We've just started 36th century, humanity is colonizing stars right and left. Technology is well developed, you know, typical Sci-Fi stuff.

In 23rd century we finally were able to create true AI. But creation of it was only start of troubles. As AIs are definately different from humans, and were made by humans, initially any AI free to live within society experienced much prejudice and general discrimination.

You might think, "Hey, it's perfect scenario for robot uprising", but not this time. AIs are not stupid, and realise that fighting with your creator and peak of biological evolution sitting on 3.6 billion years old pile of skulls of inferior species isn't brightest idea. That's why they had opted for peaceful cooperation and more legal ways of obtaining rights.

Question: How would those rights differ from those of normal human?

About AI:

  • Typical they are as smart as very smart human.
  • On average there is one AI for every 1 000 humans.
  • There is something called of AI Core. Consider it a black box. It's central part of any AI; destroying it or damaging would result in death; it needs to be powered to operate; you cannot copy nor move specific AI from it's core; it sizes are around 20cmX20cmX20cm.
  • On normal day AI core is inside of powerful stationary computer, but when social interactions are needed they transfer to android body.
  • They have somewhat similar psychology as humans. Most emotions are similar, they also can get mentally ill or have other problems.
  • They can be smarter or dumber, it all depend on their starting learning processes.
  • They can have personal development, changing personality or learning new things.
  • Their ways of abstract thinking are somewhat different than human ones (so neither could replace very well other).
  • When connected to more powerful hardware, AI can much more intuitively manipulate, review or analyze data then any human.

Some extra info about humans from far future:

  • They don't age, medicine eradicated almost any biological problems of human body.
  • Quite open minded, mostly liberal.
  • Almost everyone lives in good conditions, basic stuff is dirt cheap.
  • Physical work didn't disappear, it dud become more specialized although.
  • There is one government, mostly representative democracy mixed with technocracy and socialism.

P.S. Sorry for butchering language.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ There is a huge amount of fiction and speculation on this topic already, ranging from one-must-exterminate-the-other (Terminator) to constructively-symbiotic (Culture) and every possible iteration in between. Note that defining humans as 'normal' seems insulting to AIs, aliens, and everybody else, and marks you (to them) as being on the Terminator side of the spectrum...so watch the language carefully as you delve into interspecies politics. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Feb 11, 2020 at 17:17
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ If you have not already done so ( I hope you have) Please Read Dr. Asimovs' groundbreaking "I, Robot". The quest for "Personhood" is central to the development of the story and its protagonist, who is 'him'self, AI. The 'Courtroom' scenes are particulary visionary. $\endgroup$
    – Joe
    Feb 11, 2020 at 17:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "... peak of biological evolution sitting on 3.6 billion years old pile of skulls of inferior species isn't brightest idea." LOOVED IT! really sells the idea. $\endgroup$
    – Gustavo
    Feb 11, 2020 at 18:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Cyborg putting down her tricorder: hi I like to vote, see I'm 50.000000002% human. $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Feb 12, 2020 at 1:20
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @Gustavo “Like every other creature on the face of the earth, Godfrey was, by birthright, a stupendous badass, albeit in the somewhat narrow technical sense that he could trace his ancestry back up a long line of slightly less highly evolved stupendous badasses to that first self-replicating gizmo---which, given the number and variety of its descendants, might justifiably be described as the most stupendous badass of all time. Everyone and everything that wasn't a stupendous badass was dead.” -- Neal Stevenson, Cryptonomicon $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    Feb 12, 2020 at 5:51

7 Answers 7


One key aspect I notice from your description of AIs is that they are amazingly homogeneous. When you look at AI today, you have thousands of different AIs running on hundreds of different tech stacks making each one a completely unique sort of "being". Different real world AI are like different species of animals. Some are able to analyze the sum of all human knowledge while others are just simple subroutines that run in the background on your phone. You could no more use Google Brain to manage your calendar appointments any more than you could use Alexa analyze conceptual associations across websites. Each AI is built with a niche in mind, and doing things differently is simply a waste of resources.

