Cover Image for Defining "Personhood": AI, Citizenship, and Our Future

Defining "Personhood": AI, Citizenship, and Our Future

By Pierson Marks

This might sound crazy.

But we should consider an amendment to the US Constitution that clarifies the definition of a “person”, ensuring that citizenship and the right to vote is specific to humans.

The Intersection of AI and Human Rights

At the surface, this sounds absurd. I know. But that’s exactly the reason why now is the right time to introduce such a change.

The entire idea is so outlandish that the only reason people would be against such a clarification is because of its absurdity. I don’t see any major, fundamental beliefs that would encourage someone to actively advocate against something like this.

Advances in artificial intelligence will continue to rapidly progress without us understanding how these systems actually work. And I believe we will see a future where machines are capable of developing strong “relationships” with humans and can influence us extremely well.

We already see this today. AI hallucinations can be so convincing that people just take the output as truth without validating its correctness.

What’s stopping the next generation from being convinced that these systems can actually think for themselves and deserve rights?

Preparing for an Unpredictable Future

When we look at our country’s past, there was a time when only white men could vote. It’s crazy to recognize that this was the accepted way the world worked. But as we progressed, the expansion of rights and suffrage movements completely changed society and have become a fundamental, integral part of our country.

One fundamental truth we see over and over again is that humans cannot predict the future well. The way we live today is so drastically different from the way our ancestors lived that it’s safe to say we can’t even begin to imagine what life will be like for our great-grandchildren.

So what’s there to lose? What risk do we take by adding such a clarification? In the worst case, it becomes a historical artifact of a time where we believed there was a chance of machines becoming equal to people in intelligence and their rights.

And in the best case, we protect humanity’s ability to govern ourselves.