Volume 5, Issue 1 
October 2010

Palling Around: The Personhood Analysis List (PAL)

Wesley DuCharme

This article was adapted from a presentation offered by psychologist and author, Wes Du Charme, during his attendance of the 4th Annual Colloquium on the Law of Futuristic Persons, December 10, 2008, at the Florida Space Coast Office of Terasem Movement, Inc.

Within the jacket of his 1995 book, "Becoming Immortal: Nanotechnology, You, and the Demise of Death"[1], Dr. Du Charme is purported to have written the first book "...link[ing] nanotechnology and cryonics together in a balanced fashion, with practical how-to steps, and with arguments presented in their most natural order". Unfortunately, Dr. Du Charme lost a long battle with cancer on April 15, 2010 and subsequently became Alcor Life Extension Foundation's ninety-fourth patient; view Dr. DuCharme's obituary within the Denver Post.  As such, this article is published posthumously with permission from Dr. Du Charme's wife, Ida Du Charme (or Skippy as she is endearingly nicknamed).

Terasem is ever grateful for Dr. Du Charme's involvement in the fields of nanotechnology and cryonics. The void created by the absence of his technological insight and prowess is only temporary as within his book, Dr. Du Charme himself offers comfort with the following quotes:

Everything comes if a man will only wait.
Benjamin Disraeli (pg. 147)

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more:
Death, thou shalt die.
John Donne (pg. 152)

When I was asked to consider making a presentation on the topic: "Psychological Foundations for Legal Definition of Substrate Independent Personhood," my first reaction was: "huh?" Although I could parse out the meaning of the topic, I wasn't sure what I might be able to offer. Even though I have been a psychologist for nearly all my adult life, I did not deal much with topics like 'self', or 'person', or especially 'personhood'.

I can see the problems brewing though. What are we going to do when humans, brain-damaged humans, artificial intelligence, cyborgs [2], cryonic revivees[3], chimeras[4], distributed intelligence[5], androids[6], aliens, and they're all waiting for their stimulus check. So how do we decide who gets one?

The way humans often approach complex decisions, and this would be a complex decision I think, as to who is a person and who is not, is with decision aids. As with a loan analyzer, you plug in some data and it tells you which loan is better for you based on interest rates and the length of payback and such things. Or another kind of a decision aid is if you're trying to hire a new employee, you can give them a battery of tests during an interview and you collect a lot of data and that helps you decide who is the best person. There are some very complex ones in the medical world. A decision aid in general could be helpful here. What I came up with is a personhood analysis list as a decision aid, or PAL as an acronym. I think what we ought to do is create some sort of PAL list. The devil here is in the details, and so is the person. We're going to have to talk about the details of what would be in the PAL list. I'm going to present some opening thoughts because there are a lot of people who've thought about these issues over a long period of time. It seems to me that this ought to be open source where lots of ideas can come together and not just what one person thinks about and that's what I would like to present.

PAL List

This is the first of a three-slide list. These are my ideas for a starter list of what you might put on the PAL list. There are many questions to be answered, of course, the first among them is who are you to tell me that I'm not a person? If we go with this list, I put DNA at the top of the list; these are all just ideas. Obviously, they could be subtracted to, added to, changed. The Turing Test[7] could be an item on the list. Looks like a human, exhibits emotion - you'll see that this is a pretty human- centric kind of list but that's what you'd expect from a human making it up.

PAL List

Here are some other items that might be on the list: The entity (and I think of these as Entities), all these things that we've talked about claim personhood, because if they're not claiming it then do we really care? That could be an item on the list. That the entity is able to speak, and we can talk about what that might mean; goes through the environment, meets the ontological description. There was a presentation at this event last year by David Koepsell[8] where he talked about an ontological description being useful to decide who is a person and who is not, so I put that on the list. Koepsell's definition of ontology is a list of things that describe something. It's kind of a recursive notion because this list itself might be an ontological description, so you can keep going down and down and down.

"Granting personhood is in everyone's best interest..."
I'm saying that it's a recursive notion as this is a list, because if it meets the ontological description it's referring back to this list of things that are describing what a "person" is. Here are some other items that might be on the PAL list. Granting personhood is in everyone's best interest and that comes from Max Moore's presentation last year, and it's entitled, "A Proactive- Pragmatic Approach to the Legal Status of Cyberminds"[9].

PAL List

"If the entity didn't care if they were a person then we probably wouldn't care either..."
Another item I put on there is 'suffers because of lack of personhood' and I'm not sure how you would decide exactly when someone was suffering because they weren't anointed as a person but you'd have to figure that out. If the entity didn't care if they were a person then we probably wouldn't care either, so that's my starter list.