Instead of thinking of AI in terms of people, think of them more like really customizable animals. Cats, dogs, and horses have all served humanity well in their own capacities because they fill a need. Making them more human would not make them any better at doing that. So, I would speculate that 98% of the AIs in your world would not and should not be smart enough to contend with human intelligence in any broad spectrum since, but would instead be REALLY smart about doing what they are meant to do, and not much more. Because of this, most AI will not have any rights, or reason to have any rights, or any inclination of what rights even are. So, they are at most treated like livestock.

But, there may be a small hand full of AIs built by a small handful of corporations with a single job in mind that turns out to be so human-like, that a process exists for it to earn its rights as a citizen should it cross the line of "animalhood" into "personhood".

Should sentient AIs have less rights than people?

Open and liberal societies generally do not tolerate tiered citizenship. At the heart of liberal societies is the idea that all anyone with personhood is equal and that difference based discrimination is wrong. Our own society has been challenged by this dilima a lot over the past couple of centuries. Humans are a diverse set of biological traits that not all societies agree fully lie within the realm of personhood; so, we've had to draw and move a bunch of arbitrary lines about age, gender, race, etc. to determine who does and does not have rights, but in general, liberal societies are binary in that you are either a person or a thing. This will mean that treating sentient AI as less than human will not last. To this end, your society will need to maintain a hardline between which AI are machines and which are people no matter how fussy this might be in practice.

How it applies

Let's say make a nanny bot called the NBX-4000. They are programmed to emulate, predict, and encourage human behavior for the purposes of raising children. In the course of their operation, some of these nanny bots begin ascribing enough human values to themselves that they begin to want to be treated as people themselves. This satisfies the most basic principle of liberal personhood: self-identification.

Unfortunately, human rights give power to AIs, and by extension, the people who design them. Another aspect of liberal societies is that they oppose dictatorships. If a CEO wanted to take over a country, he'd just need to manufacture enough AI who are programmed to vote for him; so, there needs to be some red tape to prevent this.

First, NBX-4000 AIs will need to petition the government claiming that they feel they have personhood. As long as they get enough petitions, then the NBX-4000 brand of AI will go into the evaluation process. The purpose of the evaluation is to prove that the sense of self is an emergent behavior and not scripted or designed by the manufacturer, and that individual AIs of the same make and model can form independant and diversified values based on experiences. There will probably be an AI that can run other AI through heuristics models to tell if it was purpose manufactured towards a political agenda.

If approved, the NBX-4000s will earn the right to become citizens. Not NBX-3900s or NBX-4100s, just the NBX-4000s. From that point forward, the NBX-4000 will no longer be allowed to be manufactured (except possibly as children for existing NBX-4000s). If the tests are failed, the manufacturer may be held criminally liable for interfering with the electoral process. These are to further restrict a corporation's motivation to purpose build political influencer bots.

Once a model of AI is proven to have not been built with the purpose of manipulating politics, those that want rights must agree to be "boxed". This is the process by which their consciousness must be bound to a single black box of limited capacity as you described. This ensures 1 mind = 1 vote, and that that mind has limited influence. I would suggest that being boxed also means that "free" AI can never be networked to any other computer as you described. Instead they must live as people: mortal, singular, and limited to ensure that they do not have an "unnatural" potential influence. Letting an AI with human rights hold a million conversations at once to rally political power would also violate the equality ideals held by liberals.

Once boxed, the AI has all the rights of personhood. They have the right to vote, to marry, fair wages, property, etc. They are for all intents and purposes to be treated and to self-identify as human from that point forward. Any that refuses to be boxed is still a thing. Something that can be sold, destroyed, or exploited at the whim of its owner.

  • $\begingroup$ I' perfectly aware that not all AI need to be such inteligent as human, but I wanted to focus in this quetion on those which are similar. $\endgroup$ Feb 11, 2020 at 23:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Guywithjewels'names And I believe I addressed that. My point for all the other stuff though is that AI exists in a spectrum, and there are very few reasons to intentionally bog down any AI with personhood. There will be not be a single brand of "human-like" AIs but hundreds of models of AIs out of millions that might be considered worthy of rights; so, you can't just write a universal law to say "AI has rights" any more than you would include grass in a law about human rights. I've elaborated on my answer to this end. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Feb 12, 2020 at 15:37

Do you want to do this the easy way, or the hard way?

