Simulating (some) individuals in a connected world

Journal of Medical Ethics 47 (6):403-404 (2021)
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Braun explores the use of digital twin technology in medicine with a particular emphasis on the question of how such simulations can represent a person.1 In defining some first conditions for ethically justifiable forms of representation of digital twins, he argues that digital twins do not threaten an embodied person, as long as that person retains control over their simulated representation via dynamic consent, and ideally with the option to choose both form and usage of the simulation. His thoughtful elaboration provides insight into the challenges inherent in interactions between a person and their digital twin, emphasising the modes of control required to respect personal modes of freedom. This individual-centric approach to the question of representation leaves out the important ethical consideration of ensuring that all, not merely some, can be represented. Braun describes dynamic consent as a necessary mode of control, arguing that where a person is unable to give consent, ‘such simulations threaten to become illegitimate representations. They would then shift the kind of interaction from representation to illegitimate forms of prediction or surveillance and thereby could lead to infringements to individual modes of freedom.’ Consequently, the implementation of digital twin technology in healthcare would seem to exclude the most vulnerable members of society from participation in and benefiting from medical innovation, …
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First archival date: 2021-05-10
Latest version: 2 (2021-05-11)
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