Philosophy and Technology 34 (4):1751-1773 (2021)

Vincent Blok
Wageningen University and Research
Digital Twins are conceptualised in the academic technical discourse as real-time realistic digital representations of physical entities. Originating from product engineering, the Digital Twin quickly advanced into other fields, including the life sciences and earth sciences. Digital Twins are seen by the tech sector as the new promising tool for efficiency and optimisation, while governmental agencies see it as a fruitful means for improving decision-making to meet sustainability goals. A striking example of the latter is the European Commission who wishes to delegate a significant role to Digital Twins in addressing climate change and supporting Green Deal policy. As Digital Twins give rise to high expectations, ambitions, and are being entrusted important societal roles, it is crucial to critically reflect on the nature of Digital Twins. In this article, we therefore philosophically reflect on Digital Twins by critically analysing dominant conceptualisations, the assumptions underlying them, and their normative implications. We dissect the concept and argue that a Digital Twin does not merely fulfil the role of being a representation, but is in fact a steering technique used to direct a physical entity towards certain goals by means of multiple representations. Currently, this steering seems mainly fuelled by a reductionist approach focused on efficiency and optimisation. However, this is not the only direction from which a Digital Twin can be thought and, consequently, designed and deployed. We therefore set an agenda based on a critical understanding of Digital Twins that helps to draw out their beneficial potential, while addressing their potential issues.
Keywords digital twins  digitalisation
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DOI 10.1007/s13347-021-00484-1
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Of Grammatology.Jacques Derrida - 1998 - Johns Hopkins University Press.
The Philosophy of Information.Luciano Floridi - 2011 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

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