There are a lot of decisions that would have to be made in this arena, of course the elements on the list itself - and those are just some suggested ones.

What kind of scoring would you do? I'm thinking of this as a decision where first you get the list together and you start assigning scores to whatever entity is claiming personhood. A simple notion of how to do that would be to say if they posses the characteristic then you give them one point; if they don't, you give them zero points. If you had ten elements on the list you could give personhood, or PAL score from zero to ten. Then next question would be, well, what's the cutoff on that scale if you use that simple notion? Is it a score of one? Does that make them a person? Does it have to have a score of five? Does it have to have a score of ten? Deciding what the cutoff score would be is an important part of the process. As I said earlier, that should be an open source item. You could conceive of doing this online where people suggest elements to be on the list of how it should be scored and you somehow combine all those judgments. You might have to somehow vet the contributors so that everybody in the world wasn't trying to decide what a person was, but that's a problem to be solved down the road.

I think whatever system you came up with you should probably cross check it, and you can cross check it by applying it to some real life cases. On the inclusive side, if you take a person in a coma and you apply the PAL list and the cutoff score and whatever your scoring system is, does that person rate the person in a coma; are they a person? How about someone with Down Syndrome[10]? I have a daughter with Down Syndrome and everybody who has ever come in contact with her will tell you she is a person. You would want to make certain that whatever your system was you included people like that as being a person.

Cross Check

Brain damage is obviously a somewhat similar thought.  There are degrees of brain damage and maybe at some point is so brain damaged you wouldn't consider them a person. What I'm suggesting is that kind of common sense approach to tuning up this instrument. Once you create it, then you apply it to known cases and see how it comes out; does it match our common sense as to what a person is?

"... it's artificially intelligent but not very many people would think that is a person..."
I think on the exclusive side, if you take some weak AI systems, like a medical diagnostic system that's incredibly complex and takes into account many more factors than a human could, it's artificially intelligent but not very many people would think that is a person, it's just a system. If the PAL list comes up and says that's a person, then that would fly in the face of common sense. Whatever system is devised I'm suggesting that it be cross checked against the real world.

What are the advantages of using something like this? Well, there is no single element to determine that. You've come up with a list of things in you're scoring them. For instance, the Turing Test, which I had on the list, wouldn't be the sole determinant, it would be one of a list of items which might save us from getting into an endless secession of Chinese rooms. For those of you not familiar with the Chinese room argument[11] on the Turing Test, you could use a weighted scoring system which is a way of arriving at a compromise. Let's say there is some item on the list, like DNA, and not everyone thinks that's all that important.

I've done a lot of work with decision aids over the years and one of the advantages of them is everything is out in the open. People can look at the elements of the decision and say, well, here is what I disagree with and then you can talk about that. For instance, you might disagree with the whole concept and that's one level of discussion and one level of disagreement. You might disagree with what elements are on the list and make suggestions about other ones. You might not like the scoring that has come up with the cutoff scoring and if they're open to discussion, if everybody can see them, then you can reach a compromise. The visibility end of the process makes it easier to communicate with other people. This thing that we are worried about, this personhood, is pretty esoteric. Not many people have openly thought about it, let alone worried about it. If you're communicating with somebody like that this would be a way of bringing out what that means. The layout, as you'll see later in this presentation, might include a state legislature , people that you really want to be able to communicate directly with.

You can control how information rich this decision is. It looks fairly straight forward and simple, but you can make it much richer by taking the elements of the list and bringing out detail in it. For instance, one of the things I had on the list was "can speak." Well, what do we mean by that? You can start defining what you mean by speech. Is it computer-generated text messages? Which is kind of what the Turing Test was based on, (although it was Teletype), or does "can speak" mean audible speech? Whatever this entity is, it can communicate with you through sound waves. If it is that, what percent of the audience has to be able to understand that speech? You could take each of these list elements and get very detailed descriptions of them and make it even more complex. What are the elements then? Those are the advantages I was claiming for this kind of a system. How does someone apply to be a person? Do they have to apply or can someone else apply for them? Or is actually applying to be a person one of the list elements? So they care enough about being a person that they apply to be a person.

