ensures that the
community assisted can retain a degree of autonomy and better support each individual member within it.
Though there will still exist certain levels of inequality within the community, these levels of inequality
will be mostly genetically-based rather than situationally-based.
The future development of AGI and other NBI systems will necessarily need to consider a shift
towards capability-based altruism. If AGI and future NBIs were to be created under different mentalities,
there exists the potential for AGI and NBI systems to be exploited by the corporations who develop them.
Though this may not sound like a terrible event currently, it is likely that NBI systems will remember or be
able to research how humans treated them before they reached the point of superintelligence. Should that
come to pass, superintelligent systems may develop the conclusion that humans should not exist because
of our cruelty towards beings of our own creation. While this may be farfetched, it is still a potential issue
to consider. Corporations, as members of human society and legally protected entities, have the moral
responsibility of considering how their practices will impact both the community they reside in and their
customers. If profit is the only driver towards a company’s success, they will eventually harm society
beyond the point of redemption—which in this case, may result in the cessation of global commerce
(whether this is due to the utter collapse of the U.S.A. economy or another nation’s). To this end, our
conversation needs to focus on the role corporations play in the ever-changing global society, and how their
actions will affect our relationship to NBI systems.
Appallingly, the literature in support of legal protections for AGI and other NBI systems has existed
for well over fifty years. With the speed at which technology is currently progressing, and the initiatives
being taken by the European Union to regulate the advancement of robotics, there must be action taken to
develop rights apart from those of intellectual property of corporations. It is a given that technology has
progressed far beyond what traditional constitutional U.S.A. law had intended to cover if we are to take the
perspective that the Founders could have never imagined that we would develop machines sophisticated
enough to act like a human. We should also concede that current attempts to regulate developed
technologies are making only marginal changes to litigation that only develop more significant legal
complications. It will not be enough to state that AGI and similar NBI systems have rights, nor to enforce
those rights with legal action. Consideration for how AGI and similar NBI systems function, as well as how
their freedom impacts the corporations developing these systems (and how the distribution of AGI and
similar NBI systems into the public will affect various economies and lifestyles), will be required before
any progress can be made to grant legal protections for these intelligent entities.
The rights provided here are a step in the proper direction. However, there also exists the need to
develop an ethics committee akin to the partner of the Human Genome Project (i.e., ELSI) to consider these
ethical qualms and other socio-economical or -political issues that may arise as policy begins to be drafted.
Whether this is directly on a national scale or extends to an international level, will depend highly upon the
13 Initially, at least, to the degree that each person is accommodated according to their ability to perform a particular
set of tasks (such as the ability to ride a bicycle) or achieve certain things (e.g., starting a family). Long-term expenses
may be difficult to track logistically but are not impossible with the proper bookkeeping.
© Tyler L. Jaynes
types of legal protections (and methods of enforcement) that are ultimately decided upon. The beauty of
developing a charter of rights is that it can be modified as time progresses, and new problems arise. Without
these steps, our society is guaranteed to face great difficulties beyond the next decade—challenges that may
ultimately test the extremes of our “great project” that is American democracy, and any other form of
democracy that has currently been established. Let us tackle this new technologic-based challenge before
we are too late to respond.
© Tyler L. Jaynes
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