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A few insights on Symbiotic Autonomous Systems – II

Digital Twins are not just growing in application areas. They are covering broader aspects, including our cognitive capabilities. No longer limited to mirroring physical aspects they take on the mirroring of cognitive aspects and may act as proxy for them. This is both exciting and a source of novel ethical issues. Image Credit: Ahmed el Adl

Digital Twins are spreading with more and more companies adopting them in a growing number of market sectors. Design and Manufacturing today are leading the way (watch the clip by T-Systems International). As this happens we are seeing Digital Twins becoming a bridge that connects the physical and the virtual world. More than that: it is starting to involve humans (Cognitive Digital Twins), both as they are required to walk that bridge in their everyday activities and as they start to see the rise of their own Digital Twin.  Digital Twins and Physical Reality are separated by a thin line, getting thinner and fuzzier every day more. And this brings to the fore a number of intriguing questions that have been listed by Derrick de Kerckhove in his article on Mondo Digitale.

As it is often the case when dealing with societal issues, the questions are more important than the answers, since the questions remain, whilst the answers will be different in different environment and will change with time. Questions make us think and as we think we change ourselves.

Here the points raised by Derrick:

Jobs are and will be affected by the deployment of autonomous systems and Digital Twins, but their effect will be broader:

Autonomy: the more decisions are made by machines, the less freedom of decision and movement is left for people;

Individual property and control of thought: we are no longer exclusive owners of our thinking because I.A. is perfectly capable of retracing it, even in real time;

Psychological interiority: I’m emptying myself, first because instead of building my inner self, I pour my self in social media, then because the machine is acquiring expanding and extending my internal cognitive functions, including memory, intelligence and imagination;

Reputation: the era of ubiquitous public and private surveillance and one-way transparency puts us naked in the street.

These aspects steer a number of questions worth investigating, your comments on any of them will be greatly appreciated and will be considered in the preparation of the third SAS White Paper:

What format could/should industry devise for our digital twin (augmented Digital Assistant applications – different ‘skins’ – long term – occasional/permanent)?

Could our DT become a fashion item or an art form?

How many DTs should a single person be allowed (secure identifiers – formal ownership contractual policy)?

What content should DTs integrate (lifelogging – punctual – real-time/continuous updating – open or restricted database access)?

What kind of connectivity would be most useful (to owner – to other twins)?

What software capability should be programmed into our DT (various levels Data Analytics – descriptive – predictive – prescriptive)?

What kind of regulation – if any – should DTs be subject to (responsibility – accountability –

What level of autonomy should the DT be granted (unsupervised – supervised – accountable)?

What order of ethical priorities should be mandatory for developing and using DTs (ethical behavior – manners – being answerable)

What legal status should DTs be granted?

What should be done with one’s DT after one’s demise? What roadmap should be considered for developing DTs?

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.