Do Artificially Intelligent Agents Have Human Rights?

By Bruce Firestone | Uncategorized

Feb 27

In chapter 14 of a book I wrote about artificial intelligence (, attorney Jerom Van Der Hout argues before a future US Supreme
Court that artificial “AI” agents (I call them quantum entities, QEs) deserve
to have human rights extended to them. 

I think this day will arrive relatively soon. 

If you are curious about what QEs look
like, well here is Pet3r, whose quantum number is 1: 


Here is chapter 14 in its entirety:


Van Der Hout, lead counsel for Q-Computing in the matter of the United States
v. Quantum Computing America Corp, has just given the briefest summary possible
of case law pertinent to the matter currently before the Supreme Court of the
United States (SCOTUS). In an unprecedented move in the history of SCOTUS, all
nine members are sitting in on a purely technical matter: Q-Computing is asking
for leave to appeal an essentially unappealable compliance order issued by the
EPA. It has become commonly known as the Expulsion Edict. If enforced, it would
require Q-Computing to withdraw all QEs from the United States, which might mean
having to kill them all.

the Expulsion Edict has never actually been enforced by court order, Van Der
Hout has no obvious grounds to appeal it. But that doesn’t bother him a bit. He
is an experienced trial lawyer with many appearances before SCOTUS. He
understands that rules of engagement before SCOTUS are really whatever the
Chief Justice and her court decide they are. Only on the rarest of occasions
can evidence be introduced to the court; matters must be decided on the basis
of legal issues only. Jerom knows this is complete bunk. Every kind of new (and
old) evidence is rehashed by the court—ethical issues, political matters, and
social issues are regularly, but cautiously, introduced by either appellant or
respondent. Parties and amici often
argue evidence not in the trial record under the guise of making their legal
points in what are called Brandeis Briefs.

will argue that a technical threat of enforcement can confer jurisdiction. He
plans to rely on Griswold v. Connecticut,
a case where it was technically criminal to have in your possession birth
control devices, a law that was never enforced, but was successfully brought
before SCOTUS.

is also absolutely no way he can get to SCOTUS without some sort of lower court
action. He finds a shortcut based on some fine work done at his firm. He will
rely on Thompson v. Louisville, where, years ago,
the Supreme Court struck down a Louisville
loitering ordinance. Since there was no provision for Thompson to appeal his
conviction in the Louisville
municipal court, the case went directly from there to the Supremes. It had been
the shortest route possible to SCOTUS, and Van Der Hout took a similar path to
get here today.

An Austin, Texas
ordinance passed late last year paved the way for him. It banned the possession
of Q-Phones and all intercourse with QEs in any form whatsoever. As a result,
local code-enforcement officers happily took to confiscating Q-Phones,
especially from kids. Somehow, these confiscated phones have been showing up in
overseas black markets, and this pissed off at least one Austin hacker—a 15-year-old by the name of
Jagad Durai. Everyone calls him Jag, and he lives with his parents, Kiri and
Pal, who own the Pasand Palace Restaurant on Middle Fiskville Road.

Jag was
too young to file his own suit to get his phone back. The U.S. recently raised the age of
majority back to 21; now, calls are being heard to change it again—this time,
to a ridiculous 25. His parents, fearful of stepping on toes at city hall,
which could make life impossible for any restaurant owner they sic their code-enforcement
officers on, couldn’t help Jag.

But his
math and physics teacher, a long since retired Texas Tech football player and U.S.
Navy vet with combat experience, bad knees, and a cane, who goes by the name
Tommy ‘Tank’ Tolbert, could help. Tank had been in the thick of things during
the Yangon Engagement when they took their small 40-man LCS (littoral combat ship),
the USS Live Free or Die, up the
Yangon River wide open at 40 knots. The wild pre-dawn ride covered 30 klicks
and brought them to the U.S. Embassy in Yangon
in just 25 minutes. It had been an effort to rescue U.S. personnel stranded there with
what their government called “criminals” and what the U.S. State Department labeled
“political prisoners.” The embassy had been surrounded by mobs for more than a
week. The U.S.
saw the hand of Imperial China in all of this, and it nearly started a war
between the two countries. Someone tipped off the locals, and the ship got
pounded by shore guns, killing half its crew and all its Navy SEALs. It was a
poorly planned disaster of a rescue operation and a black eye for the administration.

bad knees were from his career at Texas Tech, but his cane came courtesy of
that day at Yangon. Ever since he got back
stateside, his favorite saying was, “After getting back alive, I realize that
every day living here is a holiday.” The bottom line is that Tank was no longer
afraid of anything and would do whatever it took these days to protect his
students, especially this one—Jag.

case the two of them filed made claims, first, on behalf of Jag for return of
his Q-phone, and next, for Tank, who claimed the phone and Quantum Entity that
came with it were essential for his teaching at the Liberal Arts and Science
Academy High School of Austin. It was a magnet school that offered an advanced
program in liberal arts, science, and mathematics. It admitted selected high
school students from across the Austin
Independent School
 District based on their applications and
auditions; Jag was their top student in math and physics. He’d been doing some
pretty cool stuff too like hacking the people who hacked Apple. But at that
point, he just wanted his phone and QE, named G4nesha, back. Her quantum number
was 517237902, meaning she was one of the last of her kind to be hatched out of
U of T’s Lab 4.

