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‘Legally Human? The Status and Challenge of Novel Consciousness’
David Lawrence, Postdoctoral Fellow, Newcastle Law School
Emerging advanced bio- and computer- technologies are highly likely to pose significant challenges to existing societal and legal conventions. Artificial Intelligence, synthetic biology, human enhancement, and other developments promise to draw into question the nature of personhood and humanity, a concept upon which many significant institutions are founded- not the least of which being human rights law. In the potential new era of novel consciousnesses that we are likely to encounter, it is vitally important to establish whether existing law will remain sufficient, and if not, how it ought to be adapted to meet the requirements of the future. This talk aims to provide a guide with which to accomplish the former for forward-thinking policy, and which could be applied to any of the types of entity we are likely to encounter. By examining the conceptualisation and positioning of the human in law, and attempting to determine the moral basis for this, it aims to establish a reasoned baseline from which to judge any emergent being. It will then be necessary to determine whether, or under what conditions, a conscious being might diverge from this legal understanding. If possession of personhood is the deciding factor that an entity ought be subject to law, then there is reason to believe and precedent that other consciousnesses should qualify. If it is some other factor, the question then becomes whether or not it is appropriate to adapt our understanding of the human in law to encompass the particular entity at hand- dependent on their characteristics, needs, and disruptive potential; and our own moral duties. Furthermore, in building its argument, the paper will highlight reasons as to why we cannot afford to ignore these potential challenges.
About MI Lunches
Human health is essential for the enjoyment and maximisation of almost all human activities. As our health futures rapidly evolve alongside great medical, scientific, and technological advancement, we are faced with the obligation to both protect patients and promote ethical research. How to successfully navigate these interconnected and complex relationships is a challenge not yet met. The Mason Institute is at the forefront of research into the protection and promotion of human health. The MI Lunch Series reaches across the boundaries of discipline and institution to directly engage with crucial human health actors – researchers, practitioners, policymakers, patients, and the public – to exploit on-going research and explore this challenge.
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