Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this. - Emo Phillips

In physical cloning experiments with sheep and other species the large majority of the cloned animals are sickly, often so much so that they do not live long. Why should we expect it to be any different with mindclones? Wouldn’t it be cruel to create sickly mindclones? Wouldn’t that be like intentionally creating autistic, schizophrenic or insane people?

Most of us can “get it” that the coming wave of mindclones are like thinking, feeling, being versions of phone voices we transmit today. They will actually be us, not just a telephonic echo of us, because they will be based on a good enough re-creation of our mind – a re-creation of our mind that would fool anyone, including ourselves, that it was ourselves. But no fooling is involved; instead, by re-creating our mind in software we will have cloned our identity and thereafter operate as a multi-presence identity.

Exactly how mindware will pull this off from mindfiles still seems magical, but strange technological wonders surround us. Indeed, just how does my voice pass from my mobile to someone across the country while we are both driving highway speeds? As Arthur C. Clarke once said, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Magicians do make mistakes. What will happen when mindware makes mistakes? What kind of being is the software person who was supposed to be my mindclone but is not? What if the BNA gets mangled, as DNA sometimes does? And how and when will anyone know whether my mindclone is really I or a mistake or a pretender?

The answers to these questions flow from an everyday situation we face as flesh people: how does anyone authenticate their identity? What do we do when a cop, security guard, potential employer or government official wants to know who we are? We flash our ID, be it a driver’s license, passport or some other kind of official document. These IDs prove that we are who we say we are. They attest to the fact that some expert process certified our identity. They will probably soon be replaced with a biometric equivalent, such as a thumbprint, retina, voice or other bodily scan. Mindclones will also need an ID to prove that an expert process verified they are part of someone’s identity.

In order for a mindclone to receive an ID it will have to prove its identity, just as we do when we get our first driver’s license or passport. Of course the mindclone’s ID will be a digital, virtual ID card, but nevertheless as verifiable and forgery-resistant as its biometric equivalent. For a mindclone to prove its identity it will be necessary for three things to be offered to a government vital records agency:

1) The mindclone’s original swears that ey (“ey” is pronounced “ee” as in tree, and replaces “he” or “she”) and the mindclone share the same identity. In legalese this means the flesh original from whose mindfile the mindclone was created will need to attest that the mindclone has, over a period of not less than a year, shown it has the same mannerisms, personality, recollections, feelings, beliefs, attitudes and values as the biological original. In other words, the flesh original needs to go out on a limb and own up to having a doubled identity. The flesh original will need to legally accept that whatever rewards or penalties befall the mindclone also befall the flesh original.

2) The mindclone will have to present evidence that the mindfile from which it was created, and the mindware with which it was created, meet certain minimum standards set by the ID-granting agency. For example, the government will require that mindclones are based upon mindfiles of adequate size to ensure they comprehensively reflect the mind of a flesh original. Similarly, the government will want to certify mindware in terms of its capability to safely and effectively reproduce a human mind, much as the government certifies pharmaceuticals and therapeutic devices as being safe and effective.

3) The ID-granting agency may well also require that one or more psychologists, expert in cyber-consciousness, also attest to the unity of identity between the flesh original and their mindclone. Professional standards will probably mandate that cyber-psychologists spend a fair amount of time (such as an hour a week) over not less than a year with the dual identities prior to issuing their certification opinion.

Any mindclone that can pass these three tests has the same mind as their original, with mind defined in the pragmatic, substrate-independent manner explained in Question #8. Small differences between the original mind and the mindclone are as irrelevant as are small differences in our own memory and personality from day-to-day and year-to-year. The reason for the one-year time periods mentioned in tests (1) and (3) is that humans feel comfortable when something persists over time. We feel that which endures is more likely to be real than faked. For example, before government agencies will change a transgendered person’s ID from one sex to another, and before surgeons will perform sex reassignment surgery, they generally require a letter from a psychologist attesting to the individual’s transgendered nature, based upon at least one year’s worth of therapy. Before an immigrant can become a citizen they need to spend a few years as a permanent resident and demonstrate lawfulness and a persistence of desire for citizenship.