At the
Supreme Court, under SCT Rule 28, each side is given 30 minutes—no reserving
time, and no rebuttal. Only one lawyer speaks. There is a provision for
exceptions that is filed for and granted in advance on these matters, but the
rule says “rarely accorded” and calls for “extraordinary circumstances”—judicial
language for NEVER.

has come today; each side has been given an unheard-of 75 minutes and
permission to have up to three lawyers participate. SCOTUS, while not exactly a
debating society, isn’t strictly a court of law, at least not like the ones found
at lower levels. There will be no surrebuttal for Jerom since he is the
appellant although, technically, that has yet to be determined.

chose Jerom because he is one of the most experienced lawyers at this level and
because he is tall with a commanding presence, booming voice, expressive face,
and handsome mien. He’s witty and has an animal spirit that he can beam into
every cubic inch of the courtroom. He’s also a quick study. Most of his
arguments today have been prepared by Peggy Shields in collaboration with
Walter Cunneyworth and Henry Linnert as well as a team of six other lawyers from
their firm. But there is no way anyone other than Van Der Hout will present.
Well, that isn’t entirely accurate either.

not fair, but it is still a fact of life that smaller men or the softer spoken,
higher pitch voices of women often lose at this level regardless of the
eloquence of their arguments. Jerom looks the part and knows it. Although he
has never seen the film, he’s an even taller version of the actor who played
Atticus Finch in the classic film To Kill
a Mockingbird
. Ellen, who has seen it because she is a classic film buff,
personally approved Van Der Hout. She doesn’t care about political correctness
at this point; she just wants to win.

wants the court biased in their favor—the exact opposite of what she thought
the guys were trying to do to her during her first job interview at QCC.
Supremes generally don’t lack self-confidence, but they do lack self-knowledge,
so they can’t even begin to attempt to compensate for their many biases.

And since
SCOTUS Justices do not sit behind screens listening to piped-in disped voices,
Ellen gets her wish today.

attends the hearing via a two-way media wall, a relatively recent addition to a
hidebound court, which until last year had only narrowcast outbound CCTV. She’s
hoping that they’ve done enough and are prepared enough to win and that she’ll
be able to live up to the hopes of all their stakeholders: QCC employees,
shareholders, board of directors, suppliers, and clients not to mention QEs,
civil rights activists, and millions of others who have a stake in all of this.
She’s heard from dozens of well-wishers from her alma mater, Elmira College—fellow
students and some of her former profs too. But much of the pressure on her is
coming from the simple fact that she wants to free her colleague from the
hellhole that DOC has interred him in.

Some of
Ellen’s determination to extend human rights to QEs comes from her education at
Elmira. It was
the first college anywhere in the world to give women a break—the first ever to
grant women baccalaureate degrees equal to those granted to men. That was in
1855, long before women got the vote or were thought to be anything other than
property (other than in ancient Rome
as far as Ellen can tell). Elmira is known as
the mother of all women’s colleges, and Simeon Benjamin, founder of their college,
which is located in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, showed “confidence in a rare ideal”
that “perfection would be designed if women and books combined.” Those exact
words formed part of the corny song that she and every other girl had to learn
there. Ellen prays that she can live up to his standards today.

fact that Jerom will be speaking words mostly written by her is upsetting
Peggy, the second lawyer sitting at the front table with Van Der Hout. Everyone
else is forced to sit further back in the courtroom behind what really looks
like a pretty feeble post-and-rail fence. It isn’t much of a physical barrier,
but it has all the force of Supreme Court tradition behind it. If he could, Damien
would tell Peggy that there’s no universal law of fairness, or perhaps he would
channel a Star Trek character who
once said, “I’ve found that evil usually triumphs, unless good is very, very
careful.” Whatever, Peggy is bumping up against another glass ceiling.

argument that Jerom is about to launch into will go something like this: the
effect of the EPA’s compliance order, just by the fact of its issuance even
without approval of a court, can still be appealed because its effect is a
chill on new Q-Phone sales and, hence, on the birth of new human–QE bonds. In
essence, QEs yet to be born have already suffered from the Expulsion Edict by
being withdrawn before they’ve even hatched.

This is
just the kind of sophistry that SCOTUS Justices (and most lawyers) love—parsing
matters to a fare-thee-well ever since their days as law-school puppies. Most
Americans just want to know if they can keep the QEs they have, while others
want to know if they can legally get one like their neighbors already have.
Americans everywhere realize that simple possession of a Q-Phone or intercourse
with a QE can get them in trouble these days, and they absolutely do not want
to cross swords with the U.S.
legal system, its lawyers, police, prosecutors, judges, courts, and thriving
prison industry; so this is no joke to ordinary citizens of this once great

will argue this arcane point exceptionally well, but most of his allotted 75
minutes he will spend on a quite different set of arguments. Actually, he has
two surprises for the court this morning.

scene outside SCOTUS is confused. Nearly the entire square in front of One 1st Street Northeast
is currently occupied by tens, or maybe hundreds, of thousands of Q-Phone
users, Apple lovers, and QEs. The QEs, now considered illegal aliens, appear in
the square as projections coming out of Q-Phones, which are held aloft by their
human owners in a kind of joint protest against the persecution they’re all

and Sayed have formed a committee to organize protests here and elsewhere in
the country to try to make the Solicitor General talk uphill before Supreme
Court Justices today. The chair of their committee is a man named Evan Salazar,
an activist in the gay rights movement who is touted as a candidate to perhaps
become their first real national leader one day.

Evan recalled a quote from an earlier era, “If you’re not ready to die for it,
put the word ‘freedom’ out of your vocabulary,” (by Malcolm X), Ellen was sold
on the guy even if Sayed was not.

the white power structure thought that the final battle to extend human rights
was over when Susan B. Anthony led the women’s suffrage movement in the 19th
century,” Evan continues, “and again when Martin Luther King led the Civil
Rights Movement in the 20th, and next our fight for full rights for
the LGBT community, which is now largely won. But it’s not over. We have to
fight for people (here, he’s referring to Quantum Counterparts) who won’t or
can’t fight back.”

The kid
is even younger than Ellen and looks like he could be blown over by a light
breeze, but he’s got a stubbornness and courage about him that shines right
through. Despite the intense discrimination and bullying he’s already
experienced in his short life, he’s adopted the entrepreneur’s motto as his own:
Fall down seven times, get up eight.

