About the Urge to Modernize the World’s Laws on Murder

As our fellow rationalist Christian pointed out here, Artificial Intelligence will most likely have a huge impact on our legal system soon. This creates a problem of ethics: Most criminal laws are protecting human life as the most valuable legally protected right. But why is human life under protection? The answer is simple: Because just the human being has the ability to develop double awareness. A human being is aware of itself and its existence. Furthermore, it is aware of its awareness. Summed up in Decartes’ famous expression “Cogito Ergo Sum” (“I am thinking, hence I am”), it is what we call double awareness.

Why are we protecting the human race and not protecting the human state of consciousness? This is an important question and a discussion to bear out. Within a few years, even months, scientists could succeed with creating an artificial intelligence competent to exist with a human state of awareness. This AI needs to be protected. Understand this essay as a stimulus for a reformation of the current criminal law, which has been overdue for years.

Why are we protecting human life over any other?

Human life is specially protected in jurisdictions all over the world. In Germany for example a “fixed point is the ‘top-tier’ of the legally protected life. It is to be protected regardless of the individual will to survive or the interest of society in the particular life at stake. There is nothing like menial human life. The penalty is based on the human dignity and constitutional equality (among others: MüKo-StGB/Schneider, Vor §§ 211 ff., point 27).

Though the reasons might differ between different nations and although the death penalty still exists in some parts of the world, the aim is still the same. But suppose that human dignity is the main reason to protect life (among the will of the average person not to be killed himself). What is this dignity derived from? Since a high-functional society is separating church and governmental motivations, the “God’s creation”-argument is inadmissible, we need to dig deeper to find the source of human dignity.

In words of Guenter Duerig: “Every human is human by virtue of his spirit, which puts him in contrast to the impersonal nature and which enables him by his own decision to be self-aware and carry his life in his hands, as well as to shape his environment”. In different words: The human being is the only one of nature’s products being conscious of its own consciousness. The so called double awareness drives the human being to achieve greatness, to pursue scientific work and to devote his life to a higher purpose than mere survival. And this crown of all brains, the most developed brain that ever existed, is the most precious thing humankind possesses. No one should be eternally separated from following his plans and purpose. No sentient being should be doomed to feel its life ending and the fear of losing its awareness.

Why are we not protecting similar lives?

Once we have realized what gives us our dignity, what makes us special in this world of causes and reactions, we cannot turn a blind eye on other creatures with the same capabilities. Daniel Dennett is part of a team that was designing an AI robot, “Cog”. This artificial intelligence was structured to experience the human adaption to life by learning. Hence, it had similar sensory organs and the ability to develop human behavior.

Now imagine such an AI becoming smarter and more intelligent as it learns. Imagine it developing human behavior and a personal-sentient connection to its environment, known as basic feelings. Soon it would be as intelligent as a less-than-average intelligent human. Now the question: It looks like a human, it thinks like a human, and it feels like a human. Is it a human; are we allowed to kill this sentient being? Yes we are – at least for now.

Chances are high that artificial intelligence is about to be able to develop a double awareness within the next few years. The moment we create a machine, which has an awareness matching the one of humans, it needs to be protected. As of today, our legal systems do not protect this kind of intelligence. That is wrong. It is unethical. Further, it is inconsistent with our motivation behind the murder laws and an expression of human arrogance.

Let us be smart. Let us be proactive. Researchers all over the world are trying to create an artificial intelligence this very moment. We need to create protection right now. The artificial intelligence should already be protected, the instant it is created.

(Check out this related Article)


Philip J. Hattemer is in his second year at Bucerius Law School. Before University, he has been trained to be a Hypnotist and partly trained in Neurolinguistic Programming. In this time his penchant for psychology led him into Rational Thinking.

The contents of this article do not reflect the position of the RTT but solely the author’s.

(Photo courtesy of pixabay)      

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