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The economics of the Digital Transformation – X

Although the adoption of Cognitive Digital Twins to mirror human knowledge is at research level it is possible to envisage the first 4 steps. Stage 1 is the modelling of human knowledge and its evolution. Stage 2 is the exploitation of this knowledge to identify the best available resources and possible gaps that need to be filled. Stage 3 uses CDT to execute existing knowledge in human resources and accessing knowledge on the market. This latter is also used by individuals to keep their knowledge up to date or make use of external knowledge. At stage 4 the CDT becomes autonomous and share its knowledge as needed. Notice that not all the knowledge of a person is captured/mirrored in that person’s CDT, only the one that matters in a specific context.

Cognitive Digital Twins for humans

In a manufacturing workflow humans are (still) playing an important role. Hence modelling the workflow requires modelling the human activity as well. A cognitive digital twin shall take the human role in the workflow as an integral part of the model. At this point the step to conceive a cognitive digital twin to model the activities of a single person becomes a tiny one. Indeed, a few companies have been exploring the benefit of modelling single individuals, as an example in the healthcare space. In this area the idea is to replicate the “human machine” by creating a digital model (it may be a very simple one taking into account some basic parameters like weight, heart beats, blood type and formula, or a very comprehensive one including the genome sequence, the metabolome, the proteome…) and then shadowing it by accruing instantaneous data like medical exams, data provided by wearable sensors… and keeping the record of changes, including prescription drugs, surgery, prosthetics… Siemens and Philips are big companies that are betting on the usefulness of Digital Twins in healthcare.

What about replicating the human brain, not the actual mesh of neurones but the knowledge residing in a person? Conceptually this is not that different from replicating the knowledge of a company’s processes. Cognitive Digital Twins may provide a launching pad for this. So far there is no real implementation of it although companies like IBM and SAP that are in the business of offering tools and services to managing enterprise content and knowledge are very interested in this possible evolution of Cognitive Digital Twins since they already have the basic tools to support them. IEEE FDC has launched an initiative, KaaS -Knowledge as a Service-, that aims at exploring the application of Cognitive Digital Twins to offer Knowledge Services, leveraging on its huge, and growing asset of technical papers and conferences.

A Cognitive Digital Twin mimicking a person knowledge –stage 2- will already provide a significant benefit to companies since it will become possible to search and allocate a specific knowledge owner to the project/activity needing it. Particularly in large companies, often spread out geographically, identifying who knows what is a big challenge. Also, a Cognitive Digital Twin at stage 2 would be able to contribute to the assessment of what knowledge is missing and help in identifying ways to fill the gap. This latter aspects are also most valuable for the individual as knowledge becomes the value asset for finding jobs and generating revenues.

At stage 3, interaction among the Cognitive Digital Twin and the associated person, the value increases as the Cognitive Digital Twin may start serving as a personal knowledge repository, a gateway to access external knowledge and a mediator of knowledge. A person can delegate the exploration of existing/changing knowledge to her Cognitive Digital Twin and be connected with that knowledge as need arises. Likewise, this value can be used by a company that can bridge the knowledge of the company with the knowledge of its human resources letting the individual Cognitive Digital Twin to adapt the knowledge transfer, when needed, to that specific person.

At stage 4, autonomy and function sharing, thee Cognitive Digital Twin can express a much higher value (along with some difficult issues). People are already used to delegate part of the required knowledge to machines/tools. Think about the capability to calculate a square root: although most people learnt how to calculate it at school, the large majority has forgotten but that is not really an issue since any smartphone can do the calculation. Humankind has increased the volume of knowledge and in doing so has also found ways to simplify the access and execution to that knowledge, effectively delegating part of this to the external world (like asking people who know or using tools to make knowledge available/executable –in asking a smartphone to take the square root of a number one does not learn the algorithm for doing that but gets the needed result).

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.