The final list of speakers has been announced for Personhood Beyond the Human, a conference devoted to the issue of granting human-like legal protections to a select group of highly sapient nonhuman animals.
The idea that some animals should be designated legal persons — and not just property — is starting to gain some serious traction. Already today, India has, at least in principle, named dolphins as persons and banned their inclusion into aquatic theme parks. The IEET's Rights of the Nonhuman Persons program — a program that I founded and currently chair — seeks to do much more. We'd like to see not just dolphins, but whales, elephants, and all great apes given the same consideration — and not just in principle; the only way to truly protect highly sapient animals from such things as undue confinement and experimentation is to grant them the status that they truly deserve, which is that of the person.
But we're not only interested in animal welfare — we're also looking ahead to the future when artificial intelligence and robots will need to be granted personhood status as well lest they be abused, exploited, and left unaccountable.
To that end, we've organized the Personhood Beyond the Human conference, which will be held at Yale University from December 6-8. We're bringing together a number of leading experts to discuss the prospect.
Philosopher and ethicist Peter Singer will be keynoting, the man who practically founded the modern animal rights movement, and who I listed as one of the most important futurists of the past 50 years. Also keynoting will be Steven M. Wise, the president of the Nonhuman Rights Project (seperate from the IEET). Wise's group is set to name a captive chimp as a plaintiff in what will surely be an historic case.
Also speaking will be marine biologist Lori Marino, scifi author David Brin, attorney-entrepreneur Martine Rothblatt, bioethicist Linda MacDonald Glenn, IEET executive director James Hughes, robot ethicist Wendell Wallach, and many, many more. Including me.