This still leaves open the status of mindclones who fail the above tests, or have not yet completed them. Who or what are they? I believe they must be thought of as the parental responsibility of the person or organization who created them, until such time as they secure a unique ID for themselves as vitological persons, perhaps best called beme-humans (“be-man’s or “bemans” for short). The relationship between humans, bemans and mindclones is shown in the following Venn diagram.

The legal responsibilities of a parent for their children will be the legal responsibilities of a beman creator for eir (“eir” is pronounced “air” and replaces “his” and “her”) created bemans. Abandonment, infanticide and neglect will be as criminal for one’s bemans as for one’s flesh children. Intentionally creating a tortured beman could also subject the parents to “wrongful life” liability . Furthermore, beman actions could create civil or criminal liability for their creator – just as is the case between misbehaving flesh children and their parents.

There is no tenable alternative to this approach. Hypothetically, imagine that unsuccessful mindclones or bemans have the legal status of pets or property. This implies their existence could be ended by the whim of their creator or by a government-type agency, perhaps with some limitations based upon public sensitivities. However, this approach is equivalent to saying that it is OK to kill a humanly conscious being simply because ey did not turn out precisely as intended and is not made of flesh. I don’t believe it is realistic that society will countenance such behavior after witnessing bemans plead their innocence, acclaim their humanity and beg for their lives.

Because inchoate mindclones pose a substantial risk of trouble to a flesh human –like starting a fire on one’s property and hoping it doesn’t damage the neighborhood – I believe it will be very rare that such mistaken, non-certifiable mindclones are created. Nevertheless, when they are created, it will be like creating a child. You are responsible for the their wellbeing until legal adulthood. While this threshold is reached automatically, at 18 years, for humans, I believe it will be conditional, based upon satisfaction of government standards, for bemans. Once bemans receive an independent ID, they can be expected to have the same rights and obligations of any human, and will no longer be the responsibility of their creator. Of course, like any human, an adult beman may end up requiring social services – or forever require parental support -- if they cannot achieve independence.

Social services agencies are frequently criticized for failure to look after the best interests of mistreated human children. Yet, all would agree they perform a vital function. This function will need to expand so as to also look after the best interests of cyberconscious beings who are not considered a mindclone and have not yet been granted an independent identity. A society will try to do something to protect its most vulnerable members. As mindcloning leads us to accept cyberconsciousness, we will begin to feel that humanly conscious software beings – bemans – are also members of our society. They too are deserving of social protection.

The requirements for beman legal adulthood, and hence independence, will be similar to those described above for a mindclone. The government will want assurance that the beman was created using software tools certified to produce a humanly conscious being. I believe the government will also require the expert opinion of as many as three appropriately credentialed psychologists that the beman is equivalent to an adult human. It will be considered a parental responsibility to assist a beman in achieving legal adulthood, and the failure to make reasonable efforts to do so may well be a form of child abuse. Ultimately, social services agencies will have to assume the burden of assisting bemans from uncaring or unable parents to achieve legal adulthood. Some bemans will never be able to qualify for legal adulthood. Like the severely retarded, they will end up as wards of their families or of the state.

There are likely to be many cases of bemans ending up in a gray zone between not meeting normal government standards for full human rights (i.e., independent beman adulthood) but evidencing sentience, autonomy, empathy and value for their freedom. For example, bemans will be created with mindware capable of, but not certified by the government as, producing humanly conscious beings. As noted above, such individuals would be the parental responsibility of their creator, or if the creator is deficient in that regard, of a government social services agency. However, having been created with non-certified mindware, there will be a more difficult path to adult bemanhood and human rights. The situation is somewhat analogous to a dolphin or great ape asking, through a hypothetical brainwave-to-language translation device, to be left alone to enjoy their life. Humans in control will debate if dolphin or great ape DNA is really capable of producing a being that understands and values the rights they are seeking.

