Pick any great expansion in the rights of humanity, from the advent of democracy to the Nineteenth Amendment to yesterday’s decision, and I doubt you will find DNA at the philosophical core of the change. So what is it? When we, the human civilization, recognize the rights of those who have been oppressed or ignored, what is it we are recognizing? Their humanity! you may answer. But what does that mean? Surely a baby and a corpse are as human as an adult Homo sapiens is, but only the adult can vote. Why?
In a word: personhood.
This realization gets to a central tenet of the philosophy of transhumanism: that rights are not derived from being human but from being a person. Consider the shows listed above, particularly Mass Effect and Star Trek, and ask if Worf or Liara or Data have “human rights.” Of course they don’t. But they do have rights. The rights are derived from their being sentient, sapient beings capable of autonomous, reflexive, symbolic, ethical, and willful thought. That is, they are persons — and persons have rights.
The brilliance of personhood as a foundation for rights is that it exists independent of biology, even of physical substrate. You already know about personhood because you’ve seen it in your favorite movies. The Iron Giant, District 9, Blade Runner, A.L.F., E.T., Monsters Inc. and Ratatouille are about personhood. The eponymous hero of The Iron Giant demonstrates his personhood by willfully not being a gun and saving the day; Remy does so less on a smaller scale but no less movingly in Ratatouille by cooking a gourmet meal that triggers a Proustian flashback in Paris’ toughest food critic. Personhood is what you discover when you stop trying to figure out what makes humans human and instead try to understand how we recognize another sentient mind. A mind imbued with rights.
Personhood is, as simply as I can put it, the degree to which an entity exhibits a combination of aspects of the mind and consciousness, such as sentience, creativity, intelligence, sapience, self-awareness, and intentionality. One great way to look at the question comes from Steven Wise’s Drawing the Line: Science and the Case for Animal Rights, in which he argues that would-be persons can be ranked from “stimulus-response machines” at 0.0 up through fully functioning, rational adult humans at 1.0. The critical note here is that humans themselves can be placed on the scale, with a blastocyst ranking at 0.0 and 5-year-old somewhere in the range of 0.8. An example of a creature that may benefit from this personhood scale would be the former student of Irene Pepperberg, Alex, an especially bright grey parrot, who would fall above the 0.7 intelligence threshold for “limited personhood.”
If an artificial intelligence system or “uplifted” animal (e.g., Dug from Up!) were capable of achieving the same level of reason and mature reflection as an adult human, then it would be granted the same rights as an adult human. If you were to chart degrees of personhood against degrees of rights, it might look like this example taken from James Hughes’ Citizen Cyborg:
The reason all of this matters is that human beings have never been granted rights because they are merely human. Rights come from a demonstration not of DNA or taxonomy, but of mental and moral ability. (...) If we did bring a Neanderthal back, his or her rights would be founded not in the similarity to human DNA but in the rational and moral mind, the personhood, that the clone would have.
(...)Whether aliens, robots, uplifted animals, or cloned Neanderthals will be the first non-humans to demand rights, I don’t know; however, I do know that it is not a matter of if, but when. I just hope by then we have moved beyond mere human rights.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 12:23