Tell us more about the digital twin

men and machine

During our presentations, we often get questions. One of these questions was to give more information about the digital twin mentioned in The Mixed Now of 20/20 Vision 2019>.

What is a digital twin?

A digital twin a digital replica of a physical object and accompanies a physical product during the creation phase, in production and with updates. Digital twins are used in engineering and design processes and can be used for the design of all kinds of physical products. They make expensive prototyping unnecessary, testing ideas and solving problems becomes easier and quicker.  

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Virtual humans

When the physical and digital worlds meet, digital twins are born. With all the traces we, as humans, leave behind on the web, all of us have a digital twin based on our data. The digital twin is shockingly accurate as due to social media and the Internet also our emotional preferences have become visible. Our spontaneous reactions, what we decide in a split second are the things that are deeply hidden in our personality. Technology now stores human beings, as a collection of data, as human capital. It would be more right if we would be the owners of our data ourselves. 

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men and machine

How we communicate and interact with machines is shifting, voice is added to our devices which increase the dimensions of communication. Intelligent and emotionally aware interactions become possible between people and machines, the machine becomes our assistant and slowly the machine will feel like a really smart friend.

Analyze your personality

Information is the largest business in the world, data banks know more about people than they know themselves. We generally do not give much attention to our digital trail and choose for comfort over privacy but our digital trail paints a portrait of who you are as a person. For instance, based on a picture of your face, a computer algorithm can reveal a lot of accurate information like your mood, political preference and IQ. Also the text you use while sending a message reflects your personality, thinking style, social connections and emotional state. 

If you are interested in your own personality analyses you can try out the personalisation engine from Cambridge University here or IBM here and see how the results compare.

predict my profile

Everything that we do is related to each other, likes can be very subtle but the computer algorithm can find connections. The facts from your digital footprint can give a very accurate prediction of what you will be doing next. The kind of shoes you are wearing are connected to who you vote for. A self-thinking entity can predict the future in a way people are not capable of. We have created this ourselves but are not able to understand how it works anymore. 

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Having  a conversation with your robot self

Eugenia Kuyda is the co-founder of the Artificial Intelligence start-up Luka, who is currently beta-testing a bot called Replika which is based on your own personality. By loading up text messages, emails and all other recorded digital expressions to a neural network it is possible to get a chat bot that responds and talks like the person itself would, which means that you now can chat with your own digital twin. With today’s technology, it is still in a primitive state but improvements are made, the more information the bot gets the better the conversation. 

Computer generated humans

In The Line, a digital installation for the Withney museum, made by artist duo Eteam, viewers become spectators who move along a line of computer-generated figures, standing one after the other. The project is a simulation that unfolds in real time. The Line shifts traditional questions about the limitations of rendering human likeness into the digital realm, with faces, figures, and clothing reflecting the software's inherent bias.

The next steps

The digital twin hosts a lot of ethical questions. The goal of technology should be to make us better, to do things better, to feel better. Getting it right should matter instead of getting attention.

By becoming more aware of your digital twin, you can also help create it, the traces you leave on the web and the info it provides to make sure your virtual representation aligns with your true values.

Towards 2025

In the future, will the digital twin who knows what you would normally say and your ideas on certain topics, take over answering email and attend future meetings? We are already creating realistic 3D imitations of ourselves for gaming and to fit clothes online. This avatar in the future could mimic your word choices, your tactic knowledge, and even your facial expressions. There is a danger in when a software knows our deepest fears and hopes, it can act on it. Now that we can be fully read by a computer, do we still decide ourselves or is it software that decides? Do we still own our lives or is it taken care of by software? The sooner we realize that it is the end of privacy, the more chance there is that we will survive this transition. When we become more aware of this, it is interesting to see how our online behaviours will be evolving.

The digital twin is part of our ongoing research and will be updated on a regular base.

Top image, Sarah Michelson, Devotion Study #1, Photo Paula Court by Kumi Yamashita