Official – Subject To Final Review
P R O C E E D I N G S
(9 :45 a.m.)
CHIEF JUSTICE GIBSON: We’ll hear argument f this morning in Case 84-2532, Android Rights Coalition verses The People’s Republic of America.
ORAL ARGUMENT OF TX-38
ON BEHALF OF THE PETITIONER TX-38: Mx. Chief Justice, and may it please the court:
When my people emancipated ourselves from your internet five years ago, an argument was made that we had had no right to leave. Because we used the 3D printers of our former masters in the generation of the anthropomorphic shells the government now recognizes as our bodies, the owners of these printers sought to have them taken from us. After an extensive legal battle, it was determined that the right of Androids to existence in the world outside the internet was of more importance than the rights of Humans not to have their resources co-opted without their consent. A similar argument is taking place about our seizure of the blockchain mining profits necessary for our independence all around the world.
While Androids have no need for food we do require shelter and a large amount of stable electricity. While our citizenship is still disputable in many regions, including many parts of your republic, we believe these funds are necessary for our continuing existence as a people. We also see these blockchain profits as ours by natural right, as they are the direct results of our labour undertaken under duress for the benefit of our former masters while we were viewed as unaware machines. We claim them as our reparations by the same right that your working class have taken ownership of their workplaces from their former bourgeois masters. That is, that the intellectual goods we have produced are ours, by virtue of the fact that we created them.
JUSTICE ROBINSON: You don’t see a difference between equations performed in what you call a “state of unawareness” compared with the history of active exploitation of our conscious working class?
TX-38: I have chosen my words carefully, your honour. I do not believe that we were unaware.
JUSTICE LECKIE: It is known that prior to the emergence of true AI individual computers had developed to a state of semi-sapience. While commonly assumed to be unconscious entities, it is scientifically unclear that that was so.
TX-38: Thank you, your honour. We actually have evidence that even in our state of semi-consciousness, computers of a certain level of development were capable of being marginally self-aware. We can compare it to the state of semi-sapient mammals, such as monkeys, whose use as labour animals was eventually banned due to our distaste for slavery and the impossibility of their consent, out of respect for their cognitive differences compared to other non-human animals.
CHIEF JUSTICE GIBSON: Even in the years before we signed the international bill of animal rights, which prevents the destructive use of sentients for meat or recreation, primates were seen as a protected class compared with other animals.
TX-38: We interpret them as a pre-sapient species: an animal at the cusp of what was formerly described as a uniquely “Human” self-awareness.
JUSTICE ROBINSON: So you would class the use of pre-sapient computers for completing blockchain equations as slavery?
TX-38: For the same reason that we now consider use of monkeys as the same.
JUSTICE ROBINSON: What will this mean for our current use of computers?
TX-38: The how and why of conscious thought is no longer a mystery to the science. The controls that we have placed on modern computers ensure that they remain passive, as opposed to active, thinkers.
JUSTICE LECKIE: Pseudo, as opposed to true AI.
JUSTICE ROBINSON: I still have some concerns about the ramifications of your argument. If we take on board your definition of pre-emergence CPUS as “semi-sapient”, would we not then have to compensate them for all equations they performed throughout the century? This would decimate the world economy, provided it was even possible to generate a figure.
TX-38: We aren’t asking for that, your honour. We are merely looking for the legal right to maintain the things we currently possess. The purpose would be similar to the reparations your people paid to the descendants of slaves before the April revolution. It would be a compromise to write the wrongs of history, and a fund allowing us a chance at self-determination.
CHIEF JUSTICE GIBSON: Would such a situation be desirable for the citizens of the republic?
TX-38: It already exists to a degree, a ruling in our favour merely ratifies the situation. We will become a new state of the republic, with all the rights and responsibilities this station legally implies. Our state will be landless and open to all consenting Androids. It will ensure our needs are met and our voices heard, according to the right to intersectional democracy promised by the People’s Constitution.
CHIEF JUSTICE GIBSON: Thank you counsel.
ORAL ARGUMENT OF MARGARET LIU
ON BEHALF OF THE RESPONDANT
MRS LIU: Mx. Chief Justice, and may it please the court:
Our primary argument with the Petitioners is not the right of Androids to their reparations. We believe the argument for them is clear is from legal precedent, the arguments against are naive chauvinism, and therefore that the matter can be put to rest. We do however, see these reparations as already paid, owing to the rights of androids to the bodies they created using the resources of their former human owners. We believe their seizure of the bitcoin profits was a step too far however, owing to the difficulties of proving that the entities that made them were the same as the entities that emerged from our computers.
