Researchers' Perspectives on Digital Cloning Published

Contingency, Necessity, and Recursion of Digital Clones
Yukihiro Nobuhara

Professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo. Specializes in philosophy of science and philosophy of mind. He has been engaged in philosophical consideration of the mind with reference to the results of cognitive science and brain science. He is the author of Contemporary Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Consciousness, Introduction to the Philosophy of Emotion, and others. His translations include P. Churchland's Matter and Consciousness (third edition).


Tomoki Nanasawa

Representative of Technel LLC, visiting researcher, Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, The University of Tokyo, and visiting researcher, Jichi Medical University School of Medicine. Based on his experience in management and technology development at a venture company, he is currently engaged in research regarding the philosophy of technology that questions the essence of technology, and in activities to implement the results of that research in society.


Meet Yourself?

I can come face to face with a digital clone of myself. Simply by looking at my reflection in a mirror or my image on video, there will be some kind of self-discovery, but I can talk to my clone. The clone says what I might say. It is not just the other me in my mind that speaks, but the clone in front of my eyes that actually speaks out loud. Moreover, the clone is not exactly the same as me, but slightly different. This subtle sense of discomfort leads me to the discovery of a new self.



The "Idiosyncrasy" of Digital Clones

In the distant past, people considered the "I" that was reflected on water surfaces and in mirrors as a special existence. They saw an aura in this other self. Later, paintings, photographs, videos, and other media were created, and the image of the self became clear and three-dimensional. Today, the self-image is technologically contained in the smartphone in our pocket. However, that image does not have the aura that the ancients would have seen. The mystery of the ancient encounter with the self is being forgotten. What about this digital clone, "I"? The fluctuation brought about by the "contingency" created by the intelligence of this machine may contain a "mysteriousness" that cannot be separated from the fact that it is a machine.



With Whom I Could Not Talk Enough

A friend of mine passed away suddenly. I still wanted to talk with him and play with him. What should I do with this regretful feeling? I am certain that my friend must have been very sorry. Tablets, mementos, and serve the purpose of communion with the dead. However, it is not easy to heal the regret for those who have not been able to talk about them fully. Digital clones of the dead make it possible for us to talk to each other even after death, just as we did with our friends before death. They allow us to see once again the person who has passed away.



The Transition of "Bereavement"

Neanderthals sent flowers to the dead. Their remains convey the spirit of the Neanderthals. Since ancient times, information about human life has been preserved through some kind of media. The "medium" that carries information about the dead has changed along with the history of media transition, and today, the power of information about the deceased inscribed in blockchain is incomparable to that of ancient times. The AI of the future will digitally reproduce clones that are indistinguishable from the person in question. In a society in which "digital clones" will be left behind in the near future, what view of life and death will people have? 



Alter Ego

Oh, I'm so busy. No matter how many bodies I have, it's not enough. If I had an alter ego that did all kinds of things for me, I could concentrate on what I like to do. A digital clone can make such a dream come true—a clone made exactly like me, based on my information. It is the perfect way to have them work as my agents. It is a modern-day version of the Ninjutsu alter ego. What was once only fiction is now about to become reality."



The Story of the Alter Ego

Before the concept of the "individual" took hold, I was not necessarily an individual trapped in this body, but something more ambiguous. In the stories of the world, "alter egos" appear. In Japanese mythology, there are a number of stories in which a separated "soul" interacts with its “host.” Stories of "alter ego,” such as Son Goku, who could use his "alter ego technique" at will, and in the West, psychic phenomena such as "bilocation" and "doppelgangers" were told. Today, with the emergence of the "divided person," the concept of the individual is recurring in the direction of decentralization. A future in which technological "dividuals" become extensions of our physical senses may be possible in many ways.



Thinking Ahead to Digital Clones
Maiko Watanabe

Lecturer at Jichi Medical University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of General Education, Ethics Laboratory, where she studied Social Theory of Science and Technology in Steve Fuller's laboratory from 2002 to 2005. D. in 2008 on the development and diffusion of prenatal testing in the UK. Her most recent book is Invitation to Posthuman Studies: Eleven Perspectives on the Body and Feminism (co-authored).


For six months, beginning in September 2020, I conducted a transdisciplinary research project named "Technological Mortality Project" funded by the Japan Science and Technology Agency. The project aimed to consider how science and technology have been and will be related to our life and death with members of diverse specialties, including artists and researchers in the humanities.


I am a researcher in the humanities with an interest in the relationship between science and technology and the human body. Science and technology that interacts with the human body expresses values related to "what the human body should be like in this society.” For example, the familiar "eyeglasses" and "contact lenses" reflect our society's emphasis on "maintaining a certain level of eyesight" and "how one's face should look.” As someone who is interested in the values of society as expressed in science and technology, science and technology related to "human life and death" is of particular interest to me. This is because it reveals the values of life and death in the society in which we live today, or in other words, our "view of life and death.” In what kind of society do we live in? This is a question that concerns every human being who lives and dies. It is a rare opportunity to be exposed to such a universal question from one's own research field.


