Digital twins are being created in factories and cities, and we even have an Earth 2 effort that seeks to create a digital twin on the planet.
But the most important of these is the human digital twin, which many of us thought was still many years away. Well, Merlin, an AI-centric technology company, has already started marketing a human “digital twin” that could initially improve productivity but eventually eliminate human employees in many companies.
I would like to talk about the results that companies can gain from this technology and the results if we do not think about what is coming and take aggressive steps to protect the effectiveness of human workers.
The promise of the digital twin
Marlin has developed a tool that will allow an employee to easily create and train a digital twin. Depending on the training, these twins will be able to perform repetitive tasks in a normal (and hateful) manner. This may include attending meetings and taking notes, while being able to answer a growing number of questions that the twins have been trained to answer. It can then summarize what it has observed and how it has responded so its human commitment will be in motion with a much shorter time commitment.
Things like creating activity reports, responding to emails, taking meeting notes and summarizing, and even answering the phone with a capable digital clone are possible in the near future. Imagine that your twins dislike a lot, if not more, then enable you to get away from work and enjoy your personal time.
This is the standard use of artificial intelligence (AI) – to complement rather than an employee. This allows employees to spend more time on tasks that employ them and away from painful, repetitive bureaucratic tasks that are included in every job. Employees are happier, and companies end up with better productivity.
But technology is not static, and with the advent of digital couples a problem will arise.
Problems with advanced digital twins
As this digital duo progresses it may evolve into a complete replacement. When competing with people, the digital twin has several great advantages in the long run. It can work endlessly without the need for breaks or time off. It can work at machine speeds. And clones can be trained almost instantly, making it easier to go into a fully autonomous operation.
So, an employee who does a fantastic job by training his digital twin can find that they not only become redundant, but someone else will do the same. The TV show “The Twilight Zone” explored this decades ago, and the ending was ironic and now, obviously, prophetic.
Consider the long-term effects
The question of who owns the digital twin you created, and whether it can be used to replace you, needs to be answered precisely. Otherwise, employees may not be so willing to train them. After all, very few workers want to train a replacement who is going to take their job.
Although the need to address this issue is probably a few years away, the unions should flag it early, as they have flagged off autonomous trucks. The move has significantly reduced the ability to deploy this increasingly valuable technology.
My idea is that the employee of the digital twin they created should have some residual ownership, which allows that employee to generate long-term revenue for each digital twin that imitates them. This will help ensure employees earn income over time and promote aggressive training of their twins. Because, in the end, even if the twins replace them, their income will be safe.
In the long run, figuring out how to balance the corporate will to automate employees’ need to earn a living will be a key factor in the use and success of this technology.
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