Brainpicking: constitutional effects of loyalty mods

Anders Sandberg (
15 Sep 1999 20:24:56 +0200

Some months ago, I picked the collective brains of this list for ideas for a libertarian/transhumanist society for a roleplaying setting I'm running. Now I would like to get some more input, this time on a somewhat complicated constitutional crisis caused by cognitive hacking.

The basic situation is this: the planet New America (see has a constitution fairly similar to the current US. Off-planet infiltrators bringing nanodevices able to reprogram the loyalties of people (essentially similar to the loyalty mods of Egan's _Quarantine_) have appeared, attempting to set up cells and convert people (especially political leaders) to their cause. However, the infiltration attempt was revealed before they had got a firm hold of everything, and a major struggle to prevent the spread of reprogramming has begun. The infiltrators have problems producing large quantities of nanodevices, brainwashing takes a while and they cannot easily identify each other without setting up a good code system, but on the other hand the authorities cannot determine if somebody is infected without a combined fMRI scan and psychological test which takes a long time. Needless to say, the situation is chaotic and many space habitats and islands isolate themselves from anybody out of fear of infection.

Now, the problem: the president and her cabinet may or may not have been infiltrated, congress may be more or less infiltrated, as well as the supreme court and most of the armed forces (one half of the space navy is provably non-infected). Of course, everybody claims to have avoided infection. How would the different sides handle this according to the constitutuion? The closest precedent or legal approximation for the infection would be insanity, or possibly being an enemy spy. Is there a way of handling the possibility that practically all of the higher leadership of the US/NA could be insane/spies? Would the non-infected armed forces be allowed to take temporary leadership? What could the infected politicians (whoever they are) do to interfere?

[ It is a very fun roleplaying campaign, which will be posted in its
entirety to the net soonish. Lots of nanotech, AI and interstellar socioeconomics. Last session we dealt with the story of a small mercenary/PI firm run by telepresence and an AI boss hired by the two employees/owners to lead them.]

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y