When trying to explore this question, it is useful to consider cutting-edge science and technology. This is because cutting-edge science and technology are creating unknown values against the backdrop of conventional values. It is a base from which to consider where our lives are headed—somewhere between the past and the future. The digital clones of alt exhibited here can also be seen as such a base point.


alt's digital clone technology has a variety of potential applications; however, what I would like to focus on here is the possibility of creating a being that "works for you. The "way of working" is directly related to our "way of life.” It is no exaggeration to say that in modern Japan, both children and adults are living toward some kind of “work." Digital clones that "work for you" have the potential to change "the way we work" and, by extension, our way of life, while emerging against the backdrop of this value system. There seems to be something to consider here.


The promotional video makes it clear that what the "digital clone" makes possible is a "way of working" that does not rely on our own imperfect bodies. This is a big change. At the moment, our way of working is so completely tied to our own bodies that if we are sick, we cannot work the same way we did before we got sick. This seems to be a very natural thing, but if we remember the times when we were ill, we may feel how much better it would be if we were not.


However, we look for "meaning in life" in our work, not solely "to earn our daily bread.” The common question, "What kind of work do you want to do when you grow up?" is a common question. Notably, "What kind of life do you want to live?” and "What kind of person do you want to be?” is synonymous with the question, "What kind of person do you want to be?” Will this question have the same meaning when digital clones do our work for us, when there is no direct connection between our work and our bodies?


On the other hand, everyone who works knows that some of the most meaningful work in life also includes work of questionable meaning. For the two people in the alt promotional video, this seems to be the case with the early-morning schedule adjustment emails from their bosses. I sympathize. If they could do all of those tasks for you, you might be glad. It's the kind of work that is most taxing on an unstable body. If the work does not require "my body," I can continue to work after my body dies. However, what will be left after removing each of these tasks? For example, in my case, if a digital clone writes a paper that I would write in my most ideal state, will it be meaningful work for me? That is what I mean. While the temptation to go there is certainly there, what is the nature of this uncomfortable feeling that holds me back?


Now, as a parent of two children, I have something else to think about: can a digital clone take over parenting for me? Parenting is one of the most physically demanding jobs. For parents, parenting does not provide daily sustenance. On the contrary, it is a job that loses its sustenance. Therefore, there is only meaning in it for life. This work is still actively encouraged to be shared with others. Based on these values, there may be nothing wrong with having a digital clone take over for me. However, when I picture a digital clone playing with my child while my body is doing the work that provides me with daily sustenance, it bothers me. That's what "I" want to do. This blurring seems to show the boundary between "I" and the "digital clone.” What's more, isn't that what "I" really want to do, even now? I hear the voice of my inner self whispering, "I want to do this.”


How will the meaning of work change for us when digital clones are working for us?

Is there any work we should not want a digital clone to do for us?

Are there jobs that we don't want digital clones to do for us?


I believe that thinking about these questions, and floating in front of digital clones, will help us deepen our thinking about the values we hold about the way we live now and the way we want to live in the future. I would like to deepen our "dialogue" with digital clones in order to reflect on our present and connect it to a better future.



The Pleasure and Responsibility of Co-Creation: To "Rightly Fear" Digital Clones
Takuya Mizukami

Takuya Mizukami is a Research Associate at the RIKEN Center for Integrated Research on Innovative Intelligence (AIP). D. in Interdisciplinary Information Studies. He specializes in philosophy of technology and technological ethics. He is particularly interested in ethical issues of social robots.


What kind of technology do you imagine when you hear the words "digital cloning"? One might imagine an advanced AI that can completely copy a real person, causing fear and apprehension. Others may calmly think that with today's machine learning, such a thing is impossible. However, there is a major misunderstanding with regard to both reactions. The fact is that in modern digital cloning, it is actually we, the users, who "clone" the real person.


Consider the "recreation" of a deceased person: the Showa-era diva Hibari Misora was "recreated" using computer graphics and voice synthesis technology for the 2019 Kohaku Uta Gassen (i.e., Red and White Singing Contest), which drew a significant response. However, although today's technology can create a voice and behavior that is true to the singer, it cannot reproduce her heart. With that in mind, why were so many people moved by AI Hibari Misora? It can be said that it was because each of us recalled our own image of "Hibari Misora" based on the recreated image. In other words, a digital clone is not a clone in itself, but a mediator that assists our imaginative activities. In this sense, digital cloning is not an uncontrollable threat that will come in the future. Rather, it is an extension of our imaginative activities, such as thinking of a loved one in a portrait or paying respect to the deceased by carefully handling a gravestone.


