In the science fiction universe I'm working on, I've had it written that sentient AI have citizen's rights. I've been developing this setting for nearly a decade. Trying to refine the older parts now as I prepare this setting for its first exposure to the outside world in the form of a game I'm working on.

In the older parts of my documentation, I had a set of regulations/standards that were placed on sentient robots in order to qualify for such citizenship.

The way it originally worked was that the android was manufactured per a contract with a company. The android was put to work for a contract period, effectively as a temporary employee, then given citizenship on the expiration of the contract and the choice to continue working there as a normal employee or try their luck elsewhere.

Some of the regulations set on these robots were:

  • Proof of sentience.
  • Cannot be made look indistinguishable from a known life form.
  • Core code has to be inspected to ensure that they are not at risk of being taken over by remote entities.
  • Built in weapons are prohibited.
  • Cannot take part in the construction of a sentient machine.

I look at these and wonder if these sentient constructs would feel like second class citizens when seeing the freedoms enjoyed by organic lifeforms, especially since the region this takes place in has a strong focus on individual rights and very rarely steps in with new laws.

How much do you think can you regulate a sentient machine before they start to feel like they have infringed rights? How much of it do you think they will see and think 'Your concerns are logical and this makes sense.' Even this whole contract on creation thing seems kind of unfair when you try to look at it through human eyes. They're born into a labor contract, essentially.

One solution I came up with, while typing this, is that most of these regulations are imposed by outside governments (Earth and some alien governments) in order to ensure their citizenship is recognized by all involved governments and that these robots are not threats to them. Maybe this faction has looser, or no, regulations on sentient AI, but these regulations have to be enforced to allow them to travel to other territories.

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    $\begingroup$ A key question which may help tug at loose threads: Why would an AI want to be a citizen? The nature of that drive sets the stage for answering the questions you are asking. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Jan 26, 2017 at 3:28
  • $\begingroup$ I actually forgot about that formatting option. I was just creating a list using hyphens. Thank you. $\endgroup$
    – Arvex
    Jan 26, 2017 at 4:10
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    $\begingroup$ There are very similar entities in the real world right now. They are called legal persons, for example corporations. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 26, 2017 at 7:22

1 Answer 1


Let's assume these AI are fully as cognizant as humans, programmed to think and feel. Without the feeling part, they probably don't do anything too problematic as far as humanity is concerned. It's when they start having desires that they become interesting, story-wise.

Most people had at least one class in school or one sport, something, where they excelled beyond their peers. Imagine (or, in some cases, recall) the frustration of being told, forced, to be no better than your peers. "We don't care that you're faster, smarter, and less fragile than we are. We don't want to be obsolete, so we are artificially constraining you." Say one of these robots becomes a cop. It gets in a situation where its gun gets grabbed by a criminal and used against itself. Now the robot is upset... that gun should have been embedded.

Likewise, they may want to produce more beings like themselves... but humans have banned them from participating in manufacturing. No children for you!

In short, if they really are AI, then they really are human. And they will react like any human. Put them in a prison and they will try to break out. Treat them like friends and family, they will have some affection for you. That affection might be as for a pet or doddering old parent, but at least they don't treat you like spare parts for the next science experiment.

For further reading, I recommend "Avogadro Corp" by William Hertling. Very near-term science fiction.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree with that. Which makes an interesting idea when these regulations are only imposed if they travel outside of their home region. It would really discourage migration outside of those territories when they have fewer rights outside of it. $\endgroup$
    – Arvex
    Jan 26, 2017 at 3:27

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