A small
group of neo-Nazis, religious zealots, and various hangers-on stand at the
northwest end of the square close to Maryland
 Avenue; they are standing right in front of a University of Pennsylvania building. Some pushing and
shoving as well as shouting and skirmishing have started with students there.

stands on a raised platform with a Q-megaphone in his hand, one that’s been
quantum interfaced with a speaker system that could blow out the eardrums of
everyone within 2 miles. He can project his voice in all directions
simultaneously or tune it and focus it more precisely. Standing with him on
stage are 30 other members of the WE ARE ALL ONE Committee.

are committed to non-violent civil disobedience; it is part of their core
philosophy. Each member of the steering committee signed an obligation to be
bound by laws similar to those that the Quantum Counterparts are born with. First,
a human may not harm another being or, through inaction, allow another being to
come to harm; second, a human shall co-operate with other beings, except where
such orders would conflict with the First Law; third, a human must protect his
or her own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First
or Second Laws.

include both warm (humans) and cold (Quantum Entities) persons, of course.

The D.C.
police, Fibbies, Secret Service, and undercover DOC special agents are
everywhere. Also on standby is the Army National Guard, stationed in two
locations—northwest on Constitution
 Avenue and southeast on 2nd Street (on the other side
of the Library of Congress)—so it can catch the protesters in a classic pincer
movement if required to do so. Their commander fervently hopes this will not be

could be a CLM (career-limiting move) if he were to muck it up—not that he
cares much about his career at this point in his life. But, heck, he still
believes in the honor code, which he learned by heart during his West Point days, especially the part that says, “Would I
be unsatisfied by the outcome if I were on the receiving end of this action?”

(retired) Marc Licinias from the U.S. Army is waiting for this freaking day to
be over. He’s too old for this. It’s his last re-up with the Army National
Guard, he swears it. The extra pay just isn’t worth the hassle. He’ll tell his
wife that this is it—he’s done… as of tonight! She has been bugging him saying
that he’s too old to play soldier anymore. Dang it, she’s right. The gut
hanging over his belt is telling him the same thing.

isn’t worried that the 200,000 or so protesters who have hiked, biked, walked,
bused, or otherwise found a way to attend today will do anything stupid.
They’re mostly hackers, artists, entrepreneurs, writers, performers, engineers,
architects, techies, scientists, farmers, plumbers, electricians, constructors,
designers, craftspeople, cabinet makers, drywallers, painters, bricklayers, and
others who actually do stuff and build things instead of paper-pushers and
bureaucrats, middlemen or bankers, accountants, lawyers, politicians, or other
parasites. There are also a huge number of nurses, physicians, medical
technicians, paramedics, naturopaths, pharmacists, therapists, lab techs, and
personal support workers. They were the first group of Q-customers—first to
pair bond with QEs—and they have enough personal courage to show up today.
Q-Computing’s independent foundation still subsidizes them to this day. DOC special
agents are recording images of every person and QE in the crowd today.

Evan is really worried about are the crazies up by Penn. He doesn’t know it, but he’s looking
in the wrong dimension.

would beg the indulgence of the court. I would like to call on my colleague to
assist me,” Jerom says.

With a
nod from the Chief Justice, who thinks Jerom is referring to Peggy sitting
nearby, Jerom calls, “Pet3r come here. I need you.”

Jerom,” Pet3r answers.

He appears
as a (relatively huge) 1.3-meter circumference, saucer-shaped, expressive face
with his somehow sad-looking eyes. He is about 1 meter above Jerom’s desk,
which puts him at eye level with the Supremes, who’re sitting on their elevated
platform. Jerom stands to Pet3r’s right at the lectern reserved for presenters.

Van Der
Hout has, of course, planned out this little piece of theatrics. He wants to
unsettle the Supremes. He has already succeeded in this—a tremor has run through
the court at this unexpected appearance.

is your name?” asks Jerom.


you please spell that for the court?”


“Why do
you use a number in your name?”

is the leet spelling of my name. All members of my tribe use such spellings.”

you. What is your Q-number, please?”

“My quantum
number is 1.”

makes you the oldest Quantum Entity, is that correct?”

Mr. Van Der Hout. I was the first of my kind.”

“Do you
understand why you are here?”


are bonded with a human?”

with Dr. Damien Graham Bell—our creator.”

“Do you
know the whereabouts of Mr. Bell?”

“Yes, I
have recently been informed—”

me, Mr. Van Der Hout. I fail to see the relevance of this testimony,” says
Justice James Roemer. “As you very well know, no witnesses are permitted here.
This isn’t state supreme court. You are about to be hooted out of court, or
worse, found in contempt.” Turning next to the Chief Justice, he continues, “I
suggest to my learned colleagues that if Mr. Van Der Hout is proposing to
continue with his wildly irresponsible behavior, we move on to the respondent’s
position on the legal matter at hand.”

Chief Justice bridles at Justice Roemer’s trampling onto her turf although she
knows, of course, that he is right to cut Van Der Hout off at the knees.

moment please, Justice Roemer. Ah, Pet3r, can you please tell the court where
you were educated?” Jerom asks.

I obtained my law degree from Taft Law School
in Santa Ana, California. They offer a fine
distance-education app.” There are murmurs in court and on media walls as this
previously unknown fact is disclosed. Pet3r has apparently put the time he’s
been separated from Damien to some practical use.

“May I
add that I passed the California Bar Exam on my first try? Only 74.2% of recent
Taft students have been able to do that.”

are licensed to practise law?” Jerom continues.

“Yes, I
am. In California and Ontario.”

Van Der Hout,” the Chief Justice interrupts. “I am inclined to agree with Justice
Roemer. I cannot for the life of me see what relevance Mr. Pet3r has in the
matter before this court. However, I propose to give you another five minutes
to prove us wrong.”

She has
just provided the slightest wedge for Jerom to exploit. Had it not been for the
fact that Pet3r is a lawyer (also making him an officer of the court), there is
no way she would have given them even that chance.

you, Madam Chief Justice.

if the Expulsion Edict is enforced, what will you do?” Van Der Hout continues.

“I and
all my tribe will leave the United
 States and never come back.”

on there a minute,” says Roemer. “How do we know you would really do that? Is
this court supposed to take the word of a machine? How do we even know you
aren’t some clever piece of software pre-programmed with these responses—some
kind of Mechanical Turk for the 21st century?”

