- Digital human cloning entails crafting a highly realistic digital replica, whether in the form of an image, avatar, or multimedia content, to such an extent that discerning it from the genuine person is difficult.
- In the workplace, the prevalence of digital human clone employees is destined to become commonplace. However, this transition can not occur without navigating valid security and ethics concerns.
- Digital employees will offer employers multiple cost-reduction benefits, whilst human employees could gain improved work-life balance, as their digital counterparts assume responsibility for more routine aspects of their roles.
Advanced technology has ushered in an era where it would appear that employees can operate in two places simultaneously. Although it might sound like science fiction, a growing number of people are already employing digital “twins” to represent them during meetings and manage routine tasks in their professional roles. Meanwhile, numerous industries are already harnessing the power of digital clones, resulting in substantial gains in efficiency and productivity.
The potential implications of this emerging technology are vast, but its widespread application in the future of work requires thorough scrutiny, particularly in the realms of ethics and privacy.
Are We Ready For Digitally Cloned Employees?
Digital twinning (or cloning) is the eerily precise replication of real-world individuals in cyberspace. These digital twins duplicate physical, physiological, personality and skill characteristics, mimicking an individual’s voice, appearance and some aspects of behavior.
The decision to employ digital clones across diverse sectors could enhance financial efficiencies and contribute to overall business growth. One notable opportunity lies in the potential for digital clones to relieve employees from monotonous, repetitive tasks, enabling them to redirect their focus towards more strategic projects — hence enhancing profit and contributing to overall productivity growth.
According to predictions, the global AI market value will surpass US $1 trillion by 2028 (its current value is US $207.9 billion). Considerable expansion of AI-supported productivity is already taking place in countries such as Sweden, Japan, Germany and France. Given these statistics, it is no surprise that employers are keenly interested in the potential impact of AI in the workplace.
However, employee sentiments regarding AI are nuanced. 67% of professionals believe AI will wield significant influence in their respective industries within the next five years, while a recent Reuters report reveals that 19% of workers harbor apprehensions about the potential for job displacement. Nevertheless, the risks that AI poses to employees could be mitigated by ensuring that emerging technologies prioritize the wellbeing of humanity above all else. This strategy may involve substantial investment in reskilling and upskilling the current workforce to guarantee its continued relevance.
Could Cloned Employees Become More Desirable Than Humans?
There is no doubt that many employers will appreciate the many advantages of employing digitally cloned employees. The fact that a digital clone can work without becoming tired, bored, or burnt out is one of the most obvious of these benefits. A digital clone is available around the clock and will never balk at receiving an email at 11 p.m. Instead of replacing employees, digital clones could liberate humans to focus on more strategic projects. Whilst humans are strategizing, digital employees can assist in tasks as diverse as personalized sales, marketing and skills training (especially in hands-on industries such as healthcare).
However, a digital employee does not have our lived experiences or more nuanced characteristics. Digital clones can simulate or mimic human interactions and tasks based on programming and data inputs, but that is the current limit of their capabilities. AI employees are software programs or algorithms designed to perform specific tasks or functions. They lack consciousness, self-awareness, emotions, and subjective experiences.
While it is possible that this lack of human likeness could diminish the cost-saving potential of cloned employees, forward-thinking employers who fully understand the capabilities and limitations of their digital workforce could still realize significant benefits. The key lies in utilizing clones in collaboration with human employees.
What About The Ethical Considerations?
There could (and honestly should) be a rejection of widespread acceptance of digitally cloned employees without a rigorous examination of ethical considerations and privacy protection policies. It is more likely that approval levels will rise through collaboration among various sectors, including technology, social sciences, natural sciences, chemistry, and research and development (R&D). Employers are liable for ensuring the responsible development and implementation of strategies that prevent the unethical use of clones while preserving the potential of their human workforce. Essentially, it is all about fostering safety, accountability, transparency and trust in the realm of digital cloning.
One pivotal question revolves around the ownership of digital clones. If employers possess exclusive rights to these clones, employees may resist improving their digital twins out of fear of being replaced. As substantial productivity gains are achieved, a pressing challenge arises: preventing certain employers from acquiring clones solely for the purpose of replacing human workers. For example, if employees do not hold ownership rights to their clones, there is potential for clones to remain in service for the company (even after the employee departs or retires). The ethical implications of this scenario remain uncertain, and enforcement may prove challenging.
As AI continues to advance and become increasingly prevalent, we are witnessing the emergence of more refined and nuanced ethical considerations. In the arena of image cloning, where some fashion houses now employ hyper-realistic AI-generated models to promote their brands, the European Union has taken a proactive stance by proposing legislation that mandates brands to disclose their use of AI-generated images and models.
In contrast, the United States has yet to propose similar legislation, which raises concerns, particularly in light of the growing prevalence of digital employees. This could pose a significant challenge within the entertainment industry, which is already transforming due to AI advancements. In light of the ongoing actors’ strikes, how can we ensure that digital clones do not displace actors, film crews, and other professionals from their livelihoods?
The advent of digital cloning carries inherent risks, including biometric fraud and defamation. Therefore, it is imperative to address issues related to consent and data security to ensure the protection of workers’ rights. Recently, a noteworthy meeting was held featuring some of the most influential industry leaders in the U.S., including Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates. The primary objective of this gathering was to deliberate on regulating rapidly evolving AI technologies and to devise strategies aimed at mitigating their potential harm to humanity.
How Clones Could Shape The Future Of Work
A digital clone offers a more personalized experience than a digital assistant. In Japan, the idea of owning a digital twin has gained considerable popularity. Workers there are increasingly embracing the concept of an online avatar capable of shouldering some of their work and daily responsibilities, including representing them in Zoom meetings. However, with a price tag of approximately $140,000, it may take some time before they become accessible to the broader market. Several companies have emerged, providing online tools to generate avatars from recorded audio and video that train your clone. One such example is Synthesia, which offers the creation and upkeep of your digital clone for an annual fee of $1,000.
Digital clones have the potential to enhance work-life balance for employees. In some industries, your clone could effectively represent you during meetings, handle routine inquiries, and only contact you when faced with matters requiring your expertise. This allows individuals to select which engagements require their physical presence, optimizing their time allocation.
An example of these benefits comes from a CEO who reduced her weekly working hours from 40-50 to a more manageable 32-35 hours by delegating mundane tasks to her digital counterpart, akin to a personal assistant. In 2018, Doug Roble, Head of Software R & D at Digital Domain, showcased his digital twin to deliver a short Ted Talk on the future of digital human clones. The presentation highlighted the clone’s versatility and its positive implications for the entertainment industry while cautioning against potential misuse.
By functioning as virtual collaborators, these digital clones can drive innovation, boost profitability, and support cost-reduction strategies for employers. There is also the potential to merge one digital clone with another to form a super-enhanced digital identity equipped with enhanced skills and capabilities. In this rapidly changing landscape, digitally cloned employees are set to play a crucial role, ideally collaborating harmoniously with their human counterparts instead of replacing them.