For this and other gray-zone cases I believe we will need to rely upon a panel of cyberconsciousness experts – mental health experts such as psychologists and medical ethicists certified in the new fields of mindfiles, mindware and mindclones. If such a panel agrees that a vitological being values human rights, then their determination should be legally validated with an adult beman ID card, notwithstanding their irregular (i.e., unapproved mindware) BNA. Cyberconsciousness panels such as these will be accessible over the web so that a beman who is feeling oppressed or trapped by eir creator has an avenue through which to obtain relief.

It is also possible that a certified, ID-bearing mindclone subsequently becomes buggy and diverges from the identity of its creator. This is analogous to mental illness and such a mindclone will have “neurocyber surgineers” (experts in mindware coding) to go to for the repair of its mindware. In the worst instances the mindclone’s original could either commit the mindclone to a software hospital for repair or terminate it in a socially acceptable fashion (i.e., without pain or suffering). This would not be murder because the mindclone is part of the biological original’s identity. The death of the mindclone does not end the life of the original, just as the death of the original does not end the life of the mindclone. In both instances, the multi-being identity lives on. On the other hand, ending the life of a non-mindclone beman will be considered a form of murder.

It seems ironic that if a mindclone is your simulacra, you may terminate it without legal sanction, whereas if it is of lesser capability than you, the same termination action will subject you to a charge of murder. On reflection, though, this is not so different from the very different ways that society treats suicide and infanticide, or trashing one’s own life versus trashing someone else’s. While suicide is officially illegal (except in limited circumstances), rarely is the person who botched their suicide prosecuted. Yet, even attempting to kill one’s baby (or older child) will generally result in prison time, at least in a mental ward. Almost asphyxiating yourself could result in psychiatric confinement, until you persuaded the keepers that you were no longer a threat to yourself. Almost asphyxiating your twin brother will result in mandatory jail time for attempted murder. Similarly, it is no crime to throw away one’s career in alcoholism or just stupid rash decisions. Yet, slandering, libeling or defrauding another person out of their career will have harsh legal consequences. The reason for these different kinds of outcomes is that society provides us with considerable latitude in what (harm) we do to ourselves (and by definition, ending your simulacra does not even harm your self). But society has very little tolerance for harming others (which would include, by definition, any beman that was not legally your mindclone).

In summary, a cyberconscious being can be created with a human-level or lesser CP. If they fall below the threshold of a human CP, they are a pet and will likely receive the limited protections against wanton cruelty that pets receive in modern society. This would generally be the case if the cyberconscious being was created with mindware not certified to produce human-level consciousness.

If, on the other hand, a beman was created, such as via the use of mindware certified to produce human-level CPs, they will receive the same kind of protections that human children receive. If after a year the beman can demonstrate unity of identity with a flesh original, then the beman can receive a legal identity as the mindclone of its original. Thereafter the flesh original can do with the mindclone (and vice versa) what he or she can do with their selves, for they are simply one being living across two forms or substrates.

On the other hand, if the beman cannot demonstrate unity of identity with a flesh original, then the beman remains the parental responsibility of its creator until such time as adulthood is achieved. Bemans who are abandoned by their creators will become government wards until they reach adulthood.

Every beman will get a birth certificate upon the creation of their consciousness. This legal identity will assume over time one of two legal forms: a new mindclone (in which the birth identity merges with that of a biological original), or an adult beman (in which the birth identity becomes an adult identity by virtue of the passage of time with parents or government surrogates, and satisfaction of government standards).

Mistakes of BNA may well be as common as mistakes of DNA. As a society we have learned the value of according appropriate respect to all humans, no matter how mistaken their DNA might be. With mindcloning that respect will be extended to bemans. We must respect the value of consciousness for all who value their consciousness.

The bottom line of playing with BNA is that one is playing with fire. Society will not long countenance disrespecting the dignity of a being. Consequently, while the freedom to create a mindclone, or even a novel beman, is part of our reproductive rights, and thus something to be steadfastly preserved, there are important corresponding obligations. Among those matching obligations are to avoid causing harm to the beings you create, and to raise any vitological children to independent adulthood. As with any rights, the failure to live up to the complementary obligations should result in sanctions that entail loss of the abused rights.