The Universal Declaration of Cyborg Rights

This is the feedback thread for the initial draft of [The Universal Declaration of Cyborg Rights]( **[Read it now.](**


The goal of The Universal Declaration of Cyborg rights is to extend the scope of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights so that it applies the protections of the human rights we already have to the extended boundaries of the self that people have in the age of networked digital technologies and the Internet.

For background, please read:

The Universal Declaration of Cyborg Rights, alongside The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Four Freedoms of Free Software, The Ethical Design Manifesto, the “Share Alike” philosophy of Creative Commons, and the philosophy outlined in the articles, above, are the guiding principles driving the creation of the Internet of People initiative at DiEM25 that we launched in Berlin at the end of May with the goal of regulating the abuses of surveillance capitalism and drafting a compelling, ethical, and democratic counter narrative to Silicon Valley’s toxic business model of people farming.

Would love to hear your thoughts:

  • What, if anything, have we missed?
  • What, if anything, is redundant?
  • Are we articulating the concepts as accessibly as possible? If not, suggestions for improvements.
  • General suggestions for improvement.


Based on feedback from Alexander Bochmann that I’d been debating myself and agree with, I’m moving Articles 4 & 5 out of the Declaration itself.

The purpose of the Declaration is put forth one specific point: constitutionally extend the definition of the self to include the technologies by which we extend our selves. Articles 4 & 5 are not constituents of that but interpretations of it. As such, they should be included in a separate document whose purpose it is specifically to explore the practical implications of The Universal Declaration of Cyborg Rights.

I’m reproducing both articles, below, for reference:

Article 4

Strong encryption (and end-to-end encryption) is a basic human right as it is a necessary mechanism for safeguarding the integrity of the cyborg self and a prerequisite for personhood in the digital age. No person shall be forced to divulge the private key or password to the technologies by which they extend themselves without this constituting a violation of the integrity of the cyborg self and, thereby, their person.

Article 5

Every person has a right to own and control their own space (node) on the Internet, have access to it, and be accessible from it without interference from corporations or governments. For the purposes of this declaration, this node constitutes an explant (as defined above), lies within the boundaries of the self, and is protected by the articles of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Joe from EDRi raised an important point on Twitter that might require clarification either in the Declaration itself or in supplementary material:

You don’t need to “extend the scope” of the Universal Declaration “so that it applies”. It applies. We need to get the message across that it applies. Not give an excuse to open a discussion and weaken the rules.

  1. I completely agree that The Universal Declaration of Human Rights should apply. Unfortunately, today, it is not taken as a given that it does apply. There is no law anywhere today that considers your phone equivalent to your brain. No nation has a constitutional decree that defines the technologies that we use to extend our minds (and thus selves) with as existing within the boundaries of the self. In short, our constitutional definition of personhood today does not include all aspects that make up the person and thereby the laws we have to protect the rights of people fall short in protecting them fully. The sole purpose of The Universal Declaration of Cyborg Rights is to hack/patch The Universal Declaration of Human Rights to extend the scope of what constitutes a person in the era of networked digital technology so that we can ensure that the existing rights we already have cover the entirely of the self of what constitutes a person in our age.

  2. I unreservedly agree with Joe that we must avoid any attempt to draft a new set of “digital rights” (you might hear this referred to as “data rights” or “a magna carta for the web”, or some other similar term). The people who want this do so because they want those rights to be weaker than the human rights we already have. We must avoid this at all costs. In the Declaration itself, or in the supplemental material, we must make it unambiguously clear (if it isn’t already) that the goal of The Universal Declaration of Cyborg Rights is not to draft a new set of rights but to ensure that it is both understood and constitutionally recognised that our understanding of personhood and the boundaries of the self in the networked digital era must be extended to include the technologies by which we extend our selves to ensure that the human rights we already have apply to the entirety of our selves. This is a necessary prerequisite for personhood and individual sovereignty in our age.