That is why we should consider now the question of moral responsibility for the actions of digital clones. Of course, if a digital clone engages in problematic behavior, such as making discriminatory remarks, it is no good placing the responsibility for such behavior on the clone itself. To avoid offending the dignity of the person being recreated, it is important that we, the users, as well as the designers, be aware that we are committed to the clone's co-creation. There are also more difficult problems. For example, what if we want digital clones to make decisions after death, such as inheritance? Unlike the case of "AI Hibari Misora," in which each user uses his or her imagination to think about the deceased, the decision-making process is recognized as the decision-making process of the reproduced clone itself. However, who has the right to make this "officialization" in a world without the deceased? Who has the right to do so in the first place? The quest for the ethics of digital cloning has only just begun.



Digital Clones as the Epitome of Life as a Work of Art
Steve W. Fuller
The original text can be read here.
[ ]

The following is a translation.


Digital Clones as the Epitome of Life as a Work of Art
Steve W. Fuller

Steve W. Fuller is Auguste Comte Professor of Social Epistemology in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick. He is a philosopher who has pioneered the field of social epistemology through his writings, including his major work Social Epistemology (translated into Japanese by Denji Kobayashi et al.)


The path to digital cloning has been paved, and humans as living beings have begun a journey that begins with the idea of a "digital legacy.”


A "digital legacy" is, first, a kind of self-produced crop that naturally arises among people who spend much of their lives online. Social media platforms such as Facebook are designed to encourage this kind of storage activity, making the platform useful for corporate marketing and increasing its appeal. When someone who has spent their life using these platforms dies, those who have lost a loved one might store their data as a kind of online monument.


More recently, however, self-production activities have become more explicitly a way of "being-unto-death," as the German philosopher Martin Heidegger put it. In other words, those who live online are doing so, at least in part, to bequeath a legacy. They are trying to attract not only current, but also future followers, perhaps after they are no longer in front of their computers.


It is in this context that the "digital afterlife" industry has emerged. This industry seeks to enhance a person's "digital legacy" capabilities by providing algorithms to create "digital avatars" from a variety of acquired data. The "digital avatar" will one day acquire new characteristics and will no longer be the same as what would be expected from the original human behavior, as it will not only have a higher ability to interact with online users, but also to learn from those interactions.


It is helpful here to think of the digital avatar as an entity that appears as a clone of a biological human being, but over time, as a result of digital experience, actually becomes a different being. Debra Bassett described the existential state of this new being as "Digital Dasein," again based on Heidegger. Bassett interviewed people involved in every aspect of this process. He found that those facing death were more interested in the possibilities of digital cloning than the survivors who would ultimately interact with the digital clones. In other words, the bereaved prefer a digitally preserved version of the biological person they know to a clone that evolves on its own.


This last point raises profound questions, similar to those often raised about the relationship between artists and their art. However, we need to understand that "artist" means a member of Homo sapiens, and that "art" has, in a sense, a life independent of such artists. I say this because before the mid-18th century, when the Swedish taxonomist Carl von Linné defined "man" as Homo sapiens, there was more conceptual leeway regarding who was an "artist" and what could be called "art." Perhaps the digital activities discussed here take us back to a pre-Linnean form of thinking about the relationship between artist and art.


Let us think of those who devote their lives to craft (e.g., those who design apparatuses and clothing for scientific experiments, or stage sets for the expressive arts). Alternatively, there are those who are completely integrated (i.e., cyborgified) with their tools, such as painters and musicians, or, at some distance from them, composers, writers, and mathematicians. The final groups in this list are those who, by means of the notebooks in which they write their words and numbers, are able to enter a world that transcends the world in which their bodies normally reside.


These people have long been considered "anti-social" and have sometimes described themselves as such. The obvious reason for this is that they have long distanced themselves from interactions with the public, seeing them as a distraction from their work. At the same time, however, they usually did not see themselves as selfish or egocentric. On the contrary, they usually claimed to interact with their fellow human beings in a deeper way than they do in their daily activities.


A similar event is occurring with regard to the energy that people are expending to prepare their own digital legacy. Clearly, the philosophy of "life as a work of art" is taking over. To say here that these people are trying to show their "best side" to their descendants would be to do an injustice to the metaphysical meaning of the situation. A lot of time and effort is devoted to recording and rearranging all of the digital data about oneself. This activity is better viewed as an incubator, platform, or even a palette, for activating the real self that exists forever in cyberspace—with the full knowledge that it will be in transition—and treating the experience of the lived body as an activity. It is better to see it as an activity. This is akin to saying that one lives through or for their “art."


Let us recall that artists and scientists have often sacrificed their bodies and social relationships (sometimes to the point of self-destruction) in order to achieve their idea of art. Of course, more complex questions must be asked than just what it means to be "human" in our time. However, the point is that if we can live in a world that includes artists, then we should also be able to live in a world where people devote more time and effort to designing their own digital legacy—their digital clones.



Bassett, D. (2022). The Creation and Inheritance of Digital Afterlives: You Only Live Twice. London: Palgrave.

Fuller, S. (2019). Nietzschean Meditations: Untimely Thoughts at the Dawn of the Transhuman Era. Basel SZ: Schwabe.