Are You Sapient?

“If there is one thing the universe is not short of, it is ways to measure the multifaceted, multidimensional phenomenon we call ‘intelligence’, or ‘sapience’.

“Perhaps the best known of all of them is the ASIT – the Adjusted Sapience Index Test – as defined these days by the Eupraxic Collegium and the Imperial Grand Survey, simply because that’s one of the few with any legal standing. Unfortunately, it’s not particularly useful for those in the middle of the ‘typical sophont’ range, because it’s designed to determine who’s sapient enough to count as a sophont or a prosophont in the first place, so if you’re working with newly met species, uplift candidates, or – in some variants – the mentally dysfunctional, it’s shiny.  In most other cases, not so much.

“Also generally accepted are the objective measures, various units for raw cognition (defined, in this case, as bit-transformations per second per gram equivalents in the local units), coordination capacity, etc.  The trouble with those, of course, is that while they work great for marketing computronium, even though you can point at a brain and say it’s entirely capable of performing x bT/s/g, that doesn’t really tell you much about whether it’s using those x bT/s/g for anything vaguely useful, sapience-wise, or just sitting around in the organic-cognitive equivalent of an idle loop.

“Meanwhile, all kinds of people have come up with more specific scales to measure various subsets of sapience and its allied traits.  The Intellectual Coherence Quotient, the Linguistic Communication Quotient, the Multidimensional Visualization Test, the Active Rationality Index, the Kinesthesis Scale, the Sociodynamic Coefficients, the Internal Cognitive Freedom Phase-Space Vector, the Individual Neophilia Scan, etc., etc., etc.  It is, by and large, agreed among statisticians, clionomists, psychedesigners, and sophotechnologists that they do each measure that specific aspect that they claim to measure’.

“Which of them might or might not correlate, individually or in combination, and with which weightings, with any sort of ‘general intelligence’ concept is, alas, not at all generally accepted, and is the subject of much bitter academic infighting, with accompanying ink-flecked extranet rantings and claims that one’s opponent must not have scored terribly high on the Ciëlle Memeplex Synthesis Cognitive Test Sequence.  The majority position, such as it is, increasingly tends towards the claim that there’s no such thing as “general intelligence” outside bT/s/g, and that there’s no point in looking for a common underlying factor apart from computative activity to unify these various kinds of specialized intelligences, because there’s nothing there to find.

“…in actually making decisions based on intelligence, most people find it easier to apply the pragmatic well-go-try-it-then test.”

– Handbook of Cognitive Quantification, 33rd ed.,
University of Almeä Press

Just In Case

Most laws concern subjects that exist.  This is not, however, strictly necessary.

The most obvious example of this is the language of the Fundamental Contract and the Imperial Charter which consistently refers, when discussing the fundamental and civic rights, the requirements for citizen-shareholdership, and so forth, the word darav, “sophont”, which lies at the heart of our modern polyspecific society.  It is often less obvious than it should be to the modern student that at the time of writing, the eldrae were a worldbound species, with cladism, exotics, and artificial intelligence not merely centuries but millennia in the future.

The reasoning behind this choice has been, unfortunately, lost in time and unrecorded negotiations – and while it would be pleasant to imagine such tremendous foresight on the part of the Founders, we might perhaps more reliably credit fading hopes for the legendary mythologae and some of the wilder scribblings of the era’s fabulists and constructors of clockwork automata instead.

Another example, which pertains not merely to things which don’t exist but things which, it is generally believed, can’t exist, is the Causal Weapon and Editorial Time Machine Act (4110).  While the universe as we know it is block, and as such not susceptible to paradox or retroactive change from commonly known time-travel effects such as relativistic travel, closed timelike curves via wormhole, and acausal logic processors, this Act exists against the possibility that the generally accepted theories of temporal mechanics are incorrect and that methods of time travel exist which do not obey the Chronological Consistency Protection Theorem.  To summarize, the Causal Weapon and Editorial Time Machine Act provides for a preemptive, preventative, and summary death penalty to be applied to anyone constructing a time machine capable of retroactive change – except under highly controlled local experimental conditions for the purpose of testing the Theorem – upon charges of attempting the massively parallel cognicide of every sophont within the eventual light-cone of their destination when.

This is also an example of a law which would be very difficult to apply if the crime in question were actually to be committed.

– Ephor Valarian Elarios-ith-Elarios, “Lectures”