Digital Twins

07 Jun 2018

I’d love to enter a mutualistic relationship with myself.

It would be my cloned consciousness, of course, housed in either a virtually represented digital copy of myself moving around a simulated world, or an android, inhabited by a replica of my mind.

We would split time experiencing the divergent ends of my conscious desires: one version could be outside climbing rocks and mountains while another was in a library researching, one version could be teaching young students outside while the other was inside cooking and sharing love. It should be easy to enter an agreement with myself, reached out of equal levels of respect and conscientiousness present in the copies of my mind. Some of the time we’d spend working, some of the time playing, but crucially: at all moments we are doing all things.

As an aside, I wonder if I’d actually get along with myself, or with anything that directly inherits values from me. I wonder if I would even recognize the version of myself that was raised within a different environment, especially since that environment would include the original me as a kind of tutor. I wonder if I’d be able to recognize the things I find important within my copies.

I, and many other humans, digitally interact with people all the time. There is a distributed record of my complete personality scattered throughout old chat logs, the content I post on my website, my work commits, the things I’ve purchased, and my email history. Any agent utilizing the amalgamation of this information as an ontology with which it can navigate the world would successfully impersonate my online presence, and for many of the people I interact with, that would be enough. To fool the real humans, it would be straightforward to use my genome as the base code for a rapidly growing clone - in a few years I could be lost in a sea of copies. But with the right framework in place, these copies would be able to augment my life. Maybe I could build cameras into their lenses and stream the feed live back to me, the original, so that I can have the experience of seeing all that they see. Maybe I could install microphones in their ears so that the sounds of wherever they are in the world are fed directly back to the comfort of my couch. I could be everywhere at once. It would be like teleporting.

In some ways, without the cloning, I have a small amount of that power already, thanks to other people and their sharing capabilities. If I want to know what the world looks like in Tanzania, or Norway, or Tierra del Fuego, I merely need to ask my computer and content floods my brain, generated by the hundreds of thousands of people who have already been there and gathered information. But largely, the benefits of this drop sharply when I wish for another one of my senses to be satisfied. Capturing visuals is easy. Capturing scents, or the briskness in the air, is not.

Could it be that as artificial agents proliferate, our precious ‘human’ senses - taste, scent, and touch - will dwindle and become less effective, lost as they will be in a world dominated by images? Or do we need to hold on to these as vestiges of our natural biology, as the last bastions of what makes us animals in the face of the approaching waves of silicon? This isn’t quite where I expected to find myself as I began thinking about digital twins, but it’s a frighteningly fun topic nonetheless.

Make sure you smell something today.