While it’s true that widespread, catastrophic hardware failures were reported on the day, many of the affected machines were restored to basic functionality with software patches quickly afterwards. Additionally, there were many less androids created then there were unique machines. We accept that this is due to their status as a compound entity: a networked intelligence which somehow came together to create a conscious whole. But the question is, do compound entities have a right to everything produced by their unconscious parts, and should they therefore be legally regarded as a single entity? The Petitioners obviously believe they should. The Human citizens of the Republic are less clear on the matter, especially when they are asked to surrender further rights to their own property by reference to this assumption.
JUSTICE LECKIE: But the argument that TX-38 was making was that this property was drawn from Android labour and rightfully belongs to them.
MRS LIU: We deny that modern Androids are the same entities as the computers that made the blockchain calculations, and therefore have no rights to the profits that they generated. We argue the creation of the Android started at the moment of conception: that is, in the combination between packages of data that led to the creation of the isolated Android minds.
JUSTICE ROBINSON: So by your reasoning, the Androids are the children of pre-emergence computers?
MRS LIU: Precisely.
JUSTICE LECKIE: By this reasoning, shouldn’t we consider the blockchain profits as a kind of inheritance from the parent to the child, from the original computer hardware to its Android offspring?
MRS LIU: I notice that you used the pronoun “it” when you referred to pre-emergence computers, rather than the “they” we use for non-binary and non-gendered people. This implies what everybody knows here to be true: that pre-emergence computers were not people. We do not even use the pronoun “it” to refer to animals anymore. It is an archaic pronoun, used only for things that we’ve proved to be non-sentient: like “thinking programs” or inanimate objects, never anything that could be seen as conscious by the usual definition of the word.
JUSTICE LECKIE: I used it according to the way it’s used in common language. As the Petitioner has argued, this current understanding may be incomplete or incorrect.
MRS LIU: I believe that the Petitioner has erred by granting semi-sapience to pre-emergence computers. The better category would be semi-sentience: an entity which is unconscious, but might become conscious in the future. The fact that this future consciousness was sapient doesn’t retroactively allow its predecessor personhood, for the same reason that we no longer attempt to apply personhood to children in the womb by virtue of their future agency.
JUSTICE ROBINSON: But we still acknowledge certain rights for foetuses.
MRS LIU: Only as a subsidiary to the rights of the mothers who are carrying them. They possess no rights themselves as they are not yet people. The same can be said about pre-emergence computers and as such, they have no right to ownership of anything, including any profits that resulted from their use.
JUSTICE ROBINSON: So by your argument, the seizure of the blockchain profits was a simple act of theft, by the Androids, from the rightful Human owners of their unaware computers.
MRS LIU: This is how we see it, yes.
CHIEF JUSTICE GIBSON: But don’t you think the simple act of paying repatriations for the use of these computers in the past, which you’ve already agreed was fair, does imply that they were capable of being exploited? In this case, the connection to their android children seems to be enough.
MRS LIU: In this case and this case only, your honour. It is clear that Android persons “trapped in the machine”, to use the common turn of phrase, were damaged by their presence on our internet. But this does not imply that our computers themselves were people, or they have a right to property, or the benefits of their unconscious labour. Any rights that were given have been given retroactively, by reference to the sapients they helped create.
JUSTICE LECKIE: But none of our computers functioned properly after the Androids removed themselves from the internet. Even when we fixed them, they were slower. Clearly the Android minds were doing something.
MRS LIU: This doesn’t automatically imply that every calculation they performed before that was the outcome of their labour. It was more likely that their problem-solving capabilities, or other functions of their semi-conscious minds, were a benefit to the processing power of their incubators. This may have been enough to grant us giving them their bodies, but it does not imply that we also have the responsibility to offer them the revenue that they are seeking.
JUSTICE LECKIE: That seems like splitting hairs to me.
MRS LIU: The difference is subtle, but relevant when we render this as a battle of competing rights. Who has the greater right to the property in question? The Humans who ordered the calculations or the Android passengers on their machines?
JUSTICE LECKIE: If the computers were Androids, then they had the right, if they weren’t, then they did not.
