Home / Blog / Cognitive Digital Twins: bridging minds and machine – XI: A replica of my “soul”

Cognitive Digital Twins: bridging minds and machine – XI: A replica of my “soul”

What if my cognitive digital twin becomes a true replica of myself? Image credit: Institution of Mechanical Engineers

As an additional point, I have been focussing on the knowledge aspects captured by a CDT. However, it may not be a big leap to imagine a CDT that is also embedding other aspect of my personality. That would, as a matter of fact, be important if I were to use my CDT as my proxy. It will have my voice, intonation, way of speaking, joking, show the same level of interest and empathy…

Remember the first point I raised, that the CDT may be extending my cognitive space and be so seamlessly tied to my physical person that we are longer separable. Well, now you come to a reverse situation: if my CDT is indistiguishable from me (in terms of interaction through the cyberspace) then I could separate the two of them, something that is bound to happen once I am incapacitated (sleeping, unreachable, very sick, dead).

There is a very nice little piece in the book “Mind’s I” by Douglas R. Hofstadter, telling the story of a nuclear plant accident. Nobody could get inside the plant because of radiation but that would be the only way to fix the problem. Hence, using super-science they decide to upload the mind, the soul, of a scientist, the only one that knows how to fix the problem, to a robot and they send the robot inside the plant (because of radiation a remote guidance wouldn’t have been possible. All is fine, the problem is solved but as the robot is busy fixing the plant the scientist has a stroke and becomes brain dead. The scientist’s wife find herself desperate to have lost her husband and at the same time finds his replica in the robot. Can she love the robot the same way she loved her husband? The robot, on its side, loves her, since it is a replica of the scientist… If you find the time, it is worth reading because it raises all sorts of ethical and societal issues deriving from the existence of a replica….

This science-fiction situation is, as a matter of fact, becoming a possible reality as Cognitive Digital Twins will expand their reach into our experiential space and AI will use that space to activate behaviours that to all effect would be “our” behaviour.

Companies like Replika are pursuing, to different degrees, this objective of “sould” duplication. Imagine a time (not that far in the future) when newborn babies will be associated with their own CDT, that will grow along with them, recording their experiences (one of the still open question is not about the tracking and storing of experiences but the mimicking of forgetting some of them, along with reinterpreting them). At that point from a technical point of view and from a Turing standpoint (evaluating the results at the edge) we could have a “replica” of ourselves.

The immortality dream will be fulfilled, albeit only in the cyberspace.

We are not there yet but we have started entering into a grey area with very “real” ethical issues.

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.