It certainly is an interesting and important issue. Recently I got hearing aids. Unfortunately they don’t make analoge things anymore, they are all digital now. Chips are cheaper. But the sound quality is not as good as analoges. The industry however advocates digital ‘because of the many possibilities’. A lot of blabla. The newest possibility is having them ajusted personally through a cloud. The audiologist does not need to see you for he/she can regulate evrything from a distance. I refused that. I also refused an app. I also refuse Siri, smart tv, home iOT for two reasons: I can do things myself and I don’t want to be controlled. Now the self: my hypothesis is that the self will become smaller when a person outplaces her/his functions, skills, knowledge, experiences more and more. A self grows by means of communication and experience. If communications are done by AI, controlled by tech companies, then the self will undergo influence from that AI, designed by that company. That is what concerns me. I find it troublesome to see outplaced functions and skills as a self. If a person cannot read, write, memorise, calculate, etc. then that person appears to be a zombie, an empty box to me.


The Declaration of Human Rights hangs on a wall in our room. Article 3 could be important for what you call cyborg rights: ‘Everybody has the right to live, the right to freedom and the right to integrity of his/her person’.
I understand your opinion is that this is not sufficient.
I wonder to what extend data belong to our person.It is a complete Wild West legally. Morozov suggests to install national and/or European data foundations, publicly controlled. In that case companies cannot own data anymore. They can only buy it.
An ‘extended self’ is to vague now. Google tries to collect and construct a global memory. Is there something from my self in that memory? Now it’s a lot of humbug, but you are right, it can become tricky and dangerous. So the right to be forgotten is an example of a cyborg right?


“to ensure that it is both understood and constitutionally recognised that our understanding of personhood and the boundaries of the self in the networked digital era must be extended to include the technologies by which we extend our selves to ensure that the human rights we already have apply to the entirety of our selves. This is a necessary prerequisite for personhood and individual sovereignty in our age.”

As a technologist who is also interested in non-human personhood (i.e. “animal welfare”) – want to point out that we should be careful when using words like “personhood”, esp when attaching prerequisites to the definition of personhood. There are many “animal rights” advocates working on the concept of personhood as well. There is also a case to be made that The Universal Declaration of Cyborg Rights could also apply to non-humans (think: dolphins being implanted with neural chips by military). Would be really cool and futuristic to see language here and around this that does not preclude non-humans. It is totally possible that there may exist future technologies that allow non-humans to communicate via these mechanisms, as many scientists have been and are working on this (and of course, due to animal testing, there already exist animals with cyborgs).


(Not saying you have to include animals in UDCR at this point, just saying you don’t have to necessarily preclude animal-persons here and in discussions around it at this time. This will leave the door open to an interesting debate around, say, animals that may be considered persons that are used/exploited via experiments with cyborgs later on).


The cases that are mentioned above are acts done by human beings. You are right to point to animal welfare. Interesting. What do we do with animals? I still prefer to keep that legal and philosophical difference between animals and humans. Human persons are responsible and I would like to keep humans accountable. We put that chip in animals and we have to face the consequences. The animal is mere a powerless ’ ‘victim’ in the hands of men. We make use of animals. Because we are accountable, animals are/ should be under our protection. Even in case we are able to ‘create’ a humanlike animal, with complicated brain capacities, we still are the ones who did it.


Could we not get copyright on our technical/digital data?


If we replace “animals” with “human slaves” in your analogy, you are saying that because slave-masters have tortured and victimized the human slaves, then the slave-masters have the right/obligation to make decisions for the slaves (because it was the slave-masters’ fault that the slaves are in this position). That’s not how liberation works.

Human slaves as well as non-human persons have their own thoughts, feelings and selves. These persons already have rights. These rights are simply not yet recognized by outdated/exploitative legal frameworks.

All that needs to be done with the Declaration of Cyborg Rights to bring it in-line with the bleeding edge of the non-human rights advocacy movement is to replace every instance of the word “human(s)” with “person(s)”.

