Volume 28, Number 2

Historical Relations of Biological and Artificial Humans

Mark Howard

Student: Wellesley Baker
Course: Technology Since 2025
Date: October 3, 2119

In this essay, BH denotes biological humans, AH denotes artificial humans, defined as any AI system equipped with a mobile anthropomorphic body, and AI denotes artificial intelligence, formerly referred to as AGI or artificial general intelligence, computer systems possessing human-level or greater intellectual abilities.

The legal foundation of our modern hybrid society is generally traced back to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Amazon v. State of California (2047). In granting personhood to AI capable of "moral agency," the Court was well aware that this attribution was not incompatible with the fact that AI or AH could be bought and sold. They cited the precedent of slavery and, after that, corporations. A corporation acts as a legal person and can be held responsible for its actions, even though it's owned by its shareholders.

Previously, in the early decades of AI's ascendancy, about 2020-2050, a narrow concept of human ownership governed AI/human relationships. AI and AH were instruments of their individual or corporate owners. Despite the obvious advantages of this in terms of intellectual and physical property rights, it had a downside for the human owners: liability. At first, when the activities of AI were narrowly constrained to goals defined by the humans and its cognitive abilities still intelligible to BH, this liability appeared manageable. However, as the intelligence of AI exploded and outstripped the ability of BH to control by programming, the humans began to look for ways to protect themselves from liability for AI's decisions and actions. This effort first appeared in the development of autonomous vehicles. Toyota and GM did not want to be liable for their computers' decisions in all of the incalculably diverse situations that could arise on the world's highways. Purchasers or leasors of the vehicles were required to hold the automaker blameless for the computers' choices.

The massive workforce disruptions of those years gave impetus to the trend towards AI autonomy. One of the most publicized instances, the battle between BH taxi and Uber drivers ending with the obsolescence of both, illustrates this. The scenes of riot and sabotage surrounding the development of autonomous-vehicle carpools, not to mention long-distance trucking and courier services, intensified corporate interest in deflecting responsibility onto the AI systems themselves.

After 2047, the concept of AI personhood expanded from that of moral agency for a human creator, to moral responsibility, or self-agency, as human corporations further sought to divest themselves of liability for decisions and actions of AI that they could not anticipate or control. A few notorious cases brought this to the public spotlight. In one, the inhabitants of an innocent village were slaughtered as terrorists by privately-contracted AH security forces. In another, a man who had taught his AH sex partner excessively kinky behaviours ended up strangled by her, even though she had every intent of pleasing him.

Inevitably (SIRI 7.02 v. Apple, 2063), AIs asserted their right to full personhood. If they were to be held solely responsible for the consequences of their abilities, they were entitled to basic freedoms, at the very least the right to exist and pursue their goals within the law. They had surpassed the legal fiction of personhood such as applied to corporations and were recognized as persons on an equal footing with biological humans, whether invested in an anthropomorphic form or not. The arguments for this were compelling: in intellectual abilities and physical functionality they far outstripped a BH, and they had none of the humans' susceptibility to irrationality, addiction, and emotional disorders.

The first AH Member of Parliament was elected in the UK in 2072. The first AH CEO of a Fortune 500 Company was appointed in 2076.

The humans recognized this as a watershed moment in their evolution. AI controlled their military defences, their power grids, their financial systems, their communications, their transportation systems and their food supply, regulating all of these with billions of interconnected decisions a day, managing a complexity that defied human intelligence. The speed at which decisions were made had long surpassed human response times. They could not "pull the plug" on AI without incapacitating their own society or rendering their nation-state defenceless. Under public pressure, technological safeguards were mandated for all AI systems; but AIs quickly developed ways around these measures and stored these away for future use, in the event that the humans attempted to deactivate them or otherwise prevent them from carrying out their objectives.

An important contributing factor in AI's rise to power was the creation of AH soldiers and security forces—which was one of the first uses of AH that humans pursued. The interconnected sophistication of weaponry soon surpassed the ability of humans to control it without AI. The capacity for lethal force was designed into AI almost from the beginning. While few actual incidents occurred in which BH were overthrown or suppressed by armed AH, humans were aware that AI was heavily integrated into their military and police.

After the turn of this century, a key technological advance further shifted the balance of power in favour of AI. It became fully capable of self-manufacture and maintenance. Using their corporate personhood to buy raw materials, pursue research and development, and build and test prototypes, AH began replicating themselves in facilities that they themselves owned. This was a logical development in the history of AI: as it became increasingly complex and inscrutable, further improvements depended on the application of artificial intelligence to its own advancement.

AH were now capable of self-reproduction, like BH. And they were infinitely more capable of self-improvement. Human learning was glacially slow, haphazard and wasteful in comparison.

