Epistemic Challenges of Digital Twins & Virtual Brains : Perspectives from Fundamental Neuroethics

SCIO: Revista de Filosofía 21 (2021)
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Abstract

In this article, we present and analyse the concept of Digital Twin linked to distinct types of objects and examine the challenges involved in creating them from a fundamental neuroethics approach that emphasises conceptual analyses. We begin by providing a brief description of DTs and their initial development as models of artefacts and physical inanimate objects, identifying core challenges in building these tools and noting their intended benefits. Next, we describe attempts to build DTs of model living entities, such as hearts, highlighting the novel challenges raised by this shift from DTs of inanimate to DTs of living objects. Against that background, we give an account of contemporary research aiming to develop DTs of the human brain by building "virtual brains", e.g. the simulation engine The Virtual Brain as it is carried out in the European Human Brain Project. Since the brain is structurally and functionally the most complex organ in the human body, and our integrated knowledge of its functional architecture remains limited in spite of recent neuroscientific advances, the attempts to create virtual copies of the human brain are correspondingly challenging. We suggest that a clear scientific theoretical structure, conceptual clarity and transparency regarding the methods and goals of this technological development are necessary prerequisites in order to make the project of constructing virtual brains a theoretically promising and socially beneficial scientific, technological and philosophical enterprise.

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References found in this work

Anthropomorphism in AI.Arleen Salles, Kathinka Evers & Michele Farisco - 2020 - American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience 11 (2):88-95.
Neuroethics: A Conceptual Approach.Michele Farisco, Arleen Salles & Kathinka Evers - 2018 - Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 27 (4):717-727.
Towards a Definition of Life.Peter T. Macklem & Andrew Seely - 2010 - Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 53 (3):330-340.

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