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Hyperreal Patients. Digital Twins as Simulacra and their impact on clinical heuristics

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Medizin – Technik – Ethik

Part of the book series: Techno:Phil – Aktuelle Herausforderungen der Technikphilosophie ((TPAHT,volume 5))


Digital Twins are discussed as the new frontier of precision medicine. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI)-technologies, a virtual model of a patient’s organ, physiological structure, or whole body is built from individual health data. This virtual model can be used for drug testing, predictive analysis and risk assessment, disease modelling, or lifestyle improvement. The digital twin can feedback information and thus contribute to regulating physical processes or behavior. Most of the ethical research on digital twins is based on the assumption that they are simulations, representing structures, systems, functions, or behaviors of a given person. I suggest framing digital twins as a simulacrum, i.e. a projection of a construct, which is in itself artificial. By using simulacrum theory as introduced by Baudrillard, I investigate the connection between the epistemological and ethical implications of digital twins. The results of this analysis may be of high relevance for clinical practice, since they allow to assess the epistemological limits of digital twins, which in turn helps to evaluate the ethical risks as well as the appropriate areas of application in the light of best practice.

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  1. 1.

    It should be noted that the conceptual disctinction between “virtual/digital” and “physical” entities that is prevalent in the literature suggests that the digital sphere is non-physical. This is highly problematic and deserves a deeper philosophical investigation, which cannot be attempted in this paper. For the sake of the argument, I will therefore follow the literature and use this distinction as well.


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Correspondence to Giovanni Rubeis .

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© 2023 Der/die Autor(en), exklusiv lizenziert an Springer-Verlag GmbH, DE, ein Teil von Springer Nature

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Rubeis, G. (2023). Hyperreal Patients. Digital Twins as Simulacra and their impact on clinical heuristics. In: Loh, J., Grote, T. (eds) Medizin – Technik – Ethik. Techno:Phil – Aktuelle Herausforderungen der Technikphilosophie , vol 5. J.B. Metzler, Berlin, Heidelberg.

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  • Publisher Name: J.B. Metzler, Berlin, Heidelberg

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-662-65867-3

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