There is about a 3% probability that you have a twin. About 32 in 1000 people are one of a pair of twins. At the moment an even smaller number of us have a digital twin but this is the direction in which computational biomedicine is moving along with other fields. For instance, soon all aircraft will have digital twins and most new nuclear power plants. Digital twins are computational representations of individual members of a population, or fleet, in the case of aircraft and power plants. For an engineering system, its computer-aided design (CAD) is the beginning of its twin, to which information is added from the quality assurance inspections before it leaves the factory and from non-destructive inspections during routine maintenance, as well as data acquired during service operations from health monitoring. The result is an integrated model and database, which describes the condition and history of the system from conception to the present, that can be used to predict its response to anticipated changes in its environment, its remaining useful life or the impact of proposed modifications to its form and function. It is more challenging to create digital twins of ourselves because we don’t have original design drawings or direct access to the onboard health monitoring system but this is being worked on. However, digital twins are only useful if people believe in the behaviour or performance that they predict and are prepared to make decisions based on the predictions, in other words if the digital twins possess credibility. Credibility appears to be like beauty because it is in eye of the beholder. Most modellers believe that their models are both beautiful and credible, after all they are their ‘babies’, but unfortunately modellers are not usually the decision-makers who often have a different frame of reference and set of values. In my group, one current line of research is to provide metrics and language that will assist in conveying confidence in the reliability of a digital twin to non-expert decision-makers and another is to create methodologies for evaluating the evidence prior to making a decision. The approach is different depending on the extent to which the underlying models are principled, i.e. based on the laws of science, and can be tested using observations from the real world. In practice, even with principled, testable models, a digital twin will never be an identical twin and hence there will always be some uncertainty so that decisions remain a matter of judgement based on a sound understanding of the best available evidence – so you are always likely to need advice from a friendly engineer 🙂
Glaessgen, E.H., & Stargel, D.S., 2012, The digital twin paradigm for future NASA and US Air Force vehicles, Proc 53rd AIAA/ASME/ASCE/AHS/ASC Structures, Structural Dynamics and Materials Conference, AIAA paper 2012-2018, NF1676L-13293.
Patterson E.A., Feligiotti, M. & Hack, E., 2013, On the integration of validation, quality assurance and non-destructive evaluation, J. Strain Analysis, 48(1):48-59.
Patterson, E.A., Taylor, R.J. & Bankhead, M., 2016, A framework for an integrated nuclear digital environment, Progress in Nuclear Energy, 87:97-103.
Tuegel, E.J., 2012, The airframe digital twin: some challenges to realization, Proc 53rd AIAA/ASME/ASCE/AHS/ASC Structures, Structural Dynamics and Materials Conference.