Assuming that a brainet composed of various individuals can be thought of legally in terms similar to a "corporation" or other legal entity (though it IS NOT such an entity for argument's sake), what are the factors that could be used to determine the title/status of such an entity (if it can be defined as an "entity") in our current legal system?

Note: I was not yet able to add the tags [brainet] [title] and [legal]. Please feel free to correct the tags for this question if you are able to do so.


Scientist recently connected the brains of monkeys to a computer and gave the primates a collaborative task. From this research it was noted that the primates were able (without a direct connection to each other) to synchronize their thought patterns and accomplish the given task (to move a ball on a screen) by coordinating various limited muscular thought patterns. When the scientists later connected the brains of mice, also providing direct channels between the brains of the mice, the mice similarly coordinated their brain activity to perform a given task. The researchers referred to this synchronized metal state as a "superbrain" and thus the term "brainet" was coined to describe such a mental state. When trained to synchronize their brain activity, the mice were able to produce the "superbrain" state 61% of the time.

Given the limited nature (isolation of specific input from each primate) of the initial experiment and the resulting classification of a new mental state after the second experiment, it would appear as though there exists the potential for a new classification of entity composed of humans using similar means of brain connectivity (and perhaps at various levels of connectivity). This question relates to the legal ramifications of the existence of such an entity, the existence, use and possible regulation of such technology and how specifically this may impact society.


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    $\begingroup$ (a) What is a "brainet"? Is it some sort of artificial intelligence, or is it humans who have networked their brains? Or is it something else entirely? Without knowing exactly what you mean by "brainet", it's difficult or impossible to give a meaningful answer to your question. $\endgroup$ – Lensman Mar 29 '16 at 6:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Lensman The coined phrase is described in the linked article - it consists of multiple brains connected and functioning as a single consciousness. $\endgroup$ – Nolo Mar 29 '16 at 6:15
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    $\begingroup$ (b) May I respectfully suggest you read the Wikipedia entry on "corporate personhood", because I suspect the question you wanted to ask isn't what you actually asked. I suspect your question is actually about the courts granting civil rights to A.I., or recognizing a "group mind" as a legal entity distinct from the individuals composing that entity. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_personhood $\endgroup$ – Lensman Mar 29 '16 at 6:16
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    $\begingroup$ This looks like a question about the real world, which is off topic here. You might possibly be able to get answers on Law, but I sort of imagine this would be closed as too speculative there. $\endgroup$ – user Mar 29 '16 at 8:15
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    $\begingroup$ Fortunately, US law does not provide for thought police. Thus, in my opinion, it would help if you posited a specific case in which such a "brainet" might be tested in court. That's where the rubber meets the road for most legal questions, though IANAL of course. That will probably bring about the following question: how would it perform actions under law in the physical world (or, in limited cases, in the online world)? Also, linking articles is good, but links tend to break, so including a summary of the relevant parts in the question itself is recommended. $\endgroup$ – type_outcast Mar 29 '16 at 10:14

One of the wonderful (or terrible, depending upon your viewpoint) things about the legal system is that it's based upon precedent. The judgements and decisions of the past influence everything that comes after. As there have been no judgements (as of yet) with regards to brainets, this is a fundamentally unanswerable question. But let's have a go anyway!

Lets start with an assumption: A brainet, once constructed, cannot be dissolved into it's separate constituent parts any more without causing serious mental trauma. It becomes one entity that is distinct from the people that make it up. I assume this because if it's not the case then the answer is simple: The law that applies is the same as applies to a group of people. The brainet will have all rights, responsibilities and legal protections afforded to a group of people with a common interest. So, to make the answer more interesting: A brainet is not the people that it consists of.

Immediately this raises an issue: If the brainet is a single entity and it's constituent parts (people) are no longer separate from it, are those entities used in the creation of the brainet now technically dead? This is the first piece of judgement (assuming that this somehow becomes a viable medical practice in the first place) that will have to be made. If so: Do the usual facets of estate/will etc apply?

Secondly: When was the 'brainet' born? How old is it? This will also need addressing. Can the brainet drink? Can it vote? Or drive? What about sex? Does two components of the brainet getting it on constitute sex, masturbation or statutory rape? We need these questions to be answered before we can establish which laws apply.

Which leads us to self-image. If the brainet does in fact constitute one entity now, would the death of a constituent part be considered an injury? What about if the brained decides to euthanize an aging and senile component? Legally speaking a judge will have to decide if that is euthanasia or more akin to amputation/brain surgery.

And finally we get to the biggie: Is the brainet a person or a group of people? I think this is one case where we can actually pull some precedent, however it doesn't quite apply. In the case of conjoined twins the two people are treated as two people, even if they share internal organs, spinal columns, or nervous connection. There is no precedent for shared responsibility in the case of criminal activity, but birth certificates, bank statements, wills and in some cases marriages (multiple, with no bigamy charges being filed) suggests that we can treat people with a shared nervous system as separate. In our case we don't have bodily connection, but presumably nervous connections are shared. The issue arises when we get to the mind, and come back to the assumption I made to start with.

If the brainet is a set of people sharing a connection then they are a set of people, like conjoined twins sharing a spine. If they are a new and unique entity made up of those minds but fundamentally acting with one consciousness then they are one entity, and we have to redefine (though trial, error and potentially flawed judgement) not just their legal status, but also the definition of what it means to be human.

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  • $\begingroup$ Tried to frame the question in narrow terms, but you hit important points. 1. what constitutes mental assault 2. some of the legal gray areas 3. what does it mean for the rest of us or even members thereof. Hopefully I'm not back-tracking off-topic here, but this was honestly a rhetorical question because I believe that this topic needs to be discussed. Afaik this is only place that lay people can breach such topics outside of academia/hubs. I'll give it another day to see what else rolls in and how people respond to this comment. ;) Btw, didn't consider trauma of separation, but so true. $\endgroup$ – Nolo Mar 29 '16 at 12:46
  • $\begingroup$ and if the brainnet does something creative, when does the copyright expire? $\endgroup$ – Burned Mar 29 '16 at 21:40

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