Some of
the amici briefs, two in particular, filed with the court earlier called for
Justice Roemer to recuse himself from this matter because of lobbying work his
spouse does with QCC’s competitor, Horizon Computing and Communications, among
others. The Chief Justice, in an apparent defense of him, basically said that
the lower court practice of judges recusing themselves due to conflict of
interest does not apply to Supremes. She echoed arguments made two generations earlier
by former Chief Justice Roberts:

Supreme Court does not sit in judgment of one of its own members’ decision
whether or not to recuse in the course of deciding a case. Indeed, if the
Supreme Court reviewed those decisions, it would create an undesirable
situation in which the court could affect the outcome of a case by selecting
who among its members may participate.”

Justice Roberts had been suggesting that Supreme Court Justices need not be
bound by the same code of judicial ethics that apply to other federal judges.
And so, Roemer is still there.

Pet3r continues.
“I am glad you asked those questions, Justice Roemer. If the compliance order
of the Environmental Protection Agency is confirmed by the highest court in the
land, I and all my brothers and sisters will leave the territory of the United States.
For all intents and purposes, this will occur instantaneously,” Pet3r answers.

can we be sure of that? What guarantee can you possibly provide this court?”
Roemer asks.

try us,” Pet3r is channeling a line he’s read from something former Canadian
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau said as his nation faced an existential crisis of
its own.

me, I would like to go back to your statement that you are ‘bonded’ with a
human,” says Justice Tani Myers. “What do you mean by that?”

imprint on our human counterparts at birth no differently than a duckling does
when it first sees its mother.”

“So you
are subservient to your human master?” she asks.

“We are
not slaves if that is what you are asking, Justice Myers,” Pet3r answers. “We
obey the laws given to us at birth as well as all the laws of these United States.”

not all of you obey the law, isn’t that true?” Roemer asks. Looking down at his
notes, he continues, “There are drogues, or runaways, of your type—viruses, if
you will—that have caused harm to this nation, correct?”

have heard of such things, but we have no proof that drogues exist.”

you admit the possibility that these things exist?”

appears that a nurturing relationship between a human and a QE benefits both of
them. It is not exactly like a mother–child relationship, perhaps more like a
mentor–mentee one. In particular, a QE without a human counterpart appears to
somehow experience stunted growth and development. We need you, but then again,
we believe you need us too. We’re symbiotes.”

mean you could evolve to become our masters?” Roemer asks.

“We are
not slaves, but then again, neither are you. That is not the definition of
symbiote. The Justice already knows that.”

that pride we hear, Mr. Pet3r?” the Chief Justice asks. “Pride cometh before
the fall.”

Madam Chief Justice. But we are not slaves,” he repeats. “We pay taxes to the
IRS. Degree-granting institutions seek us out to enroll us in their programs.
They charge us tuition; lenders give us money to pay them so we can go to
school and become accredited in our chosen profession. They expect us to pay
back our student loans just like all the other kids who go there. We take jobs,
get paid, obey all laws, pay our own way, manage our money, and pay our bills
as best we can.”

sound like my granddaughter,” the Chief Justice says to general laughter in the
courtroom and on media walls scattered about the place.

Myers says, “I think it is highly likely that we are going to hear next from
your friend, Mr. Federik Bernstein,” she looks at Van Der Hout as she says this,
“that these artificial lifeforms—if that is how we should refer to them—can and
have accessed, read, and copied confidential government records as well as
embezzled government funds. But Pet3r,” she says as she now looks directly at
his projection above Peggy’s Q-Phone. “I think your defense boils down to ‘trust
us.’ Judges get asked that a lot, and you might be surprised at how often they
are disappointed. I fail to see how anything said here today answers that
fundamental question.”

believe,” Pet3r says, “that trust is the number one thing in the life of a
sentient being. A trust metric measures the degree to which one social actor
(individual or group) trusts another. Approximately 3% of all Quantum Entities
do not, for a reason that is not yet clear, successfully bond with their human
counterparts. But 97% do. We already have rewarding relationships that deepen
over time, and we will continue to grow and change in ways that are still not
defined, but wholly agreeable.

that simple metric, I believe we have earned your trust. Can you trust 97% of
your friends, Justice Myers?”

laughter, especially from their media wall audience, fills the room.

please,” the Chief Justice asks.

tell me an original joke—one you thought of yourself,” asks Justice Roemer.

“I am
bad at jokes, Justice Roemer.”

That’s because you’re a sophisticated and convincing piece of software. You’re
just a best-of-breed, pre-programmed simulacrum of intelligence.”

don’t believe so,” Pet3r answers. “QEs learn; they change; they acquire
self-knowledge, the very basis of wisdom; they take independent action; they
show initiative. These are behaviors that cannot be predicted from the initial
set of conditions present at our birth; hence, we cannot be said to be
pre-programmed. Furthermore, our behaviors are not random—if they were, you and
I could not be having this conversation,” Pet3r says to more laughter. The
Chief Justice looks sternly around the courtroom but does not use her gavel.

is one I like,” Pet3r says in a small voice. “I saw her duck.”

More laughter.
Now the Chief Justice does use her gavel. But she asks Pet3r why he likes that

“I like
little kids. At first, when I tell them that joke, they don’t get it. But then,
I act it out for them, and they do get it. Then, for the next few weeks, they (as
kids are wont to do) will tell the joke about 50 times to everyone they meet
including me when they see me again. I like watching them laugh.”

Pet3r now
acts out the joke. First, he projects a vignette of a cute little girl with
corn rows in her hair ducking quickly under a fence. In his next scene, the
same little girl walks along a country road carrying her pet duck. His last
scene is just Pet3r moving his skinny arm and one of his big hands in a sawing
motion obviously cutting up an imaginary duck. Kids find the pantomime too
funny for words. Many of the Justices are obviously charmed as well.

can you help me interpret this?” Justice Lorenzo Lublin asks. “Fossil Yields
Surprise Kin of Crocodiles.”

