Conferring legal personhood on purely synthetic entities is a very real legal possibility, one under consideration presently by the European Union. We show here that such legislative action would be morally unnecessary and legally troublesome. While AI legal personhood may have some emotional or economic appeal, so do many superficially desirable hazards against which the law protects us. We review the utility and history of legal fictions of personhood, discussing salient precedents where such fictions resulted in abuse or incoherence. We conclude that difficulties in holding “electronic persons” accountable when they violate the rights of others outweigh the highly precarious moral interests that AI legal personhood might protect.
Only when it is abstracted (that is, separated from the referent, and disembodied) can monetary dynamics be automated, submitted to the rules of a non-referential sphere of signification and the attribution of value. Information takes the place of things, and finance – which once used to be the sphere where productive projects could meet capital, and where capital could meet productive projects – emancipates itself from the constraints of physical production: the process of capital valorization (increase of money invested) no longer passes through the creation of use value. As the referent is cancelled and financial accumulation is enabled by the mere circulation of money, the production of goods becomes superfluous to financial expansion. The accumulation of abstract value depends on the subjugation of the population to debt, and on the predation of existing resources.
This emancipation of capital accumulation from the production of useful things results in a process of annihilation of social welfare. In the sphere of financial economy, the acceleration of circulation and valorization implies the elimination of the concrete usefulness of products because the faster information circulates, the faster value is accumulated. Purely financial information is the fastest of things, while the production and distribution of goods is slow. The process of the realization of capital, namely the exchange of goods with money, slows the pace of monetary accumulation. The same happens in the field of communication: the less meaning the message has the faster it moves, given that production and interpretation of meaning take time, while the circulation of pure information without meaning is instantaneous.
In the last twenty years, computers, electronic exchanges, dark pools, flash orders, multiple exchanges, alternative trading venues, direct access brokers, OTC derivatives and high-frequency traders have totally changed the financial landscape and particularly the relation between human operators and self-directing algorithmic automatons. The more you remove the reference to physical things, to physical resources and the body, the more you can accelerate the circulation of financial flows. This is why, at the end of this process of abstraction-acceleration, value does not emerge from a physical relationship between work and things, but rather from the infinite self-replication of virtual exchanges of nothing with nothing.
Realizing that we have once again trapped ourselves in a self-imposed realm of error that has and is leading to conflict between the West and other older cultures and civilizations is a no brainer. Our leaders in their struggle to conquer and claim the remaining resources of an outmoded system of production and civilization based on fossil fuels has led us to the point of extinction. Our planet is already past the tipping point in the balance of climate change, a point of order that no denial can assuage. It is reinforced daily as floods along seacoasts become year by year more prevalent, and as the ice-caps of the North and South poles melt more and more and the tundra’s and seabed’s of the planet where helium has been stored is released into the atmosphere in the coming years and decades warming our planet into extremes never before seen. All this has been iterated by scientists for decades, but those in power who control the economic profit systems of the planet have denied its verities and castigated those who have warned us.
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Three decades of bad decisions have led us to this moment.