Last week I wrote about a new company, Merlynn, that sells a rudimentary human digital twin tool. Ever since, I've been thinking about digital twins and how a tool like this could become the next revolutionary productivity app.

When tools that enhance an experience are initially created, they tend to mimic what came before. The earliest carriages looked like horse-drawn carriages and were even called horseless carriages. The cars have evolved and are nothing like those early examples anymore. I hope that digital twins will also become something very different from what they seem to be today.

Consider how human digital twins are likely to evolve, and how HBO's dystopian "Westworld" could prove prophetic. (Season 4 of the show premieres tomorrow.)

The evolution of a human digital twin

Right now, there's a lot of controversy over a Google researcher who said he thinks Google's latest conversational AI has achieved sentience. Although I doubt it, I wonder if it matters. If we think something is sentient and acts in a sentient way, then perhaps we should treat it as if it were sentient, if only to optimize interaction. "Westworld" features robots that mimic (and behave like) people and animals. And if humans forget to take them as seriously as they do living things, their robots tend to end up just as dead (although they can be recreated).

The expected end point for the evolution of a human digital twin would be a complete and indistinguishable copy of a human being with all the abilities (and nearly all the memories and personality traits) that can be passed on through observation and direct data input. ). They will be digital constructs with unique advantages and disadvantages compared to the human being they copied.

Disadvantages include the fact that, initially at least, they can only exist in the metaverse. The advantages will be that they will not have human weaknesses unless they are programmed for them. They don't need sleep, they can train at the speed of a computer, they can multitask (since they're a computerized construct), they can turn emotions on and off, and they don't need as much energy or a digital world to function.

They don't get sick or tired. They don't get angry or violent. They don't need money, so they don't need raises. Problems like mental health issues or poor impulse control can be identified and programmed, so they won't need a psychiatrist.

Now imagine an entire department of you. Each of your human digital twins receives digital training for their role, and your job becomes managing them, giving you a huge boost in productivity. For example, instead of 30 accountants, perhaps the company has one that comes with 29 human digital twins. Or a CMO could have digital twins who have the skills of the CMO but with backgrounds from China, the EU and other parts of the world, providing distributed marketing experts who could be effective in any remote location. This virtual team would not only be useful for standardizing a campaign across different geographies, but could also consistently convey the need for product changes to better suit distant markets.

the final game

While human digital twins will initially complement workers, over time the companies providing these tools will likely realize that this concept can do more to extend skills into entirely different areas. (Human digital twins can be replicated and programmed to use other people's training sets.) Eventually, it will be possible to create businesses made up entirely of human digital twins, all based around a single top-performing founder or employee.

And it may not be relegated to a single company. For example, think of the value of the human digital twins of Bill Gates or Elon Musk, or the human digital twins of any top computer scientist or, especially, a computer scientist who was also a doctor. The ability to mix and match skill sets could result in a unique combination of skills and an equally unique offering for a new market. And as we explore outer space, wouldn't it be safer to supplement or even replace astronauts with digital twins who could be instantly trained in the skills needed for Mars colonies?

Finally, couldn't your digital twin just follow the instructions and then fill out a form, write a report or even a book based on the ideas you had, without having to do more than create an initial sketch?

I don't think we've even begun to think about what the future of human digital twins might look like, but to call them disruptive would be an understatement. They could go far beyond the concept of a “killer app” that will forever change and further the concept itself. And that's just the tip of that iceberg.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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