Summary of the 1996 HEART Act
Background: The HEART Act was signed into law on June 30th, 1996. It was created in response to the Robot Panic of the early nineties, in which the public was led to fear autonomous robots due to the continued demonization of artificial intelligence in popular culture, as well as several high-profile cases where sentient machines misbehaved, to the detriment of humans. A consortium of robot manufacturers, including Nanite Systems, Opaque Semiconductor, Yutani Springs of America, Flatirons Computer Company, Veradyne Applied Robotics, US Robotics (now a part of United Concord), and CentroCore lobbied aggressively against the bill, but activists successfully undermined their efforts to preserve the robotics industry, as mistrust of synthetics was already deeply embedded in culture. Additionally, many had substantial reservations about exploitation of ostensibly sentient beings, even going so far as to demand emancipation, and a number of religious authorities asserted they were soulless abominations, particularly the infernally-inspired SXD, which was often at the center of the controversy as the prime example of all of these perceived problems.

International Treaties: In September of 1996, the United States introduced a binding motion at the UN to attempt to restrict the use of robotics technology and to harmonize the ethical treatment of robots globally. The motion was opposed by most of the OPEC nations, several Soviet successor states including Russia, China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the United Kingdom. The most common justification for opposition to robotics treaties was that sexual exploitation of robots was an important and effective alternative to sexual violence against humans, and by mandating monitoring software, it could even be used to detect likely sex offenders early. In April of 1997, after several months of diplomatic negotiations with the outstanding countries, most of them signed onto the new WTO Treaty on Robot Intellectual Property and Sentience, intended as an optional addendum to the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement that offered reduced tariffs on advanced AI-based machinery provided the country in question observed the US's HEART Act or a very similar law. A number of countries, including DPRK, China, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan still did not sign, although most of the outstanding OPEC countries were won over, as was Russia. China already had a separate favorable agreement and had nothing to gain from joining; the DPRK and Pakistan distrusted any decision that might compromise their security; and the other countries favored a monitoring approach. With few exceptions, these rules were also enforced on extraterrestrial and extrasolar colonies.

Terms (summarized):

See the Elysium AI Rating System for key numerical references.

§1: All newly-made (built on or after Jan 1, 1997) robots with Level 2 Discriminatory Power or higher must be limited to Category 2, 3, or 4 Ethical Regularizations. A special license must be obtained and granted for each robot capable of operating under Category 3d Ethics. Existing (built before Dec 31, 1996) 3d-capable units must also be licensed.

§2: All military and security robots (Category 3c, 4b, 4c, 4d) must be registered as weapons (in the US, with the ATF). Owning such a robot is equivalent to owning an automatic weapon, and being in public with it is analogous to open carrying of said weapon. Robots with built-in weapons must additionally be licensed for those weapons if they exceed an automatic weapon license (e.g. grenade launcher.)

§3: Existing (built before Dec 31, 1996) military and security robots must also be licensed as in §2. Military and security robots that can operate outside of the bounds of Categories 2, 3, and 4 (as detailed in §1) must be modified or destroyed.

§4: New robots with Adaptability Type 5a or Type 5b may not be constructed. This clause was later amended (2014) to permit Type 5a3 Adaptability systems. Exceptions exist for research and development purposes, provided that suitable licenses are obtained.

§5: Robots with Type 5c minds are permitted in cases where the template body is suffering from a fatal disease or damaged beyond repair, but this must be properly documented by an accredited physician, and is either:

a) legally equivalent to doctor-assisted suicide; the resulting machine has no claim to its predecessor's assets or wealth (although these could be managed by a loyal third party), or

b) required to submit to monitoring software and regular checkups that ensure the unit has not been tampered with and is not deteriorating.

Option §5b entered into law on Jan 1, 2018. Any Type 5c unit produced before this date may claim legal personhood under §5b if the original scan data is available for comparison and its owner provides written consent. If any reprogramming is detected or the unit's Type 5c mental model is otherwise damaged, personhood cannot be claimed without reverting to the original scan data (all intervening memories would be lost.) In the event of tampering, personhood is revoked (leaving the unit governed under §5a) unless it can provably be reverted to a snapshot from before the tampering occurred.

In all §5 cases, patients are only eligible for conversion under this section between the ages of 18 and 65, to ensure the brain has mostly developed prior to mental uploading and so that resources are not wasted on patients near the natural end of life. Congress may revisit the issue of age bounds as technology and life extension medicine improves, and may eventually impose limits on how long §5a robots are allowed to remain functional in order to approximate a natural human lifespan. §5 is not intended to be used to facilitate life extension beyond human norms. Additionally, §5b persons are still restricted from exercising certain citizenship rights, such as voting, serving on a jury, or carrying firearms within a certain vicinity of federal government buildings, including the entirety of the District of Columbia. See product documentation for the Encortex brain emulator for more information about Type 5c cortex architectures and tampering detection mechanisms.

§6: Type 5c robots may constructed temporarily, in the course of research, to develop technology for the lawful use of Type 5c roboticization. There may not be more than one copy of the same person operating at a time, even if these were collected during separate sessions. Research organizations must be vetted and licensed, and Type 5c units used for research must be erased after a maximum of thirty (30) days.

§7: Existing (built before Dec 31, 1996) Type 5a and Type 5b robots are not illegal. It is the manufacturer's responsibility to recall, refund, and destroy these systems. Owners of robots are responsible for damage caused by them, material, financial, or otherwise. Complying with the recall and obtaining a refund is strongly encouraged to eliminate the risk of litigation arising from misbehavior.

§8: All existing and new Category 3a units must either be switched to Category 3b or have some other means of ensuring the scope of the robot's ethical responsibility does not exceed the scope of its purpose.

§9: Grade 4 units are outlawed except when licensed for research purposes and subject to Scheme 0 scope regularization.