Federation-Apocalypse: Life in Core III: – Law

   Law in core these days is pretty libertarian: humanity reached the conclusion that there wasn’t much point in trying to protect people from themselves long before the Manifold opened and made the entire discussion something of a moot point. The computers will offer advice, quiet vocal therapy, provide perceptual filters on request, and even recommend medical treatment – but they won’t force it on anyone who’s coherent and not a menace to others.
   Criminals, and children with the consent of their parent or guardian, can be forcibly treated, although less-dangerous criminals may choose confinement, loss of privileges, or fines instead. The very few who cannot be successfully treated may be confined or banished into some more suitable realm of the Manifold.
   Otherwise adults in core are pretty much free to do what they like as long as anyone else they involve is offered a full explanation and voluntarily chooses to participate. The very young are closely monitored and supervised. Adolescents are usually offered extensive counseling on any major decisions and are usually permitted to override either their guardians OR the computer systems, but not both.

   Criminal law is fairly familiar, although violent criminal actions are relatively rare; most people are fairly sane, not especially desperate, and are aware that – even if they turn off and evade their own systems – their victims systems will start squawking for help immediately, and that the closest help is usually the reconfigurable force-fields which make up the walls and furnishings of most buildings. Most offenders who attempt violence are simply warned and treated. Those (extremely rare) few who manage to succeed are still mostly treated and confined: there really isn’t any provision for anything more any longer – although the occasional eruption of irredeemable, but still technically-human, horrors from the Manifold is beginning to strain the system. Fortunately, most “monsters” are fairly readily identified and dealt with.
   There are strong protections against fraud, misrepresentation, the falsification of records, and a set of laws against creating environmental hazards or damage. There are no laws restricting adults from voluntarily using psychoactive, addicting, or intoxicating substances – although the computers will recommend using proper restraints and precautions, since the use of such a substance or an (easily-treatable) addiction in no way reduces your responsibility for actions taken while under the influence: after all, you took it voluntarily knowing that it reduced your capacities – and therefore might lead to ill-considered actions. If you want to smoke yourself to death, eat unhealthily, or remain dead drunk for the rest of your days, can afford any special expenses involved, and don’t drag other people into your private self-destruction, so be it. There are also some fairly strong laws about privacy rights – somewhat restricting the amount of information that even a clever hacker can pull off the net. There aren’t any regulations about dress or lack thereof, although the computers will provide advice about practicality and will cheerfully filter out the more outre’ behavior patterns if people find them disturbing.
   Similarly, if an adult becomes utterly fascinated with panthers, saves up his or her credits, and makes arrangements to get transformed into one and donated to the local zoo, that is his or her business. There’s no law against being crazy, although there are laws against endangering or defrauding others – and civil laws against breaking valid and reasonable contracts.

   Law in the Manifold is generally a local affair – and, as usual, travelers are subject to the local laws. While attempts to regulate behavior elsewhere – making it illegal to go into the manifold for particular purposes, or to bargain with evil gods, and so on – have been considered, the fourfold difficulties of discovery and enforcement, or assuring the true identities of those involved, of defining particular offenses in divergent realities, and of dealing with realities which thrust particular roles upon those who enter them, have so far proved insurmountable. This doesn’t mean that you can go out and torture with impunity – you’ll qualify for mandatory psychological treatment, walk into the nasty worlds you’re creating/becoming attuned too, be subject to local enforcement, acquire enemies, and so on – but you can’t be criminally persecuted for things you do except under local laws.
 Still, out in the Manifold, you’re more or less on your own. Now, if you bring your activities back into the core, that is a problem. You may be immune to prosecution for possession of stolen goods (unless the world in question has an agreement with the core or is one of the modest network of worlds which has legally amalgamated with the core), but their possession is still illegal and they can still take them away and give them back if their proper owner shows up, complains, and can demonstrate his, her, or it’s, case.

   Involuntary servitude is illegal in the core – but if someone wants to act like property, that’s their business. This simple rule got more complicated when various systems of neural programming became available: The upshot was (1) you cannot coerce any sentient being into undergoing such an effect. If they are of age to make such an agreement, their consent is not coerced in any way, and they have been informed of the consequences, then the effect may be applied. They still aren’t technically property, but the difference is negligible.
   Genetic programming complicated things for a bit, but soon led to a couple more rules: you can’t install genetic obedience-programming in an already-sentient species – since that would be enslaving their children before the age of consent – and (2) that species who’s major neural architecture was derived from human-origin genetic patterns were presumed human and sentient.
   Access to the Manifold, and to transformations, worlds with different legal systems, bindings, magic, high-powered psionics, and weird sciences, has complicated things again. Fortunately, it’s merely taken some extensions of the old rules for the most part: transformations and bindings are just another variant on neural programming, magic and psionics fall under “coercion”, and being informed of the consequences still applies. Age of consent is more of a problem. As a default, if someone was past the local age of consent, and at least adolescent if the realm in question doesn’t have one – or if its far too young by core standards – they can be presumed to be “of age”.
   That still leaves people a bit vulnerable, but the number of them who get put under obedience-compulsions and imported into core again is minuscule compared to the number who get killed, enslaved, enchanted, or horribly maimed in various realms.

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