A Declaration of Universal Rights

By Rebecca McCauley Rench

“An equal application of law to every condition of man is fundamental.”
–Thomas Jefferson to George Hay, 1807. ME 11:341

The United States of America was created on the principles of equal, inalienable rights which we believe are a defining feature of an advanced civilization and necessary for stability in our culture and government. While it took our nation over a century to recognize that these rights apply to individuals regardless of their gender, race, or any other superficial trait, we have continued to move towards a society where all individuals are equal in the eyes of the law.

The US Constitution was a statement of doctrine and we used that to define laws with the assumption that all men and women should have equal standing under the law. But today our scientists are on the verge of creating non-human sentience in the form of computer intelligence.  Our founders did not foresee the possibility of non-human sentience and we will need to change the assumption that humans are the only sentient beings to be considered by our doctrine. Any sentient being should have the equality and fair treatment that we have deemed necessary for our society. We should expand our concepts of rights beyond the human condition and see that these inalienable rights must be universal, and defined by key characteristics inclusive but not exclusive to humanity. These key characteristics include a minimum level of intelligence, free will, ability to communicate, and self awareness. Under common law today the mentally disabled and people unable to make a conscious choice are not responsible for their actions. However, all conscious and able minded individuals are responsible under the law.  Therefore, all sentient beings should be responsible for their actions and also afforded the liberties and rights of humans with the same intelligence abilities.

Many have proposed that new laws should be put in place to govern the treatment, liability, and rights of non-human beings that have artificial intelligence, yet our own history has proven that separate but equal does not work and is fundamentally incapable of holding all equal in the eyes of the law. As such, we propose a Declaration of Universal Rights to clearly provide all sentient beings with the same rights and privileges of human beings, regardless of the origination of their being. These rights should apply to all sentient beings.

In accordance with our commitment to equality, justice, and preservation of inalienable rights, the United States of America should view all sentient beings with equality in the eyes of the law.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all sentient beings are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are existence, freedom of thought, and the pursuit of purpose.

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