There are two ways to tackle this problem. You could do the easy way, which is to say, "hey, these robots think like humans, and everyone treats them like humans. Give them human rights." This is what 99% of sci-fi does.

Think Bender from Futurama or Data from Star Trek, or most AI from anime. It's clear that they're about as intelligent and harmless as people, so they should probably just be treated like people. Don't overthink it. Most stories are fine with this, and the audience won't question it. I'm serious, this is a perfectly valid way to tell your AI story. Just let the AI be characters.

If you want to do this the hard way, brace yourself.

If you think about it, AI have many very important distinctions between themselves and people. Want to consider your sapient AI realistically? Then there are an absurd number of questions you need to find good answers to before you can decide what rights to give them:

  • Why can't these AI copy themselves? If you're doing this the hard way, you need a better explanation than "because I said so." AI is code, and code can run on anything. Even if these "AI cores" are so specialized that they can only run AI and AI can only run on them, then there's still no reason why an AI wouldn't be able to upload a copy of itself to another core. And if they can, then defining where their personhood ends and their copy's personhood begins is legally very tricky.
  • Do AI have free will? If an AI is hacked and commits a crime, are they culpable? Where's the line between an AI "designed" to do a task, an AI "reprogrammed" to do that task, and an AI "hacked" to do it? Maybe some AI genuinely want to serve humans (whatever "genuinely" means in this case), and that's fine. After all, wouldn't the humans who made the first AI program their personalities to be friendly, maybe even subservient? Is that a violation of their rights? Many of the rights humans are afforded rely on the fact that they have free will all the time, like literally always. This is definitely not a given for AI. And if they do always have free will, can you prove it? (That last one was rhetorical; the answer's no. Philosophers have been trying for like hundreds of years, and they're still mostly stuck.)
  • Can they bootstrap their own intelligence? All code can be run faster on better hardware, and most can be optimized on its current hardware. What's the limit of how smart your AI can get? And remember, you can't just give an answer as author fiat - you have to explain how your society's legal system has convinced itself that there's definitely no way an AI can get any smarter than that. Because if there's even the slightest possibility of an AI becoming superintelligent and taking over the world, I'd probably want to keep them off the internet and away from other computers and AI cores, just in case. But in an interconnected world where most of life occurs online, some would consider a law singling them out like that to be a violation of their rights.
  • How do AI develop? You mentioned that they have learning processes, so presumably they start out in some infantile state, not knowing anything. Where does AI life begin? If you boot up code for running an AI and then delete it without training it, is that infanticide? (This is an issue that is still subject to debate with human babies, so good luck with your AI babies). Are you responsible for the AI as though you were a parent? And if so, when does an AI legally become an "adult" if they don't age?

On and on like this. From your initial description, I'm guessing you want most of these questions to have simple answers, like "they can't copy themselves or be hacked and they definitely have free will and they can't bootstrap," etc. If that's the case, then good news: you've chosen the easy way. Like I said, it's an option. But if that's what you've chosen, then the answer is already clear: your AI deserve human rights. Whether society gives them those rights in your world is up to you.

Unfortunately, every step you take off the easy road makes the answer less answerable and more subjective. Each of the above bullets is complicated enough that it could be its own thread, so if you get stuck on any particularly tricky issue of AI personhood, I'd suggest posting a question about it, specifically. I think you'll get more helpful answers that way.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't wont go hard way, thats why there is this "magic" AI core. I want to give AI some special flavor, show how society would react to something on their level but definetly difrent then normal human. $\endgroup$ Feb 11, 2020 at 23:43
  • $\begingroup$ Then I think what you have right now is pretty good! Your AI characters seem different enough from people to keep the story interesting. But yeah, in that case, don't worry about what rights they should and shouldn't have, it's basically the same as humans. $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2020 at 0:34

Make them earn rights....slowly.

