Volume 2, Issue 3
3rd Quarter, 2007

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

Professor Sam N. Lehman-Wilzig

Page 3 of 5

4) Children: In one sense this is but another sub-category of diminished capacity. However, two things set it apart. First, a clear distinction between Intelligence and Decision-Making ability, something not found with retarded people. Second and more interesting is the fact that from an historical perspective children have actually been given greater protection over time by having certain “rights” of theirs taken away! If in the Middle Ages in Europe children were by and large considered to be “little adults” and thus at just about any age could be punished by the law to (almost) the full extent, or allowed to work for a living, as time goes on they come under greater protection and their life improves by decreasing their legal autonomy.

The point here is that those who would seek the best interests of Transbemans should be careful about demanding too much too fast, i.e. their rights and obligations should go hand in hand with their capabilities and not based on some blanket philosophy of “species-blind equality”. Going slowly in this regard is probably also a good idea “politically”, because a social and cognitive revolution of the sort we are talking about here with Transbemans is best dealt with incrementally. This is a point I will return to at the end.

Image 2: Legal Categories in the Past for "Sub-Humans"

5) Servant / Agent: This is the one category where modern law is more relevant than ancient/medieval. While in both cases the servant or agent does work for, and in place of, a “master” or employer, in the case of a servant it is the employer who determines how the task will be carried out, whereas in the case of an agent there is normally no instruction as to how but only what. For example, a butler is a servant who will dress the master as the latter wishes; on the other hand, an airplane pilot is an agent who will get the passenger from one city to another without asking how to do it. Thus, a servant has limited autonomy despite having legal independence; an agent has almost unrestricted autonomy (we do ask doctors today to consult with the patient if there is a choice of treatment) alongside legal independence.

This category is especially relevant to Transbemans, for it is not clear even today – and will be less so in the future – whether (for example) AI entities will act as servants or agents. Even computers today, possessing minimal artificial intelligence, are not “told” on a continual basis how to go about directing traffic, buying/selling stocks etc., but rather act autonomously based on the original programming instructions (just like a pilot’s flight school education). Thus, the law of agency (is highly complex because of the myriad levels of responsibility on the part of both thinking beings – the employer/customer and the agent) could be usefully applied to non-human-originated Transbemans as they increase their autonomous decision-making abilities, and move from servants to agents of humanity.

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