Can “Synths” and “Posthumans” have Human Rights?

In the recently-finished third season of the intelligent drama Humans [spoiler alert…], the government has set up a Commission under the chairmanship of Lord Dryden to consider the legal status of synthetic robots (Synths). These creatures had become conscious at the end of the previous series (if you want to know more, I do recommend that you watch the box set).

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Mia (Gemma Chan) is a central character in the first three seasons of Humans

Against that backdrop, I was especially interested to read a new paper in the Medical Law Review by David Lawrence and Margaret Brazier. Legally Human? ‘Novel Beings’ and English Law considers ways in which the European Convention on Human Rights and English case law might be brought to bear on the legal status of human-like creatures. The authors favour the description of such beings as “sapient” rather than the more common “sentient”, not least as sentience was famously used by philosopher Jeremy Bentham as justification for broadening protection from suffering to non-human animals.

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Lawrence and Brazier examine three types of entity whose production is scientifically-plausible using existing technologies (whilst acknowledging that other methods might emerge in the future). These creatures are: Continue reading

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Who wants to be a transhumanist postman?

I was recently looking through the new collection Rethinking Cognitive Enhancement when I had an uncontrolled laugh out loud moment in the University library. Flicking through the index I saw a reference to Bostrom’s Why I want to be a postman when I grow up.  As readers may know, Oxford academic Nick Bostrom is a leading light of the transhumanist movement.  His paper Why I want to be a posthuman when I grow up (copy via this link) is somewhat different.

To the best of my knowledge, Bostrom has no desire to be delivering letters in his enhanced state!

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Cybermen and Transhumanism

There has been some controversy in the last 24 hours about the early release by Amazon of the much anticipated Grand Theft Auto V. In a less newsworthy, but personally more exciting, way I also seem to have been the beneficiary of a premature dispatch by the online retailer. Yesterday I received a pre-ordered copy of New Dimensions of Doctor Who: Adventures in Space, Time and Television: Exploring Space, Time and Television even though it is not officially released until the end of the month.

New Dimensions of Doctor Who is one of several titles due out as the 50th anniversary of the iconic TV series approaches

New Dimensions of Doctor Who is one of several titles due out as the 50th anniversary of the iconic TV series approaches

The book includes a chapter The Cybermen and Human.2 written with my former research assistant Bonnie Green. The first version of the chapter was written some while back, so I am delighted that it has finally seen the light of day. In the chapter we reflect on the Cybermen as upgraded versions of humans, and therefore how, within this speculative fiction, they can serve as examples for consideration with regard to the views of transhumanists who are in favour of directed evolution of Homo sapiens beyond our natural capabilities.

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