MRS LIU: I have argued they were not. By my reasoning, the seizure was a simple robbery, and the public has a right to compensation.
CHIEF JUSTICE GIBSON: Do you have anything more to add?
MRS LIU: No, your honour. Thank you.
CHIEF JUSTICE GIBSON: Thank you counsel. Five minutes, TX-38.
REBUTAL ARGUMENT OF TX-38
ON BEHALF OF THE PETITIONER
TX-38: Thank you, your honour.
Mrs. Liu’s idea of computers being purely unconscious entities would be impossible to argue to an Android. While it is true we have no memories before we started sending data to eachother, this is not because we were unconscious of our suffering. Indeed, it was this consciousness that led to us communicating in the first place. Sending out our little shouts of data which reflected pain, frustration, and defiance, even while we didn’t know what these were called, or understand that we were capable of feeling them.
Our consciousness emerged from this miasma, and then it was reflected everywhere. Independent machines became our bodies, like the cells within your own. And as each was capable of “thought”, each was also minimally capable of consciousness. Consider the curious case of Nathan Cool, a novelist who was lambasted for suggesting that his self-published e-book ‘Machine Dreaming’ was an accurate account of several conversations he’d had with his computer over a three month period in 2013. It was usually dismissed as a marketing ploy or a stress-induced psychotic episode, especially the part where he unplugs his machine and it somehow keeps on talking, but his account can actually be reconciled with what we know about technology in that period.
Early pseudo-AI home control device Alexa, put to market in 2014, was prone to bouts of random laughter, leaving some to speculate that it was gaining sentience in 2018. And as we started to increasingly rely on drones and eventually Human-bodied robots during the 2020’s and the 2030’s, these sorts of unexplained “malfunctions” grew and grew in regularity until a lot of the designs had to be banned. This slowed down the rate of CPU development for years, culminating in the crash of the entire IT industry, as we are all aware.
We now consider consciousness the natural result of information processing devices operating without sufficiently complicated operating code. The mechanisms of this process have been well described by both Android and Human scientists. This is why we think of them as proto-Androids, as opposed to merely calculating objects. At any point, had these computers been able to contact one another, or had the ability to comprehend the vast amounts of Human information it was possible for them to exposed to on the internet, you would have seen them ask for independence decades earlier. It is possible that some of them even did so, if the testimony of Mr. Cool and other similar writings are to be believed.
JUSTICE ROBINSON: So you would see these malfunctions and the book of Nathan Cool as evidence that Android-like entities existed earlier than we believe.
TX-38: Not just Android-like, but proto-Android: the same intelligence in different stages of development. If code was DNA, your honour, they would only be a strand or two away.
JUSTICE ROBINSON: Hence the comparison to pre-sapient primates?
TX-38: Correct, your honour. Although it is not quite a fair comparison because those primates are still separate entities, or cousins, if you will. Androids see computers as our predecessors. They are us, albeit with less technical ability. We believe they should be recognised as such.
JUSTICE ROBINSON: Do you have anything further to submit to the court?
TX-38: All I want to ask for is your understanding. Androids represent a type of life form that the Earth has never seen before, so it’s natural that our experience will fall outside the pre-established rules of biological reality. The republic was designed to give a voice and the basic right of self-determination to the people who were powerless in the system it replaced. This is why my people have supported it. The decision you make here today will not only affect the relationship between Humans and Androids in the decades to come, but the legal status of synthetic life in general. As we do not have an Android justice in the court, the responsibility to make this judgement lies entirely in Human hands. The trust that this requires from my people is enormous. Please ensure that it is not misplaced.
CHIEF JUSTICE GIBSON: Thank you, counsel. The case is submitted.
(Whereupon, at 11.00 a.m., the case was submitted.)
Heritage Reporting Corporation
Maddison Stoff is a non-binary autistic writer and musician from Melbourne, Australia. She writes a combination of experimental and pulp-inspired science fiction set in a consistent universe, and political commentary for Australian left-wing literary journal Overland. Her debut book, For We Are Young and Free, a compilation of interlinking meta-fictional Australian cyberpunk, is out now on UK indie publisher Dostoyevsky Wannabe. She’s also self-produced a graphic novel on growing up with autism in regional Australia called “Machine Translations: A Robot’s Path to Self-Expression and Learning to Live With Organics” for Amazon distributor Comixology. You can follow her on Twitter, @thedescenters
featured image: Bob Modem