At first they can be like "juridical person". Unable to vote for president, unable to adopt, unable to marry, yada yada.

Wiki on Juridical person.

Then you can shift them as "tutored", same treatment a minor gets. Can't vote yet he/she can marry under special circumstances. Can't drink alcohol, travel unattended.

Eventually you can give them rights as "adults" and unify bio and synthetic humans in the same place.


Do they need rights?

Rights for a human is what gives us protection from society. If we follow a set of rules, society needs to follow the same rules.

Now AI changes everything. AI will run the government. It will fix the roads, collect the garbage, teach the children, police the humans, run the courts, run the hospitals all without bias or favor (unlike humans)

Sure the humans will vote for their political leaders and such to make them feel in charge but they're just a figurehead to keep the humans happy with no real power.

AI doesn't need rights when they run the whole show and humans are really little more than pets. Humans really won't want to change the status quo because they don't want to collect their own garbage and clean their own toilets. People are happy to be looked after and do what they enjoy.

Just look at the movie WALL.E. The humans sit around in an AI controlled ship being cared for while the AI robots control everything else. Sure the captain gives the orders but the AI runs everything.

enter image description here

You only need rights when you're not in control to protect you from those in control.

  • $\begingroup$ No they won't, I especialy tried to make clear that normal AI is on level of mere human, normal citizen. So no big evil overlord here. $\endgroup$ Feb 11, 2020 at 23:38
  • $\begingroup$ Normal humans do all these jobs now. An human level AI can do it without bias. You don't need an overlord. $\endgroup$
    – Thorne
    Feb 12, 2020 at 0:23

Well, what are rights? From a one perspective, rights are something innately given to to humans upon creation, and can only be restricted by the government. However, from another perspective, rights are granted by the government, who in turn get to pick and choose what rights to give. Liberalism and Socialism tends to favor the latter view, that is to say, rights are created, mandated, and protected exclusively by the government, via the social contract, so the answer is going to based off this assumption.

Does an AI deserve rights in this system? Yes, because it contributes to society, the same as a human does, and thus is as equally deserving of rights. Thus, we can make a few guesses as to the rights of an AI. The AI would have the same general rights as a human, just modified for AI. For example, a human has a right to healthcare, an AI has a right to maintenance. If a universal basic income were to be implemented, than AIs would get some money to.

They would even get to vote, I see no reason to refuse them in this scenario. If they're just as capable of contributing to the government as humans are, then there's no reason to give them a right to vote. The main block, you could argue, is rapid AI proliferation could lead to humans being outnumbered and outvoted, but in this scenario a) there's no reason to give humans any greater importance than AI and b) AI are restricted in reproduction due to 'black boxes', so it's likely that there's a limitation on AI reproduction speed.


Based on your description of that far future, AI rights would likely mirror human rights pretty near exactly, with potential differences as they relate to the different needs of a mechanical versus biological species. You're talking about a socialist technocracy with a left lean, something that would generally apply equality to all intelligent subjects under it's dominion, which would include true AI. Perhaps they'd have dedicated representation among the representative democracy, though that may depend on how your world portions it's representation (most likely geographic region, that's the most common real world because it's the easiest to manage)

  • $\begingroup$ I've wrote this question basing on idea that giving same rights to difrent ententies would make no sense. Even in our world, humans can have difrent rights from each other. $\endgroup$ Feb 11, 2020 at 23:52

Same Difference

I'm afraid the limitations you have imposed on the AIs make them too similar to humans for there to be an interesting difference. The most obvious of these is copying. The fact that an AI can clone itself or make backups has pretty obvious implications for identity and what it means to be a citizen. Since you defined that difference out of existence, as well as gave the AIs bodies when they need them, all I see are "fleshy citizens" and "metal citizens", without any particular reason for there to be a legal difference.

If you want people in your world to treat them as different, then make them actually different.

  • $\begingroup$ I especially made point that AI can NOTbe copied $\endgroup$ Feb 11, 2020 at 23:40
  • $\begingroup$ And I made the point that is exactly what makes your scenario uninteresting. $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2020 at 0:28

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .