“Intelligence cannot be artificial, so ‘artificial intelligence’ – isn’t. The idea of more-complex computational machinery begs two questions: Who is going to use it? And in what ways? The real questions cannot be boiled down to ‘AI, Problems and Solutions’ but instead should be framed as: How do we want to live our lives and work toward the best future for the lives of our children and grandchildren?

“I wrote the following in answer to Yuval Noah Harari’s ‘Homo Deus,’ which I found intellectually lacking. (This is still a work in progress, a previous version was published by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command as ‘Human-Machine Rules Version 05’ in May 2023).

The question is not whether humanity’s focus should shift to human interactions that leave more humans in touch with their destinies. It is at what cost do we avoid doing so now? We realize that today’s challenges cannot be addressed by applying the same methods of thinking that created them. Human-machine rules are therefore not about being ‘realistic’ today but about the reality we want for our children and grandchildren.

“We reject the idea that humanity should hand over the job of fixing the problems that the tech world generated to more technology and to those who created the problems in the first place. Human-Machine Rules are based on and meant to support free, individual human choices. They can help define what degrees and controls are appropriate to ensure personal freedoms, secure personal property and minimize individual risk.

“They help indicate how consumer and government organizations might audit algorithms and manage equipment usage for societal and economic balances. They can help organize the dialogs around the various topics of human-machine interaction, especially in so called ‘ethical’ matters. Consequently, Human-Machine Rules are conceived to address any tool or machine, from the first flaked stone, to the ultimate ‘emotion machines.’ They can help standardize programming and user experience, and reason through the ethics of embedding technologies in people and their belongings.

“Human-Machine Rules are intended to be an outline for a legal code, similar to codes for motor vehicles, building and other construction and hazardous materials handling. The rules might be:

  • All human transactions and material transformations must be conducted by humans.
  • Humans may directly employ tools, machines and other devices in executing rule 1.
  • At all times, an individual human is responsible for the activity of any machine, technology, or program. All computing is visible to anyone at all times (no black box computing).
  • Responsibility for errors, omissions, negligence, mischief or criminal-like activity with regard to a technology is shared by every person in its organizational, operational and ownership chains, down to the last shareholder.
  • Any person can shut off any machine at any time. Penalties apply for inappropriately stopping machines.
  • Right to repair and easy recycling are required: a. All machines and parts greater than 1mm in size can be manually repaired with minimal tools. b. Components can be recycled using less than 5% of the energy required to produce them.
  • Personal data are personal property. Their use by a third party requires compensation.
  • A technology must mature to completeness prior to common use. a. Minimum viable products are unacceptable for common use. b. Consensus must emerge regarding a technology serving as an appropriate technology.
  • Parties replacing a technology with another shall ensure that, a. the technologies replaced are maintained in all their aspects, including but not limited to chain of materials, processes, and technologies supporting them; b. no less than 100 persons (masters) worldwide continue in perpetuity to use, develop, produce, practice and teach the said technology’s knowledge bases, areas of knowhow and skills. c. Replacement components are made available for 200 years for machines and 500 years for buildings, including stone, metals and wood for their repair. d. Children under age 12 are informed of the existence of previously-used technologies and exposed to them through museums, schooling and demonstrations.

“The proposed rules may be appended to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, 1976), part of the International Bill of Human Rights, which includes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, www.refworld.org.; EISIL International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, www.eisil.org; UN Treaty Collection: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN. 3 January 1976; Fact Sheet No.2 (Rev.1), The International Bill of Human Rights, UN OHCHR. June 1996; or any other appropriate legal platform.”

This essay was written in November 2023 in reply to the question: Considering likely changes due to the proliferation of AI in individuals’ lives and in social, economic and political systems, how will life have changed by 2040? This and more than 150 additional essay responses are included in the report “The Impact of Artificial Intelligence by 2040”