18 Dec Meet your digital twin
You have a twin – a “digital” twin. It does everything you do. The same way you exercise your body to stay fit, or brush your teeth to prevent long-term decay and problems, your digital twin needs care so that it does not become a problem in the future.
Get to know this twin and you can manage it, secure it and protect it. This paper shows you how.
I have a twin? Really? Let me introduce you.
As digital technology enters your life (computer, phone, public wifi, social networks, etc.), everything is enhanced and recorded, leaving behind you a digital shadow that shapes your digital twin over time. Here are some examples of activities that contribute to your twin’s content:
- You casually browse the web for news or information – Google, Apple, Facebook and many others track your every moves
- You go to the supermarket and pay with your credit card – your digital twin records what you’ve bought and/or how much you paid in both the retailer loyalty program system and the bank and credit card companies that processed the payment.
- You file annual taxes via the government website – your digital twin now has revenue and deductions, children and spouse.
- You call the retail store with your cell phone to complain about a defective product – your digital twin now has a profile in the retailer’s CRM system and detailed location in your mobile phone telecom provider.
- You take pictures with a digital camera and store them on CDROMs, USB keys, Flickr, Facebook or Apple’s iCloud – your digital twin key life moments start to take shape.
- You present your skills and work experience in a resume or LinkedIn profile – your twin now has professional experience.
- You attach a resume to a job posting and email a cover letter – your twin now represents you to your future employer.
- You browse the Internet for a rental house on Airbnb for that Italian trip you’ve been planning for years – your digital twin now carries future plans and credit card information.
We all lead a double life
Every action you take has a good chance of being recorded, whether it is in the physical or the digital world. That record becomes, over time, a representation of you – your actions, your tastes, your social network, your activities, etc. As information gets recorded over years and decades, your digital twin takes shape and becomes a more and more complete representation of you over time. Some parts you control, others you don’t.
Some of the traces you leave are often intentional, part of your digital activities: creating Facebook profiles, posting pictures of parties and vacations, sending emails and making eCommerce transactions on Amazon. You control what you post, what you do, what you say and how you say it. Sometimes, you can even edit some elements before they become part of your digital identity as they are recorded by Apple, Facebook or Google. You are in control and should realize that you are leaving traces.
Unfortunately, some of your digital traces also get created unintentionally as you carry out certain activities – because everything you do in the digital world leaves traces. Browsing the web, searching on Google, or liking a post on Facebook inevitably leaves digital traces. Often, these records are a by-product of the products and services you use, required in order to improve service or personalize interactions. Google records and remembers your search queries in order to improve its result accuracy and personalization. Apple’s Siri records audio in order to improve its understanding of your particular tone of voice. Thus, your digital twin gets shaped by the actions you take as much as by the “digital exhaust” of your daily activities, including those you may not want to record or that you don’t want others to know about. As you browse the web for example, advertising agencies record the pages you visit and the ads you click in order to predict what you may want in the future so that ads can be better suited to your needs – and thus bring more revenue. This is called “behavioral tracking” and there is a very good video that explains how it works and how to view what gets tracked.
But this behind the scenes recording is not limited to your digital activities. More and more, your real-world actions also create traces in the digital world, further shaping your digital twin’s identity. Eating, sleeping, working, playing, studying, shopping or simply walking around leaves traces. Surveillance cameras record your image and sometimes can identify you personally. Cell phones emit signals that position you everywhere you go. Credit card payment transactions identify what you buy, where and for how much. Fitbit devices monitor your steps and your activity level. Often, you do not control this digital recording and have little visibility into the traces your leave behind.
Losing your (digital) self in a networked world
Until now, your digital traces and digital exhaust remained confined in the silos of computer systems at your bank, your airline company, your government, retailers, telecom provider and all the other companies and organizations you interact with. Today, however, the Internet offers companies a ubiquitous network that frees this digital information from the systems and devices where they are captured and they are being aggregated to create a centralized 360-degree view of you. Google, Apple, Facebook, Equifax, Mastercard, AT&T, governments and agencies today accumulate huge amounts of data about you to piece together very detailed representation of you. Often, you don’t know this digital twin exists and you do not – and can not – control it.
This digital twin – what I refer to as the “digital-moi.com” – carries with it everything that is good – and bad – about you.
What to do about it?
Now that you know your digital twin, what should you do next? There is much to say about the digital-moi.com and I plan to share more on this topic in the coming months. In the meantime, here are my initial recommendations.
- First, manage, secure and protect your digital twin and do everything you can to know about your digital-moi. Start by putting in action the 10 actions I recommend you do right now, and stay vigilant in your digital lifestyle and activities.
- Second, understand there is a hierarchy to your digital needs. The same way Maslow told us there is a pyramid of human needs, there is an equivalent in the digital world, a pyramid of digital needs that I explore in another blog post.
Finally, stay vigilant and informed about your digital exhaust, both the intentional and the unintentional ones.