Our space explorers got some friends together to try to form a galactic union. Most inter-species unions would be an empire where a few species are controlling lots of others, or a partnership between a few species like they have now. They are actively trying to avoid both of these. They quickly run into a problem; how to determine if a being is a person? Right now, they have the following rules, in no particular order:
- Humans and similar rubber-forehead-esque aliens are people. As elemtilas pointed out, some people today have not sorted this out, but our travelers have, in no small part due to the species in rule 2.
- A species of near-perfect altruists are people. This is relevant, because they will not defend themselves in certain situations e.g. won't save themselves if it means other will die.
- Bio-mechanical beings are people, such as cyborgs, people with prosthetics, and some species who evolved to be mostly mechanical.
- Species with incomplete free will are people. For example, a species with a hive mind, or a species where individuals higher up can mentally force those beneath them to do things. However, individuals have to exhibit individuality, or the species is one individual.
- Species that communicate in "unusual" ways and live for varied periods of time are people. For example, bug-like aliens who communicate solely via pheromone and live for short periods of time, are people.
However, the following are not people:
- Food, like cows, corn, and their alien counterparts, are not people.
- Species without any individuality at all.
- Species without civilization.
- Species where the only desire of the entire populous is the pain and destruction of others.
There are three big problems with the current system. First, the "not people" rules, are incomplete. Second, the "are people" rules are incomplete and the connection between them isn't clear. Finally, what counts as communication is foggy. It's fine to not have a language if you have telepathy, but you can't regard the communications of a dog as valid, even though they do communicate through body language and sound. (they are still good boys though.)
This group needs a simple, objective (or near objective), guidelines for determining the person-hood of a species that fits as many of their current rules as possible
The rules they have made already can be changed, but doing so may result in some unfortunate consequences, like telling someone they can't eat bacon anymore because pigs are people, and so is the guy who wants to eat them. It could also result in telling someone already in their union "actually, you don't count."