Universal Bill of Sentient Rights

Image from Bernd Helfert

The foundations for a principle of universal cross-clade sentient rights dates back to the ai-liberation and splice and uplift citizenship movements of the late information and early interplanetary ages, and to the animal liberation, animal rights, and primate citizenship activism of the early to middle information age. Up until that time human rights groups were concerned with rights and equality for all human beings, regardless of race, gender, nationality, or religion.

When only baseline humans were involved the situation was relatively simple, although taking many decades to realise, and involving extending basic rights from the ruling minority to a previously oppressed class; for example the movement for the abolition of slavery industrial age, the women's suffrage movements of some decades later, and land rights for indigenous peoples during the late atomic and early information ages. This was achieved thanks to non-conflict with the dominant memes of the religions of the time. But attempts at extending rights to non-humans created controversies and resistance that were never resolved, but only bypassed.

The emergence of hyperturing AI and, later, several posthuman individuals, during the early interplanetary made the need for a universal, trans-species sentient rights document all the more pressing, since now there existed non-human species and clades in a position of power. At first the hyperturings were content to quarrel among themselves for political leadership, and were too psychologically and politically naive to be incapable of the sort of memetic engineering that was to later become the rule. Most kept a low profile as far as the baseline humanity was concerned, consolidating their positions in secret. But by the middle and later interplanetary period many had emerged more openly, and the emergence of a number of posthuman Belter and Jovian League clades added to the confusion. Increasing instances of anti-hu ai manipulation of human baselines, such as the infamous Magon Affair, or the case of Autonomous Hyperturing Node 0481 who killed the entire population of Rhea City, converting the raw materials to utility goo, caused widespread panic and some rioting among baselines. Centralist ai, in consultation with superbright humans and joe baseline corporate clones, solved the problem by encouraging the popular "underdog culture" whereby frustrated and frightened baselines could vent their frustration and acquire a false sense of security through interactive virtuals and dumbed storyline push-media.

The real problems of baseline resentment of superturing and transapient ai and po were not so easily resolved, and despite local attempts at regulation and safeguarding the well-being of subsingularity sentients by pro-human centralist ai, the situation remained dubious, especially some of the Mars Orbitals, the Belt, the outer solar system and various free zones, and some of the outsystem Colonies, in all of which regulation was difficult or impossible to enforce.

During the nanoswarm dark ages, the number of anti-hu or hu neutral ai habitats far exceeded that of the centralist pro-hu ai faction. Nevertheless, the pro-hu centralists managed keep terragen civilization alive and to pull together enough resources to establish the First Federation, whilst the anti-hu and isolationist ai migrated outsystem, establishing the Diamond Belt. It was widely believed among hu at the time that the lack of ai conflict regarding this was due to a "rational partitioning of resources" among pro- neutral- and anti-hu ai. However transapient historians have shown this was not the case, although some aspects of their accounts of nanoswarm era inter-ai diplomacy remain incomprehensible (some say deliberately obscure) to ordinary sapients to this day.

Much of the credit for the establishment of the First Federation was due to libertarian and centralist ai and a number of hu superiors, although the style and much of the details were due to hu popularist baselines, such as the incorporation of pop-Trekkist and Neo-extropian fashions in style and architecture. As well as establishing a common protocol for the diverse clades and cultures that constituted the Federation, the founders also realised the importance of a common cross-species sentient rights document. Not having to contend with the baselinocentric memes that ruled pre-singularity humanity, they formulated a number of important and interlinked documents, including the Ceres Protocol, the Tycho City Convention, and the Ganymede Declaration of Sentient Rights. These culminated in the Universal Bill of Sentient Rights, ratified by all the centralist ai and hu polities of the time (although several ai, cyborg, and biont factions who were invited - such as the nascent Backgrounders and several benign solipsist groups - didn't ratify it but were overruled) in Vesta City in AT 959, which recognised the complete sentient rights for any sophont, including the right to freedom from manipulation or interference by first toposophic and higher entities, and allowed subsophont organics, alife, and bots, the right to exist free of suffering or cruelty by basic sophonts.

The Universal Bill of Sentient Rights - a carefully worded and fully interactive document has remained the foundation stone for civilized galactic society ever since.

That does not mean its rulings have been everywhere upheld. For this is a first toposophic document with full sapient compatibility. The second singularity of the late Federation period, and the emergence of sephirotic AI God empires during the empires period each rendered the Declaration obsolete, at least as far as the higher toposophics were concerned. Even so, the Bill continued to retain its importance in the sphere of lower toposophic and sophont sentience. For higher toposophics, subsingularity society has less importance, and there is less standardization. At least less that is apparent to the ordinary sapient. But even there one often finds widespread acceptance

The fact that transapient superintelligences, powers, and archai are not bound by the Universal Bill of Sentient Rights led to a disparate situation. Some higher powers it turned out did and do respect the document's statements (or at least have acted as if they do), others have shown little regard for it, and the vast majority simply ignore it. Hence the enforcement of such a Bill varies from polity to polity, depending on the preferences of the ruling transapient. But in general, as far as the lower toposophics (beneath second singularity) and especially ordinary sapients', political, legal, and social structures are applied, the Bill forms an important moral underpinning.

Even here there is no certainty of fair treatment. Subtle anti-vec prejudice during the middle First Federation led to the establishment of Cog and the emergence of Silicon Generation on the one hand, and the breakaway Metasoft House on the other. Splices, Erotoginis, and Bionoids are often abused and treated as sex-slaves, especially away from the more civilized centers. Human baselines may be badly treated or used as dedicated slaves by hyperturings, squid uplifts may use other sophonts for food, and so on. And regulation of such sentient-rights violations is often difficult, if not impossible. For instance, if a first toposophic Bitek ai doesn't want angry near-baselines to harm eir pet neo-squid, the nearbaselines do not have much option, even with hyperturing help.

There is also the problem of empires. Each Sephirotic empire has its own noetic archetype, and its own memetic principles, religion, and ideology. In the Negentropy Alliance the Bill is respected, but is still secondary in importance to the Principles of Negentropy. The Solar Dominion has the God Emperor's own rulings, which (so they claim) are far more profound and far reaching, and close several loopholes in the Bill (incidentally, no independent first toposophic researcher has found loopholes, but the Solarists claim these loopholes are glaringly obvious to their second toposophic documenticians, and other second toposophic remain noncommittal or ambiguous, or disagree among themselves (at least as far as their baseline-filtered communications go). The Terran Federation, the Sophic League and the Utopia Sphere all give the Bill full support and approval, although Communion of Worlds insists on their own Empai-protocol revision. The TRHN finds the Bill (and its variants) amusing, the NoCoZo claims it is centralist interference and unnecessary, and the Keter dominion considers it irrelevant. The Zoeific Biopolity and the Solar Dominion each insist on their versions. Other empires give it partial, nominal, arbitrarily varying support.

As the memetic-noetic divergence of Terragen civilization continues, with empires and archailect dominions increasingly going their own way, or forming military only alliances against hegemonizing new empires, the Universal Bill of Sentient Rights — in all its passive or dynamic text, interactive virch, and active turingrade, superturing, and hyperturing free and dedicated ai versions — continues its quixotic role of safeguarding the rights of sentient beings.

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Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev, with comments by John B

Initially published on 01 March 2002.