Digital Twin of People: A Fantasy or Within the Realm of Possibility?

 In Innovation

With the growth in the use of technology and the often-jaw-dropping innovation that the world has seen in the last decade, it is not surprising that those involved in these fields often tout possible uses for existing technology that defy belief. One of such relates to digital twins. No, not in the sense you’re used to, but a more surreal, even apocalyptic sense, involving humans. To fully understand the thinking, let’s back up a little.

What is a digital twin?

A digital twin is a virtual version of physical products, process or asset; an exact replica and a living digital model that changes its behavior to reflect its physical counterpart. Basically, the virtual and physical worlds are paired, and through sensors, data is analyzed and systems monitored, so that engineers, IT professionals or other experts involved in the creation of the physical asset can nib in the bud, any nascent problems that may be detected in a product.

With this kind of advancement, it is now possible to have virtual versions of almost everything on earth. Interestingly, it’s been around for nearly two decades. The concept of digital twins was born, early this century, but its implementation faced hurdles because of cost implications. The arrival and growth of the Internet of Things simplified the development of digital twins. Now, however at least one thinker believes it is not only possible, but inevitable to have digital twins of humans.

The Case for Digital Twin People

Futurist, Gray Scott believes that the data or life experiences you upload about yourself is being gathered and through Artificial Intelligence, can be used to generate or create a digital twin of yourself in the digital cosmos. Unlike the traditional idea of digital twins which sits within the industrial universe inhabited by companies and their products, this idea of human digital twins evokes some new considerations, including that:

  • There is a place known as a cosmic digital world where our digital twin of us exists.
  • Our journey to the digital world begins when we upload all sorts of data about ourselves in the ordinary course of our daily activities.
  • Although the uploaded data about us is spread right now in various systems such banks, social media, hospitals, etc. the systems will one day be gathered together as one unit.
  • A person’s digital twin will be able to access all the uploaded information about you, and use it to represent you in the digital world.
  • When a person dies, his or her digital twin will continue to live in the cosmic digital world because all data concerning all aspects of their behavior has been generated and loaded into an Artificial Intelligence system.

Left at that, the idea – though radical enough in itself – may be easier to swallow. However, the projections go beyond the mere existence of a digital twin that’s soulless and virtual, one that’s just a step or two removed from a virtual reality image. Scott posits that such a digital twin would in fact have a life of its own, with the ability to rebel against you, live out its existence without any further reference to you and perhaps most disconcerting, the ability to pro-create.

Meaning what? That more than one digital version of you could exist, each with its own will, character and purpose. I’m sure it doesn’t take much of a thinker to realize that in this apocalyptic world of various versions of one person running around with their own characteristics, chaos would be the norm. First, which one is you? And if they already have their own distinct characteristics and make their own choices, would they still be you?

Fortunately, Scott’s digital cosmos is just a figment of his imagination. While the idea that the data stored about us and uploaded onto different systems will one day come together is not outside the realm of possibility, the idea that such data, can develop a life of their own and become us requires a lot more than wishful thinking. Human in themselves are very complex and the existence of digital twins alongside all that complexity, with the ability to reason and rebel, would make the digital cosmos self-defeating, and ultimately, self-destructing.

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