Sentient Rights Protocols

Sentient Rights
Image from Bernd Helfert

The Sentient Rights Protocols are a sophisticated metadocument. Though they describe relationships between sentient beings of all kinds, the protocols are not themselves a law, declaration, custom, or code of behaviour like the Universal Declaration of Sophont Rights. Instead they allow a being to interpret, translate, and even create such things. The Protocols are valid across clades, cultures, polities, and toposophic levels, for beings ranging from the simplest animals or sentient bots through the lower grades of transapient. They even have application to certain aspects of the archailects. Because they define interactions rather than prescribing them, the fact that a person or organization employs the Sentient Rights Protocols is no assurance of safety or freedom in dealings with that entity. However it does allow one to better understand what degree of safety and what kinds of freedom (if any!) might apply in an encounter.

The Sentient Rights Protocols are essential for a full understanding of many well-known documents and agreements known to Terragens. Aside from their application to the Universal Declaration of Sophont Rights and its various descendants and equivalents, it is vital to understanding such works as the Tragadi Accords, the Animal Rights Accords (and their a-life and m-life equivalents), the Tipaza Ethics agreement, the Bonitsa Baseline Protection treaty, and many similar works. Portions of the Compact of Eden, the Ecosphere Protection Declaration, and various trade and mutual protection agreements also rely heavily on the Sentient Rights Protocols. Similarly, more specialized agreements such as the Madvert Toposophic Ascension Ban, the numerous regulations and agreements relating to provolution and its equivalents, or relating to the provision or use of such devices as Godseeds and Transcension Mazes are also best understood through the lens of the Sentient Rights Protocols. The Sentient Rights Protocols are also an analytical tool used in devising aspects of a region's Hazard Rating.

As part of their structure the Protocols help a being to understand the nature, degrees and varieties of sapience (intelligence), sentience (awareness) and sophonce (self-awareness, or metacognitive ability) as well as various other qualities and abilities that apply only to transapient beings and are only comprehensible if one has passed the first or higher singularity levels.

Transapient informants have declared that the full version of the present Sentient Rights Protocols is complete for any beings of S3 or lower, and that some essential parts of it are used even at the level of the S6 archailects. Whether it ever can be finished is doubtful. According to toposophologists, the range that the Sentient Rights Protocols must cover grows more quickly with each increase in S level than the capabilities of the beings at that level, since the possible combinations and interactions grow exponentially as new abilities are acquired. Each toposophic singularity makes the task of creating a full set of protocols more difficult, and even the greatest archailects are unable to create a full version of the Sentient Rights protocols for all the lower entities, much less one that might cover describe their own interactions. This is roughly analogous to the lightspeed limit for physical travel, and appears to be a fundamentally insurmountable problem. This limit (see Limits of Transapient Power) is disputed by some adherents of archailect-based religions. Naturally it is also given inordinate prominence in the literature of some prim, ludd and hider organizations. Another major practical limitation of the Protocols is not in the metadocument itself but in the user. The cognitive capabilities of whoever is attempting to use the Protocols are enhanced by their translation abilities, but there are still innate limits to understanding.

The simplest versions of the Sentient Rights Protocols are mere subsentient interactive documents for use by ordinary sophonts (though they are turing-capable in their area of expertise), but the more sophisticated versions may be sentient, sophont, or even transapient beings. Often simpler versions of the Protocols are preferred, however. This is because memetic drift in such copies and the interactive and strange loop effects that arise through self-reference when an instance of the Protocols applies its rules to itself. This problem is almost certain to arise if an instance of the Protocols has, or develops, impulses to self-preservation or self-replication. Therefore authentic sentient and higher level versions of the Protocols are entirely selfless and sterile, and depend on the support of other Terragens for their protection and propagation. Some interesting exceptions to this presently exist, more often on the periphery of the Terragen Sphere than in core regions. Some masquerade as bona fide versions, with varying degrees of success, while others have declared new or modified objectives and identities.

The original Sentient Rights Protocols grew out of an interaction between the Concord Ontology and the Universal Bill of Transapient Rights. However, they have gained a life of their own and a much broader currency. Use of the Protocols first became widespread in the aftermath of the Version War, often as part of memetic repair work within and between societies. They have become a standard instrument, not only in the Sephirotic regions, but well beyond. Members of the Diamond Network, Objectivist Commonwealth, Solipsist Panvirtuality, and The Transcend often employ them in relations with other entities. Those who have dealings with xenosophonts, even such advanced and mysterious beings as the Muuh, have found them to be useful. However, in such applications it is wise for the user to be aware of personal cognitive limits. Not all is as it seems, even with the aid of such a powerful instrument as the Protocols.

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Development Notes
Text by Stephen Inniss
Initially published on 22 April 2008.