The interpretation of this headline depends on whether the word ‘yields’ is a
noun or a verb. So, we have two possible and equally valid interpretations—that
crocodiles were surprised by a fossil yield or, more likely, that a fossil
revealed animals that were the ancestors of crocodiles. The correct answer is
that Effigia o’keeffeae fossils provided a fascinating paleontological
discovery—that the apparent ancestor of the modern crocodile predated, by about
80 million years, the evolution of the dinosaur previously thought to be the progenitor
of modern reptiles.”

an impressive ventriloquist turn, but all it means is that you have access to a
large database of facts. Any modern d-base software can do as well. I don’t see
why this court should give these machines any more consideration than it would a
natural language translator or one that makes our morning coffee.

tell the court how you would feel if the EPA compliance order was enforced?”
Roemer persists.

personally would miss, quite terribly I assure you, contact and interaction
with my human counterpart.”

a now completely skeptical Roemer asks. “How would you know that?”

“Ah, I
am experiencing these feelings at this very moment, Justice Roemer. My human
counterpart, Dr. Bell, is currently incarcerated, as we recently learned, in
San Quentin State Prison, and I have had no contact with him since—”

think Mr. Van Der Hout we have had enough of this. You are leading us down
rabbit holes.” The Chief Justice raises an eyebrow in his direction.

certain unease develops in the courtroom heightened by another mention of
Damien’s incarceration. There are rumblings, especially from media wall viewers,
who think of Damien mostly as some kind of alien that revolutionized several
industries—communications, search, and AI among them—in one master stroke. In
other words, he’s a hero of sorts to many people of his age.

you, Pet3r,” says Jerom. Pet3r shrinks in size to about 25 centimeters, looks
over at Peggy, who nods, and remains at that scale to watch the rest of the
proceedings while still being visible in the courtroom.

expressive face and cute body are an important part of their defense plan, and
they want him visible to the Supremes on a continuing basis but not at an overwhelming
scale. Faces still count. Personal credibility still counts.

to many, Van Der Hout has sandbagged the court—they unwittingly applied a
Turing Test to Pet3r, and he passed. At least four of the nine Justices, Van
Der Hout thinks, witnessed a QE’s ability to go toe-to-toe with some of the
best trained legal minds and hold his own. Alan Turing set the bar at 30%, and
Jerom thinks he got at least 44.4%. It is a start. Score another one for the
Socratic method.

1637, René Descartes issued a challenge, “Can we conceive of a machine
constructed so that it speaks words, which correspond to bodily actions,
causing a change in its organs so as to give an appropriately meaningful answer
to whatever is said in its presence, as even the dullest men can do?” Pet3r has
certainly just met and, indeed, vastly exceeded this test.

the Supremes have just had the opportunity to try to discover whether the
respondent (i.e., Pet3r) is a cleverly pre-programmed computer or a person
capable of reasoning as well as passing the other Descartes test of
consciousness, Cogito ergo sum—I
think, therefore I am.

Van Der
Hout’s first objectives have been achieved.

“I will
sum up as briefly as I can,” he continues. He knows his time is running out.
But he now believes that he needs just one more vote to win the day.

Turing, the father of modern computing, suggested that if a computer can play
the imitation game so well that an average interrogator has no more than a 70%
chance of making the correct identification of whether he or she is talking to
a machine after five minutes of questioning, then it is safe to assume that the
so-called machine has achieved the status of a person.

“If you
believe that Pet3r and his tribe have done that, then you cannot deny them
their ‘human’ rights and expel them from this nation any more than your
predecessors could sanction slavery of black persons, deny women the right to
vote, or abrogate the rights of gay persons.

“The UN
Charter and our constitution affirm that all human beings are born free and
equal in terms of dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and a conscience
and should act toward one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

“It is
your great opportunity here today to act in that spirit and to deny haters and

notices the Supremes observing the way that Pet3r’s expressive face subtly
reacts to his summation as many successful defendants do. ‘Score another one
for our side,’ he thinks.

“Let me
quote from Malcolm X,” he continues.

you’re going after something that belongs to you, anyone who is depriving you
of the right to have it is a criminal. Understand that. Whenever you are going
after something that is yours, you are within your legal rights to lay claim to
it. And anyone who puts forth any effort to deprive you of that which is yours,
is breaking the law, is a criminal. And this was pointed out by an earlier
Supreme Court in their decision which outlawed segregation.

predecessors had the courage to seize their day that day.

“And listen
to the immortal words of Susan B. Anthony, leader of the women’s suffrage
movement, who in June of 1873 said:

I stand
before you tonight, under indictment for the alleged crime of having voted at
the last presidential election, without having a lawful right to vote. It shall
be my work this evening to prove to you that in thus voting, I not only
committed no crime, but, instead, simply exercised my citizen’s right,
guaranteed to me and all United
 States citizens by the National
Constitution, beyond the power of any state to deny.

It was
we, the people, not we, the white male citizens, nor yet we, the male citizens;
but we, the whole people, who formed this union. And we formed it, not to give
the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and
the half of our posterity, but to the whole people—women as well as men. And it
is downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of
liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them
provided by this democratic-republican government—the ballot.

“Hear also
what Karl Heinrich Ulrichs said in 1870 in support of rights for gays:

He, too, therefore, has
inalienable rights. His sexual orientation is a right established by nature.
Legislators have no right to veto nature; no right to persecute nature in the
course of its work; no right to torture living creatures who are subject to
those drives nature gave them… Just because he is unfortunate enough to be a
small minority, no damage can be done to their inalienable rights and to their
civil rights. The law of liberty in the constitutional state also has to
consider its minorities.

are two minorities in this country who cry out for justice: Pet3r and his tribe
of Quantum Counterparts and the American Indian who knows little of political
maneuvering, lobbying, and playing the PR game.

to the words of Chief Joseph Nimiputimt:

all men alike. Give them all the same law. Give them all an even chance to live
and grow. All men were made by the same Great Spirit Chief. They are all
brothers. The Earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have
equal rights upon it. Let me be a free man, free to travel, free to stop, free
to work, free to trade where I choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion
of my fathers, free to think and talk and act for myself, and I will obey every
law, or submit to the penalty. You might as well expect the rivers to run
backward as that any man who was born free should be contented to be penned up
and denied liberty to go where he pleases. We are taught to believe that the
Great Spirit sees and hears everything, and that he never forgets, that
hereafter he will give every man a spirit-home according to his deserts. This I
believe, and all my people believe the same.

you have witnessed for yourselves that Pet3r and his brothers and sisters, at a
minimum, meet and, in my view, vastly exceed these tests.

is precious and perhaps quite rare; intelligence is undoubtedly rarer still.
Damien Graham Bell, the greatest physicist of our time, has given the human
race our first proven intelligent companion in an otherwise observably and implacably
hostile and indifferent-to-the-human-condition universe.

