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A few insights on Symbiotic Autonomous Systems – I

The February 2019 issues of Mondo Digitale is focusing on Symbiotic Autonomous Systems

I had the pleasure (it actually took plenty of work and headache, but saying that you had the pleasure is the standard phrase…) of coordinating the February issue of Mondo Digitale focussing on Symbiotic Autonomous Systems. Part of the articles are written in Italian and part in English.  For the few of you 😉 that may not understand Italian Google Translator can provide sufficient support.

I would like share some insights that emerged from some of the papers, and I would like to start with the last article in the series because it was intended as a sort of wrap up of the topic seen from a social cultural viewpoint. The article was written, in English, by Derrick de Kerckhove and titled: “Are you ready for your Digital Twin?” It is surely worth reading in its entirety and I would suggest you to do so. Here I am just providing some bullets that made me think.

  • A human Digital Twin plans to represent you in every way and in all times, past, present and even future as it will be able to predict or propose moves on the basis of what it (he? she?) knows about you and what access it has to the world’s databases and to top-notch analytics.
  • A human Digital Twin raises concerns on privacy, particularly considering that it has to be continuously updated on its Physical Twin. Today we may not have a full blown Digital Twin but we surely have a myriad of little Digital Twins scattered on Data Bases around the world, most of them unknown to us. One of the challenges is to cluster all the data contained into these many Digital Twins into a single one and, of course, to be able to control them.
  • A Digital Twin is a “mirror” of its Physical Twin but in reality it can be much more: it can become autonomous, it can act as a proxy, it can take initiative and look around in the cyberspace and then make its Physical Twin aware of what she should better be aware of. Now this brings up the issue of “how much autonomous a Digital Twin should be?”.
  • The boundaries between the Physical and the Digital Twin are fading largely because people tend to delegate their basic cognitive faculties to such efficient services, our memory goes into our smartphone, our judgment and reasoning abilities are trusted to A.I. and even our imagination and creativity to automated designing, drawing, painting, writing.

In his exciting article Derrick is boldly stating that the changes brought forward by Symbiotic Autonomous Systems, of which Digital Twins represent the bridge between the physical space and the cyberspace, may be au pair with the ones induced by the Renaissance. Then it was the emergence of a free spirit of humankind that left behind the chains and shackles of the past to explore reality with a fresh mind, today it is the flanking of machine intelligence taking us on yet to be explored paths.

He is also posing some deep questions that I will list in the next post.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.

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