What is Metalaw?

According to Dr. Ernst Fasan, Metalaw is “the entire sum of legal rules regulating relationships between different races in the universe.” Metalaw is the “first and basic ‘law’ between races” providing the ground rules for a relationship if and when we establish communication with or encounter another intelligent race in the universe. Dr. Fasan envisioned these rules as governing both human conduct and that of extraterrestrial races so as to avoid mutually harmful activities.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Envoys of mankind

Having discovered them over the holidays, I've been spending some time reading George Robinson's 1986 book Envoys of Mankind and another paper he published twenty years later, in 2006.

George Robinson is a retired general counsel to the Smithsonian Institution, and before that was a lawyer for both NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration.  He also earned the first doctoral degree in space law, from McGill University.

An early critic of Andrew Haley and his early formulations of Metalaw (primarily because of Haley's reliance on the natural law theory of jurisprudence), Robinson later turned his attention to the subject of humanity's future in space, in particular its legal future.  Envoys of Mankind and the more recent paper I'm studying (G.S. Robinson, Transcending to a Space Civilization:  The Next Three Steps toward a Defining Constitution, Journal of Space Law 32 (2006) 147-175) concern what legal principles will govern future human space societies.  The recent paper also touches upon the need to consider the legal ramifications of humanity's transhuman future, and the impact that converging technologies such as artificial intelligence, bioengineering, and robotics will have on human spacefaring activities.  Robinson hasn't forgotten his early interest in Andrew Haley, Ernst Fasan and Metalaw, but seems to have softened considerably in his evaluation of Metalaw compared to his views in the 1960s and 1970s.

Robinson's writing, while often densely written and at times difficult to digest in one or even two readings, is loaded with intriguing nuggets for anyone interested in Metalaw.  I've added the book to my list of in-depth treatments of Metalaw, and the 2006 paper to my list of further reading related to Metalaw.

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