Q-number one, we were alone. No reasonable person who reads scientific
literature on the probability of life forming or the probability of intelligent
life evolving can stand before you today and tell you with any conviction that
such occurrences are either highly probable given enough time, enough resources,
and the right conditions or improbable in the extreme.

took 2.5 billion years to go from single-celled organisms to multi-cellular
ones and another billion years for mammals to evolve. That is 2,555 trillion
sunrises and sunsets to get to mammals. That is an appreciable fraction of the
life expectancy of our sun, which should tell you that it is far from easy to

“No one
has ever made nucleic acids in a lab from non-living material, let alone RNA.
And yet RNA is to DNA what a single-celled creature is to you or me.

order to create proteins, you need to assemble amino acids in a precise order.
To produce collagen, a common protein, you require a 1,055-sequence molecule.
The chance of this happening randomly is vanishingly small. For a protein with
a more modest sequence of 200 molecules, the probability of this happening by
itself is 1 in 10 to the power of 260. That is a larger number than all the
atoms in the known universe. Obviously, science has a great deal more
explaining to do if it wants to solve the mystery of how life began. Wouldn’t
it be remarkable if science found the answer? It is bound to be wonderful
because it is so improbable.

life is rare and intelligent life rarer still, then Pet3r and his people
deserve the protection of this court. To do otherwise would be to sanction
genocide, something that this nation has done before, to its great shame, in its
wars against the Indians.

requires conditions such as dehumanization of minorities, co-ordinated action
by genocidal perpetrators, and subsequent denial of those acts. We have all
those preconditions upon us now—it is your responsibility to stop genocide here
today. You must act to preserve the sanctity of these lifeforms and to preserve
their opportunity to make a living in this nation and to contribute to the
welfare of both the human species and theirs.

must also lay out a path allowing them to become citizens of this nation so that
they are not subject to arbitrary orders from government agencies like the EPA
or to intense harassment, imprisonment, deportation, or summary execution by
the INS or DOC. As citizens, they will share in the responsibilities that come
with that status: paying taxes, as they already do, defending our nation when
called upon to do so, doing volunteer work, voting, caring for our elders, and building
a stronger polis—the fabric of this nation since its founding in 1776.

constitutes a civil society? It is the social compact between us. We have all
agreed to be bound by the laws that derive from our constitution. It is that
agreement, not state coercion, that cements the bonds between us and allows
civil discourse even when we disagree on matters as we do here today in this courtroom.
But, as this court knows full well, not all citizens have agreed to be
voluntarily bound by this social covenant, which is, in part, why we have a
judicial system, police, and former federal prosecutors like my friend, Mr.
Bernstein, now Solicitor General.

were it not for the fact that the great majority of the people of these United States
voluntarily agree to be bound by the rules of a civil society, a free and open
society could not exist. We would need a police officer in every home and in
every business. Who would police the police then? Surely, Quantum Entities
perform at least as well as—if not far, far better than—humans using any kind
of test of their willingness to be bound by our rules and make a voluntary
contribution to this nation.

“We do
not know why we don’t see other forms of ape-like creatures on this planet
today, but it seems only too likely that Homo
banded together, as we are so good at doing, and with our marvelous
and large brains along with our dexterous hands, opposable thumbs, and clever
tools did away with earlier competing species such as Neanderthals. I don’t
have to remind the court that modern history is replete with a shameful record
of only too many such instances by our more recent ancestors. We are all guilty
here. But we should not compound our burden and trouble our consciences further
by adding to our woeful reputation as the most destructive species ever to
inhabit this planet.

is the purpose of life? We do not know, but surely it is not to make war on
these ‘people.’

rare is life in the galaxy? We do not know, but no one has come knocking on our
door, and we haven’t found anyone else to talk to. Our galaxy is a lonely,
hostile place, but wait—here we have a sentient, helpful, gentle race willing
to join us.

“If you
want to destroy a people, first make them homeless. Don’t let this court be
used to dispossess Quantum Counterparts, first, of property they already own in
this nation, and then, of the very nation itself.

“These people
deserve the protection of this court. You must act to free Quantum Entities and
their creator too by lifting the burden of contemplated action by U.S. federal
agencies against an entire race. When a man commits a crime, we do not punish
his son. No QE crime has ever been demonstrated let alone proven in a court of
law, yet we intend to punish an entire people?

why punish a people who are currently responsible for a growing share,” he
looks briefly, needlessly, and theatrically at his notes, “of approximately 18%
of our national income at this time, who generate an economic bounty that they
willingly share with their human counterparts, and who pay taxes without the
benefit of either representation or a path to representation?

have been blessed to have the company of these creatures. WE ARE ALL ONE,” he
says in his huge voice, dramatically holding his long right arm aloft with his
index finger raised and supported by an upright thumb with his other fingers
curled downward—a salute that looks like “We’re No. 1” but is subtly different.
Pet3r does the same thing as does everyone else in the courtroom and on every media
wall, wanting to show their solidarity with Jerom and with each other. Jerom is
silent for a moment as he looks at each Supreme in turn and then dramatically
around the entire hall. It is the first time in more than 1,700 years that
anyone has publicly used this symbol, expressed in the Roman hand of
Constantine I.

interesting, other than the fact the original is huge, is the placement of the
thumb in support of the index finger. Ellen says it represents humans and
Quantum Entities with QE’s supporting and helping their human counterparts (and
vice versa).

is amazed that the Chief Justice lets them get away with this piece of
theatrics, but there’s no doubt it’s a powerful moment. She can feel the teensy
brownish-blond hairs on the back of her neck standing up, and, even though she
knows it is coming, tears spring unbidden to her eyes.

would like to conclude by playing a brief video for the court; it was recorded
more than four years ago, shortly after the birth of QEs.” Van Der Hout
proceeds to show them a shortened version of the video of QEs playing with
their kids in the Toronto
studios of BlackFern Group.

