The ACLU, Science Fiction, and Human Rights

Cloning, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and other science fiction technologies may be beyond our reach with the technology of today, but the ACLU is already considering them and the civil liberties problems they may cause tomorrow.

A new article in The American Prospect reveals that in 2002 a policy analyst named Jay Stanley wrote a report for the ACLU entitled Technology, Liberties, and the Future. Stanley wanted to help prepare the ACLU for the civil liberties battles of the future and, using analysis from scientists, lawyers and political think tanks, discussed the possible repercussions to all kinds of science fictional developments along with some proposed responses from the ACLU to those new technologies.

The paper was apparently extremely far-ranging, discussing everything from cloning and genetic modification to uploading and modifying the human brain. Rather than providing a hard and fast set of rules for what to do with each technology the paper instead discussed the possible questions raised by each one. Since many of these technologies would raise competing civil liberties issues, the paper gave the ACLU multiple options on how to deal with cloning, for instance, as a human rights issue or an intellectual property issue.

While these kinds of questions may seem farfetched it’s important to remember that in 2002 the ACLU would have still considered gene-patenting a science-fictional issue and earlier this year they fought and won a landmark gene-patent court case.

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