Volume 2, Issue 3
3rd Quarter, 2007

Past Imperfect: Ancient Legal Codes and Future Transbeman Law - Precedents, Problems & Paradoxes

Professor Sam N. Lehman-Wilzig

This article was adapted from a lecture given by Sam N. Lehman-Wilzig, Chairman of the Dept. of Political Studies, Bar-llan University, Israel during the 2nd  Annual Colloquium on the Law of Transbeman Persons, December 10, 2006, at the Space Coast Office of Terasem Movement, Inc., Melbourne Beach, FL.

Professor Lehman-Wilzig offers a roadmap and poignant reasoning into how the future categorization and rights of Transbemanism lie within recent and historical social caste systems.   


At the present, modern science is only now beginning to develop the technologies that are the basis of Terasem’s 2nd Annual Colloquium on the Law of Transbeman Persons. [1] As a result, from the scientific and social perspective the future of Transbemanism is quite murky. Thus, it might come as a surprise that I will argue it is in the past – even the distant historical past – where we might find relevant sources for showing us how to address and deal with what is a very futuristic phenomenon.  But that is precisely what I will try to illustrate. Moreover, I will spend the latter part of my talk discussing how the far and the near past can also warn of us of certain dangers and consequences regarding the overall topic. One caveat: my analysis is mostly relevant for AI Transbemans and other entities that were not born human, although certain categories could be applied as well to “created” DNA-based beings.  

Past: Mirror of the Future

The notion of Quasi-Humans was very developed in the ancient world. If this is surprising on first thought, it should not be: society back then was marked by a very high level of social status differentiation to the point that those at the top were considered Semi-Gods and those at the bottom of the pyramid were sub-human by their lights (as well as their rights) (e.g. caste of Untouchables in India [2] to this very day).

Thus, if we assume (as I do) that Transbemans will not emerge in full bloom all at once, but rather with evolving powers that only at the end will be parallel (not necessarily equal) to humans, we must go back to the period where high level civic and legal stratification was the norm, in order to find suggestions as to how we can deal with Transbemans in the future as they slowly emerge from their technological cocoon. Here the development of human history is of use too, for its story is one of an ineluctable struggle on the part of the “sub-humans” or the legally dispossessed to increase their social status and legal rights.

Given the short amount of time of this presentation, and the fact that I wrote about the subject in an article at length 25 years ago (Frankenstein Unbound), I will merely mention its main points here – because I wish to devote some time to further thoughts on the subject. After my talk, anyone interested can take a copy of that “ancient” article (exactly 25 years ago to this month!), that we have prepared for you.

Image 1: Frankenstein Unbound

That article dealt primarily with the question of the “legal culpability” of “beings” that were not considered to be fully human or fully responsible for their actions – as background for what happens in the future when robots (or more extensively in our parlance: Transbemans) become autonomous beings and cause harm (ergo: Frankenstein in the title). In a sense, this is the other side of the coin of what I am talking about in this presentation: the rights of such beings.

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1. Transbemans - a being who claims to have the rights and obligations associated with being human, but who may be beyond currently accepted notions of legal personhood. Examples of transbemans include beings who claim human rights but (a) are of computerized substrate, or (b) have been revived from biostasis, or (c) whose DNA varies significantly from human DNA. Martine Rothblatt, J.D., MBA, Ph.D., Founder of Terasem Movement, Inc.

2. Untouchables in India - In the Indian society people who worked in ignominious, polluting and unclean occupations were seen as polluting peoples and were therefore considered as untouchables.
http://adaniel.tripod.com/untouchables.htm  August 3, 2007 4:12PM EST


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