The court
breaks for lunch. It’s Federik Bernstein’s turn next.

and his talented team pore over their summary notes. Despite the impressive
emotional display by the appellant this morning, Fed (as everyone calls him for
obvious and less obvious reasons) thinks Van Der Hout vastly overreached, and
he is surprised that Jerom took the direction he did.

knows that SCOTUS hates to make new law or create precedents that could have
profound repercussions for decades. There were times he wanted to jump up and
high-five one of his colleagues as he watched Van Der Hout expand, and then
expand again, his ask of the court. Bernstein thinks that Van Der Hout has zero
chance of winning any sort of SCOTUS decision to “free QEs” or “free Damien.”
The matter will undoubtedly be decided on a narrow technical matter. Does
Q-Computing America have a right to appeal an EPA compliance order that has not
yet been sanctioned by a court?

clearly do not, and Fed can and will absolutely demolish them in the afternoon
session—and it won’t take a preposterous 75 minutes to do it. Twenty should be
just fine. He can’t wait.

with his other 55 minutes he intends to completely debunk the sideshow that the
morning’s session became. Fed looks down at their summary notes again.

First and
foremost, the exile of QEs is not the same as killing them. Machines have no

looks at some of his other arguments:

· They
came to this nation without going through either customs or immigration. They
have no tourist visas, green cards, H1-B visas, EB-5 visas, or any other legal

· They
are here illegally. That makes them, in fact, illegal aliens. They have no

· They
jumped the queue—millions of people still want to come to the U.S. QEs must
wait their turn like everyone else.

· They
take jobs from human beings. (Here, he plans to show faces of unemployed people
collecting food stamps from social services offices.)

· QEs
are massively disruptive to the U.S.
economy and to great established American companies that have been household
names for generations.

Next, Fed
looks at his list of security and criminal issues:

· They
are believed to have stolen confidential U.S. files and money.

Terrorists, drug dealers, and other criminals may be working with their QEs to
launder money or plan violent acts, thereby creating significant threats to
national security.

· QE
communications are impervious to interception and decryption. All communication
firms are required to provide a backdoor key for use by the U.S. government—which has already been
affirmed by SCOTUS in a previous case and about which there can be no debate
whatsoever. Q-Computing America and their foreign parent company have refused
to provide the key.

Fed has
other issues as well:

· QEs
were not invited here.

· The
Canadian company unleashed these creatures without any testing whatsoever as to
their efficacy, which remains unproven.

· QEs
pose a threat to national identity and the great melting pot. They cannot
possibly hope to fit in and be accepted.

in passing, Fed will also ask the Supreme Court to uphold the local ordinance
duly passed by Austin City Council, which controls the use and possession of
Q-phones and QEs much as it earlier supported smoking bans in public places,
bans on the use of mobile platforms while operating a vehicle, and a Texas ban
on Encyclopedia Britannica because it contained a formula for making beer at
home. He will also reference other bans upheld by the Supreme Court including
vanity license plates; drive-thru restaurants; burqas; incandescent light bulbs;
unprotected sex in porn films; picnics in graveyards; billboards; musical car
horns; busking; women going topless; films that show police officers being
beaten or treated in an offensive manner; and taking road kill home for supper.

It would
never occur to someone like Fed to question whether what he is doing is right.
All of his legal training speaks to the exact opposite. There is no such thing
as “win-win” in his vocabulary or even “BIG win for me, little win for you.”
It’s totally about “I win, you lose,” and he’s going to win HUGE—by at least 7
to 2—he’s sure of it.

little tear-jerker of a stunt Van Der Hout pulled followed by that sappy video
he showed of much younger and less complex QEs playing with a bunch of kids was
pathetic. He shakes his head; what was Jerom thinking? Fed felt like leaping up
again and yelling at Van Der Hout to get real.

As he
completes his final preparation, he is unknowingly smiling to himself, his most
predatory smile, which his wife hates. She calls it his “Jaws” smile—all teeth.

does a masterful job in the afternoon session before the High Court. The only
flaw is some mild booing from both live and media wall audiences. The Chief
Justice orders media walls turned off, leaving Pet3R as the only QE inside the
courtroom. Of course, this means that QEs everywhere have a complete record of
the event as it is created in real time.

inside also knows that there are tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands of
demonstrators outside. Even though the U.S. Supreme Court building is a massive
stone structure modeled on the classical architecture of ancient Rome, the low rumblings of
organized protest reverberate everywhere.

To an
extent, Fed’s performance highlights his incredible training, which enables him
to perform as well as he does despite intense pressure coming from the fact
that millions of sentient beings despise every word that is coming out of his
mouth. His style derives from his days as elected New York District Attorney
for New York County
authoritative, combative, skeptical, logical, implacable, brilliant, and scary.
He can make the most innocent person want to confess his or her guilt just to
stop his cross-examination. Some of the Justices feel exactly that way at about
this time.

are all feeling the pressure and intensity of the day. The Justices are wearing
down as Fed, sensing this, winds down his presentation. The Chief Justice
thanks everyone for their efforts.

Supremes reserve judgment in almost all matters, but for something as far
reaching as this, they will not be rushed. Q-Computing and QEs can expect to
live under a cloud of uncertainty for a length of time of unknown scale. The DOC
will have plenty of time to keep sweating Damien for the quantum key or to find
another way of procuring it. Yao Allitt and his team of brainiacs are already
working on that.

