Member of the ALF team and a post-doc scholar at the University of Belgrade Faculty of Law, Julieta Rabanos, participated online in the first edition of the Congress “Law and Fiction: Geek Law”, held at the University Alberto Hurtado (Chile).

The congress was organised in two days, with a first magistral lecture and ten full panels containing debate on a huge array of fiction media, including movies, TV shows, books, comics, anime, manga, and more.

Julieta Rabanos participated in the second day of the congress, in the “In a galaxy far, far away” panel, with Alejandro Calzetta (University Alberto Hurtado), they presented their future paper “It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it! Star Trek and the Concept of Person”.

First, Calzetta introduced the main topic of the presentation, and Rabanos gave an overview of three of the different definitions of ‘person’ that several theories have advanced in both positive law and general theory of law. She then pointed out some of the issues that these theories have, in particular, the fact that all of them intrinsically associate ‘person’ with ‘human being’, appeal to questionable fictions or metaphysical ideas, and/or are mainly preoccupied with giving an answer to whether or not collective groups can be understood as ‘persons’ in a legal sense – thus being not useful for most lines of inquiry on the topic.

Calzetta then introduced a possible better alternative, a kelsenian approach, that claims that a ‘person’ is a ‘centre of imputation of norms’, i.e. being a person is being capable of adscription of rights and duties by norms of a certain legal order. He explained the advantages of this approach over the others, but he underlined its main issue: the fact that, again, the ‘centre of imputation’ could only be occupied by specific psychological and biological entities (human beings). This problem, however, could be resolved by moving that main relevant property of the ‘centre of imputation’ from ‘human being’ to, for instance, ‘sentient being’ – as it was done by the famous TV show Star Trek in several episodes, two of which serve to illustrate the point.

In The Devil in the Dark (Star Trek – The Original Series), the Enterprise encounters a creature completely alien in form that is terrorising the population of a planet. Once it is established that said creature is sentient and that it is acting in self-defense, it is widely recognized as a person, and negotiations begin to establish a modus vivendi between the creature and the human beings on that planet (including the signing of a formal contract between the two parties). In The Measure of a Man (Star Trek – The Next Generation), one of the crewmen of the Enterprise is an android, and he is considered as property by some officers of the fleet who wish to dismantle him in order to study him. When he opposes, a judicial trial where it is established that the artificiality of a life form is irrelevant for its consideration as a ‘person’ if it is sentient. Therefore, it is concluded, an artificial life form as Data can – and must – be considered as a ‘person’.