Legal Process

For the legal process - and I'm not a legal expert, one path that might be followed would be to do it at the state level. The process would be to have some model legislation, find a sponsor for the bill, present to it the committee, have them vote, and move on to another state. We can think of examples of states where this would be very difficult to do and some might be easier. There is precedent, of course, for doing such things as gay marriage - some states were inactive and there were a lot of states where there is nothing like that. The Women's Suffrage Movement[12] - originally before you could vote nationwide as a woman, there were several states that allowed women to vote, then it became the 19th Amendment. You can see a similar thing happening with these entities. Acquiring personhood, it might start at a state level in several states - so you might be a person in Wyoming and not in Florida but you would be in Idaho, etcetera. I think that's one possible path this could take. It's likely to take a fairly long time, like most things that humans do. It would probably be event driven rather than foresight driven. We're all thinking down the road into the future about things that ought to be happening and things that we should be concerned about but probably you wouldn't get a state legislature interested in this until there is actually a case of some entity saying, "I'm a person", and it would probably be event driven. If we could bring all of this together in some way it would make an old saying from my youth active again; "Hey PAL, got a match?"


1. Becoming Immortal: Nanotechnology, You, and the Demise of Death - This book describes, in lay terms, the developing discipline of nanotechnology and it's clear implications for vastly extending the human life span.
Du Charme, Wesley M. Becoming Immortal: Nanotechnology, You, and the Demise of Death. Colorado: Blue Creek Ventures, 1995.
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Becoming-Immortal/Wesley-M-Du-Charme/e/9780964628205  June 24, 2010 10:37AM EST

2. Cyborg - n. [cybernetic + organism] (1960) : a bionic human..
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster Incorporated, 2005: 310.

3. Cryonic revivees Those who were in cryonic suspension ... who were revived....
http://www.alcor.org/cryonics/cryonics0403.pdf  June 9, 201009:21AM EST

4. Chimera - n. 3. an individual, organ, or part consisting of tissues of diverse genetic constitution.
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster Incorporated, 2005: 215.

5. Distributed intelligence Also known as "distributed logic," it refers to separating the processing in a large system into multiple subsystems or extracting certain processing functions from the main system and placing them into separate machines.
Computer Dictionary Definition June 9, 2010 9:28AM EST

6. Androidn. [LGk androeides manlike, fr. Gk andr- + oeides - oid] (ca. 1751) : a mobile robot usu. with a human form.
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster Incorporated, 2005: 46.

7. Turing Test - most properly used to refer to a proposal made by Turing (1950) as a way of dealing with the question whether machines can think.
"Turing Test." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. First published Wed Apr 9, 2003; substantive revision Tue May 13, 2008. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/turing-test/  June 9, 2010 10:06AM EST.

8.David Koepsell, J.D., Ph.D. - an author, philosopher, attorney, and educator whose recent research focuses on the nexus of science, technology, ethics, and public policy. He teaches at the Delft University of Technology, and lives in The Netherlands.
http://www.davidkoepsell.com/  June 24, 2010 10:20AM EST.

9. A Proactive-Pragmatic Approach to the Legal Status of Cyberminds - For Dr. Max More's full article visit: http://www.terasemjournals.org/PCJournal/PC0302/mm1.html  June 9, 2010 10:34AM EST.

10. Down Syndrome or Down's Syndrome. n. A congenital disorder, caused by the presence of an extra 21st chromosome, in which the affected person has mild to moderate mental retardation, short stature, and a flattened facial profile. Also called trisomy 21, trisomy 21 syndrome.
The American Heritage STEDMAN'S Medical Dictionary. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004: 240.

11. Chinese Room argument - devised by John Searle, is an argument against the possibility of true artificial intelligence.
"Chinese Room argument." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. First published Fri Mar 19, 2004; substantive revision Tue Sep 22, 2009. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/chinese-room/  June 9, 2010 10:09AM EST.

12. Women's Suffrage Movement - the right of women to vote and to run for office.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women's_suffrage  June 9, 2010 2:01PM EST.



Wesley Du Charme, Ph.D.
1939 - 2010

Wes held a Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude in Psychology, from the University of Colorado, and a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Michigan. He taught at Rice University and worked as an organizational psychologist for many years. He published a number of scientific articles on decision analysis, and a book examining some of the societal implications of advancing technology.

As an organizational psychologist, Wes served as both an internal and external consultant to such diverse organizations as Lockheed Martin, Rockwell Collins, Children's World, and Farm Credit Services. He was a past President of the Rocky Mountain Human Resource Planners Group and a Senior Associate of the Foresight Institute.

As a co-founder of Decision Time Tools, Inc., Wes was uniquely suited to apply the rigors of psychological assessment to the pursuit of compatible leisure time activities. He matched many employment candidates to organizational opportunities, created and validated selection tests, and developed both traditional and distance learning programs. His interest in helping people choose rewarding careers extended naturally to helping them choose rewarding leisure time activities, enabling them to enjoy their retirement years to the fullest. 

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