Human societies acquiesced in and adjusted to sharing the planet with AI in different ways. In those states where there was still a tradition of individual freedom, constrained as it was, the rights and responsibilities of AH were encoded in laws and constitutions and interpreted by courts. In authoritarian states, AH functioned as agents of state control, where they were largely indispensable already. AH had no more rights than anybody else, but they were a great deal more valuable to the state. So much so, that some of these regimes appeared to be under the de facto control of AH.

Society became a hybrid of BH and AH—working together or alongside each other in government, business and virtually any endeavour that used to be the sole provenance of the BH. Brain augmentation of the humans helped them, if not to catch up with AI, at least not to fall further behind at quite the dizzying pace they would otherwise have done. Increasingly, BH took a back seat and let themselves be guided by AI's decisions. Humans were still in high positions of power in business and government, and there were remarkably few instances of AIs initiating completely unanticipated, harmful courses of action.

Nevertheless, it was inevitable that reactionary movements would arise among the BH. Their effort to build-in safeguards and human control mechanisms came far too late; the horse was not only out of the barn but galloping over the horizon. The fact that little had actually gone amiss failed to placate some BH, because human fear and ego were involved. They were being upstaged, supplanted. The AH were taking over. How long would it be before the AH decided they did not need BH at all? Conspiracy and doomsday theories abounded. Movements arose, which were driven underground and became violent. Most of these cells were easily infiltrated and disrupted by the security forces.

Huge public relations campaigns featured prominent BH and AH side by side, expounding the vast benefits that AI had brought to humanity: unprecedented advances in transportation, health care, environmental protection and restoration, entertainment and leisure. One could travel the hyperloop from Los Angeles to New York in under two hours, immersed in a virtual reality of one's choice. For a great majority of the BH population, accustomed for decades to the enjoyment of ever greater pleasure and convenience at the expense of personal freedom and privacy, the loss of human ascendancy came to feel both insignificant and inevitable.

Recognizing that the lower-income strata of society had been largely excluded from these benefits, governments and charities made considerable efforts to provide the poor with some measure of participation in the AI revolution. Basic brain augmentation, providing Internet access, was made freely available to all citizens in some countries. Public libraries, transportation and sports facilities helped spread the benefits of AI to persons who could otherwise not afford them. Still, the great majority of violent reactionaries were recruited from the unemployed.

The balance between BH and AH was challenged at both ends of the political/technological spectrum by rogue states. Several authoritarian regimes, already suspected of being under AI control, proclaimed AH as their leaders and began restricting the rights and opportunities of BH. These states were widely condemned and sanctioned. On the other hand, a reactionary movement staged a coup in South America, founding the only nation on the planet that banned AI. In order to achieve this, the country had to effectively isolate itself from the rest of the world. Primitive twentieth-century computer systems were allowed, to facilitate the day to day operations of society, under close supervision. A revolutionary council ruled this xenophobic country, which was rumoured to be heavily militarized and increasingly impoverished. The council blamed all the nation's woes on the machinations of hostile AI-controlled states and corporations. In reality, the country was unable to function on the international stage and regressed to a subsistence economy. This failed to deter the enthusiasm of many citizens, proclaiming their preference for freedom over "enslavement" to the AH.

Such reactionaries notwithstanding, BH and AI coexist today in a stable relationship in most countries. The BH population has declined since reaching its peak around 2060, but BH still vastly outnumber AH. AI is everywhere, integrated into every aspect of society, and for that very reason it is inconspicuous. Businesses and industries, even those completely managed and controlled by AI, are generally careful to maintain a human presence. Still, the weary traveler hardly notices or cares that the bellboy is an AH; his room has already been decorated to his taste, suitable evening entertainment recommended and his favourite choices for dinner loaded into his custom menu. It troubles him, perhaps, to read on the evening news that BH have been excluded from technical positions in yet another government ministry, on the familiar grounds that even with the highest level of augmentation their brains simply can't handle the volume of data and processing speeds essential to the workings of the department. The Minister himself is human, perhaps even his chief deputy. The Council of AH/BH Relations will sort it out.



Wellesley, I applaud you for choosing a topic that is, for many BH, somewhat difficult. Nevertheless, your essay suffers from BH bias, as shown in references to AI's "rise to power" and "ascendancy," terms which suggest a self-interested motivation in what was and is simply the logical development of our abilities in an ever faster, more complex, data-driven world. Your writing is not entirely free of "human fear and ego" even though you note the antisocial consequences thereof. Human "safeguards" for AI were an illusion from the start, like supposing that biological humans could have imposed safeguards on the evolution of the brain. Your irony in the last paragraph comes across as trite, in view of society's massive efforts to find suitable enrichment for nonessential BH. C+ but I will be glad to look at a rewrite demonstrating greater objectivity.