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Digital Twins in Healthcare and as Cyber Butlers

The concept of digital twins combined with engineering simulation is an exciting framework for professionals working to improve medical devices in biomedicine. A digital twin acts as a virtual representation or digital replica of a physical object, system, processes which can include parts of the human body. Digital twins can be applied to medical devices to replicate the physical structures and functionality of medical devices, monitor their real time performance, and simulate and test the performance of medical devices under various conditions.

Applications of Digital Twin to Transform the Healthcare Industry

Digital Twins for Healthcare and Biomedical Industry Applications

Below is a very recent series of talks put on by the Convergence Science Network (Melbourne, Australia) – Speakers discuss how they are using state-of-the-art engineering simulation technology to help realise digital twins within the healthcare and biomedical industries. Speakers and examples presented are from both industry and academia, including Prof. David Fletcher from University of Sydney and LEAP Australia, Associate Professor Kiao Inthavong from RMIT University along with representatives from Leica Biosystems and Invetech. Applications discussed include patient-specific modelling of aneurysms, arterial grafts, heart valves, nasal/respiratory pathways and inhalers/drug delivery, as well as general use of simulation in the design & development of a range of medical devices.

Digital Twins & Cyber Butlers

I had the pleasure of interviewing trail blazing futurist John Smart on his concept of Digital Twins (& Cyber Butlers) in 2011 (around 12 years ago at the time of writing) – where he discusses how they might be utilized in the upcoming decades, especially after the emergence of conversational interfaces around the mid-2020s (he said this long before LLMs were around). He envisions using digital twins to guide information consumption, connect with like-minded individuals, suggest business opportunities, and even assist in making political statements. He provides a scenario where, in 2030, a person reaching for a can of tuna might be subtly guided by their cyber twin to choose a product that aligns more closely with their personal values and the preferences – achieved through augmented reality and other technological advancements.

Smart discusses the potential of these digital entities to empower individuals in making informed decisions and choices, thereby influencing the market and political landscapes. He talks about the shift of power and influence from hierarchical structures (like multinational corporations and governments) to networks (like individual nodes empowered by digital twins). He envisions a future where the empowerment of the individual node through networking flattens hierarchical structures, thereby enhancing democracy and reducing plutocracy.

He further explores the concept of the “value-cosm,” where individuals, empowered by their digital twins, can exert influence on corporations and governments by making value-driven choices and providing feedback. Smart provides examples, such as boycotting products from a company that does not adhere to ethical practices, and explains how this collective action, when it reaches a certain threshold, can force companies to change their practices.

Smart also touches upon the concept of creative destruction in the corporate world, where smaller companies continuously challenge larger corporations, and how the value-cosm can influence this dynamic by aligning it with the values of consumers. He talks about the potential for reducing income inequities and enhancing societal productivity and satisfaction by lowering the rich-poor divide in a value-cosm world.

He concludes by discussing the potential of bottom-up media and advanced natural language processing in empowering individuals and ensuring that corporations and governments remain in service to their constituencies. While he acknowledges that there are downsides to these technologies, especially in their early versions, he emphasizes their potential for empowerment in the long run.

You can watch the video below or directly through this link.

John Smart is a futurist, scholar, and speaker known for his work on accelerating change and technological evolution. He is the founder and president of the Acceleration Studies Foundation, an organization that focuses on outreach, education, research, and advocacy concerning issues of accelerating change. Smart has a background in futures studies, having earned an MS in Futures Studies from the University of Houston, and a BS in Business Administration from the University of California, Berkeley.

His work primarily revolves around understanding and exploring the implications of accelerating technological change, especially its impact on society, economy, and the future. He has written and spoken extensively on topics related to technological singularity, accelerating change, future studies, and related areas. John Smart is known for his insights into how technological advancements, particularly in the realm of artificial intelligence, digital twins, and cyber systems, might shape our future societies and systems.

Smart’s work often delves into the potential futures shaped by technological advancements and explores both the opportunities and challenges that such a future might present. He is recognized for his optimistic and forward-looking perspective, considering how technological advancements can be harnessed for societal benefit while also acknowledging the potential pitfalls and ethical considerations that need to be addressed.

Why you may have a thinking digital twin within a decade

An article ‘Why you may have a thinking digital twin within a decade‘ from BBC News (last year) discusses the concept and potential of “digital twins,” as exact digital replicas of physical entities, including objects, systems, and even humans, with the aim of improving or providing feedback to their real-world counterparts. The concept has evolved from merely being 3D models to entities that learn and improve with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). Technology analyst Rob Enderle predicts that thinking human digital twins may become a reality within a decade, although this raises ethical and ownership questions. Digital twins are currently utilized in various fields, including product design, urban planning, and healthcare, for improving efficiency, designing, and testing scenarios respectively. Ambitious projects like creating digital versions of the Earth, known as Earth-2, are also underway, aiming to find solutions to global challenges like climate change.

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