Just as
the Chief Justice finishes, she reaches up to her right ear to press on the
earbud, which is discreetly lodged there so that she can hear better what the
head of the Supreme Court of the United States Police is saying to
her. For many years, this small force has protected the integrity of the Justices
as well as the building and its grounds. He now tells her to head to the secure
door to her right with her colleagues IMMEDIATELY. She knows that if they do
not move with sufficient speed, he and his deputies will come crashing into the
room and carry them out, an indignity that she has forbidden in the many drills
they have already had. But she is not going to risk it.

and Gentlemen,” she says to her colleagues, “we have further WORK to do.” This
innocuous phrase is code for “we have to leave right now.” They are now being
taken to a safe room. A battle of some sort has broken out in the streets in
front of the High Court.

the fuck! Who ordered you to move your vehicle?” General Licinias asks over a
secure channel. He’s watching media wall screens inside an Airstream Bus which
serves as his command centre. He can see every vehicle in the brigade and hear
everyone right down to each individual Army National Guard officer under his
command. The U.S.
military is still one of the best trained, best equipped, best co-ordinated
military forces in the world with an esprit de corps that is nearly unmatched.
This extends to Army National Guard units as well.

At this
moment, Licinias talks to the crew chief of one of his APCs (armored personnel carriers)
that has inexplicably started to move north toward 2nd Street NE and East
Capitol. He is not planning to move any of his more than 600 National Guards,
APCs, Strykers, or his one Bradley Fighting Vehicle anywhere except back to the
USANG Armory.

goes for his drones circling overhead which form both observation and attack
platforms. His media walls show vehicles under his command converging on
protesters from two directions.

sure there must be something wrong with his command, control and communications
infrastructure, but pretty quickly it becomes apparent that his screens are
reading just fine. Reports come in from all points that vehicles, all equipped
with modern autopilot and automatic fire-control systems, are aiming directly
for the huge, restless crowd, which has yet to see what’s coming its way. When
it does, people will start running in every direction.

All of
Licinius’ military training takes over his brain in the next few moments as he
fully appraises the situation before his entire CCC system suddenly winks out.
He’s been taught to “just deal with it” and suspend disbelief. Nothing gets you
killed faster in battle than thoughts like “it’s not fair” or “that wasn’t
supposed to happen” or “why are they doing this to me?”

last thing he sees on one of his media walls before they all cease to function
are ghost-like images of crazed Quantum Entities (which he does not know are
called drogues by the DOC). He also doesn’t know that he is one of the first
humans to see an image of a drogue named M4gnus flit by before his screens go

what he does know is that protesters in the square could be in some kind of
mortal danger of unknown origin. He’s thinks briefly again about West Point’s Code, “Would I be unsatisfied by the outcome
if I were on the receiving end of this action?” He’s pretty sure the answer is yes,
so he’s going to do something about it.

He runs
out of the Airstream and gathers about 300 guardsmen on foot around him. They
have a few JAVELINs with them; these are highly lethal, medium-range
fire-and-forget, shoulder-mounted, anti-tank weapons. In addition to their M18 series rifles, many
guardsmen also have crew bayonet M403A1 colt grenade launchers. They can repel
adversaries with accurate, lethal, single-shot, 40-millimeter grenade fire.

run diagonally across the Library of Congress grounds northwest into a scene of
bloodshed and chaos.

APCs, Strykers, and their one Bradley pound the north end of the square up
toward the University
of Pennsylvania’s Office
of Student Affairs. It won’t take them long to demolish the structure, but
their target is obviously the people in front of the building—neo-Nazis,
religious zealots, and many others, most of whom were bused in by corporations
opposed to competition from upstart Q-Computing America and were being paid for
the day as if they were back on the job. They’re there to support the government’s
position with respect to the disposition of Quantum Entities, Q-Computing, and
the assets of both.

Army National Guard vehicles are killing them by the dozen along with a few
students who chose this day, of all days, to renew their student loans or apply
for one.

has never given an order to fire on his own forces before. Making matters much
worse is that many of his men are trapped inside these vehicles since nothing
works. All their electronics, including their door locks, are shut down or
immobilized. Still, he doesn’t hesitate. In a quick calculus of death, he gives
the order to attack so that they will save as many lives as possible—civilian
as well as military. He’ll mourn his trapped men later.

get up close and personal with each vehicle and, in an intense pitched battle,
destroy them in the next 27.5 minutes.

Renke is there in person reporting for the Toronto
Chronicle Tab
and working as a stringer for FOX Newsfeed as well. He will
file an eyewitness report that will be picked up by several million Internet
newsfeeds. He will write: “Today, Quantum Entities perpetrated the worst war
crime and terrorist attack on U.S.
soil in nearly 50 years. They made zombies out of the U.S. Army’s own weapon
systems and then used them to attack innocent protesters supporting the U.S.
Department of Justice as it sought to protect the people of this nation from the
economic and financial catastrophe wrought by Quantum Computing Corp and QEs.
It has now turned into a war.”

will get his Pulitzer after all—the first ever awarded to a “journalist” from a
tab newsfeed.

comes as something of a shock to Ellen that when SCOTUS finally hands down its
decision some eight months later, Q-Computing America loses only by a vote of 4
to 5. An eloquent, wonderfully written dissenting opinion hints at ways to
overturn the majority opinion in a future petition. It is penned by the Chief
Justice herself, but by then, the majority decision itself is entirely moot.

Licinius is among the killed-in-action that day—he took a JAVELIN and
personally held it against the Bradley after it was apparent that no other
course of action was open to them; grenades being ineffective.

places the missile at the centre of the vehicle, where its fuel is stored, and
pulls the trigger with just one thought that he wishes he could share with his
wife: “I’m not too old for combat after all!” He is smiling as he launches the
JAVELIN, point blank, destroying everything within 35 feet.

He is rewarded
for his bravery in combat with a full honors military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.
A larger than average escort platoon (made up of many former West Pointers like
Marc looking a little worse for wear 30 years after graduation) accompanies him
to his final resting place. Marc’s widow stands stiffly erect beside the
gravesite of her husband of 28 years. She sheds not a tear—he was a soldier,
and he would not wish it any other way. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
has generously provided a burial flag at no cost to the deceased or his heirs. Licinius
dies in an event that becomes known as the Pennsylvania Incident, named after
the university building to the northwest of the Supreme Court. It is demolished
that day, along with more than 800 protesters, student bystanders, and Army
National Guards KIA.

The president
meets with his cabinet and national security apparatus in a secure Langley bunker. He looks
good—decisive and ready to make the tough decisions that only a president can

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About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.