That’s literally all that needs to be done.


replace every instance of the word “human(s)” with “person(s)”

Amen! Although new to me to use the term “person” for non-humans, the concept is what matters most, and it’s clear that “person” is at least closer to universal than “human” is.

These persons already have rights. These rights are simply not yet recognized by outdated/exploitative legal frameworks.

Unfortunately, I think there’s real question about the source of rights. The idea that rights just exist naturally is dubious. The concept of rights comes out of social context in which we devise these concepts and validate them through institutions and such. When we talk about rights, we are advocating for society overall to choose to recognize and respect them. Thus, when someone says healthcare should be a “right” that is the correct way to think of it. We can choose to make it respected as a right for all. Those who try to distinguish “natural rights” are, I assert, a bit misguided. This is all semantic though, and I agree with you ethically in all of this.


It wasn’t an analogy. There is a difference between ethical/moral and legal. If ethical rules had enough power, lots of CEO’s and half of the politicians could be put in prison. But that’s not how it works. In most democratic countries laws are made by professionals and get power in parliament. There must be consensus in society about the necessity of a law before it can be powerful. Slavery of human fellows was normal in the whole world. It was abolished after centuries of criticism, arguing and revoltes. This started slowly in biblical times and resulted in laws after the Enlightenment period. Rights are always granted by others. We can argue and fight and revolt for it, but is they are mot legal, not given by a democracy, they are powerless.
A right and violating a right means that you are accountable. Children f.e. have certain rights from a certain age on. It depends in what country you live. But also children cannot be held accountable when they have not reached that age. I very much hope that we are not going to manipulate animals in such a way that they can be put in prison! Therefore we should make laws that protects them from evil human behaviour.


Sorry: ‘if they are not legal’…


The nation of Ecuador has constitutionally recognized the inherent rights of nature and enshrined this as law.

Do note the language in this document, ex:
“Persons and people have the fundamental rights guaranteed in this Constitution and in the international human rights instruments.”

Further reading:


Also: Further reading about the non-human personhood advocacy movement. Note the distinction they draw between property and persons. Seems to be some overlap with Cyborg Rights here.

“The Nonhuman Rights Project is an American animal rights nonprofit organization seeking to change the legal status of at least some nonhuman animals from that of property to that of persons, with a goal of securing rights to bodily liberty and bodily integrity.”


Nice! Did you see the subtle but important difference: ‘Rights for nature’ asked by ‘Rights of nature’ ?

  1. jul 2017 15:04 door


Parsing words around who grants and who is granted rights is engaging in cultural relativism. There are many different outlooks on this subject if you look beyond your own conditioned cultural framework. In the case below, the Maori people had no inherent cultural need to “grant rights” to this river, because their world view is one in which they are equals, all with inherent right to exist. However, in order to bring the colonial framework in-line with this worldview, they had to advocate “for rights”:

“Members of New Zealand’s indigenous Maori tribes have always regarded themselves as part of the universe—at one with and equal to the mountains, rivers, and seas. On March 15, 2017, after 140 years of negotiation, they helped a long-revered river, the Whanganui, gain “legal status as a person.” This means that polluting or damaging the river—New Zealand’s third longest—is now legally equivalent to harming a human.”


We are allowed to have different opinions here. But what matters most is our behaviour.
Raising three children not using or possessing a car.
Eating organic food since the seventies.
Avoiding plastic as much as possible.
Using durable products and letting them be repaired.
Writing a thesis about ecology and theology in different cultures.
Not flying if not necessary but using train or boat. Etc.
Be sure we try hard not to spoil nature.
But I am not a romanticist. We know that some native peoples also spoiled nature (the Indians in America f.e.) I want to learn from history, but I do not want to go back.


Universal Declaration of Cyborg Rights

cyborg |ˈsīˌbôrg|
a fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body.

Humans are not cyborgs unless they choose to be. Are we only defining the rights of those that choose to be cyborgs?