Tell us more about the digital twin

Tell us more about the digital twin


During our presentations we often get questions. Among these requests we were asked to provide more information about the digital twin mentioned in The Mixed Now of 20/20 Vision 2019>.


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



When the physical and digital worlds meet, digital twins are born. As a result of all the traces that 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 due to the fact that our emotional preferences have also become visible, thanks to social media and the Internet. Our spontaneous reactions, decisions we make in a split second, reveal 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 ethically more correct if we ourselves would be the owners of our own personal data.



There is a shift occurring in the way that we communicate and interact with machines, the ability to speak has been added to our devices, which increases the dimensions of communication. Intelligent and emotionally aware interactions are becoming possible between people and machines; the machine becomes our assistant and gradually it will come to feel like a really smart friend.


Information is the largest business in the world, data banks know more about people than they know about themselves. We generally do not give much attention to our digital trail and opt for convenience above privacy; however, our digital trail paints a portrait of who we are as individual persons. For instance, based on a picture of your face, a computer algorithm can reveal a lot of accurate information regarding your mood, political preference and IQ. Also the text you use to send 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.


Everything that we do is interrelated; likes can be very subtle but the computer algorithm uncovers all kinds of connections. The facts recorded from your digital footprint can give a very accurate prediction of what you will do next.  Even the kind of shoes you wear is connected to who you vote for. A self-thinking entity is able to predict the future in a way that people are not capable of.  Even though we have created this process ourselves, we are no longer able to understand how it works. 

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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 uploading text messages, emails and all other recorded digital expressions to a neural network, it is possible to create a chat bot that responds and talks like a particular individual; this means that you now can chat with your own digital twin. With today’s technology, it is still in a primitive state of development, but improvements are constantly being made; the more information the bot gets, the better it is able to converse. 


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 in a row. The project is a simulation that unfolds in real time. The Line redefines traditional questions about the limitations of rendering human likeness in the digital realm, with faces, figures, and clothing reflecting the software's inherent bias.

The next steps

The digital twin raises a lot of ethical questions. The goal of technology should be to make us become better people, help us to do things better and to feel better. Getting it right should matter more than getting attention.

By becoming more aware of your digital twin, you can also help create it, by determining the traces you leave behind on the web and thus influencing the information these provide, in order to ensure that your virtual representation aligns with your true values.

Towards 2025

Are we looking at a future where the digital twin takes over answering your emails and attending meetings, equipped with knowledge of your ideas on certain topics and how you would respond? We are already creating realistic 3D imitations of ourselves for gaming purposes and in order to fit clothing online. In the future this avatar could mimic your word choices, your tactical knowledge and even your facial expressions. There is a danger in software knowing our deepest fears and hopes; it can act on these. Now that we can be fully read and analysed by a computer, are we the ones still deciding or is it software that decides? Do we still own our lives or are they being taken over by software? The sooner we realise that this is the end of privacy, the greater the chance that we will survive this transition. As we become more aware of this, it will be interesting to see how our online behaviour evolves as a consequence.

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

Top image, Sarah Michelson, Devotion Study #1