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Optimized Childhood

Victoria Brun is a writer and project manager at a cancer research laboratory. When not bugging hardworking scientists about budget reports and service agreements, she is writing stories you can find at Daily Science Fiction, Uncharted Magazine, and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter at @VictoriaLBrun.

"Mom, can I go to Sadie's house?" my twelve-year old asked as she leaned against the doorway to the living room.
"Let me check the model," I said, reaching for my tablet. Jessica groaned and rolled her eyes in a show of classical adolescent angst, but I was used to it. I ignored her dramatics as I open the Digital Twin app. With just a few clicks, it ran a model of the proposed scenario, mapping out thousands of possibilities of how this decision could affect Jessica's life.
It was an incredible tool--leveraging state-of-the-art artificial intelligence to help us parents make the right decisions for our kids. It was a lifesaver. I didn't know how parents used to make decisions before this app. Being a parent back then must have been a nightmare.
"So can I go?" Jessica asked, drawing out the words into a long whine.
"One second," I said as the model finished running and loaded the results screen. The app provided a lot of data, but I'd become proficient at deciphering it, and the results were quite clear this time.
"No, I'm afraid you can't, not today," I said, glancing up from the screen. "It would reduce the chance of you getting into medical school by 0.02%. There is a moderate p value, but we just can't take that chance."
"I don't even want to be a doctor," Jessica snapped.
"Well, not yet you don't," I said as I looked back down at the model. "But as long as we keep moving the needle in the right direction, I'm sure we'll get there." I tried to keep my voice upbeat and reasonable, although it was challenging in the face of her growing ire. I could see a tantrum was forthcoming, but I held firm. I wanted what was best for my little girl.
Jessica turned, yanking the watch off her wrist and stomping out of the room.
"Put your wearable back on! You need to keep it on, or the data won't be accurate," I called after her, but she had already disappeared around the corner. A moment later, I heard her door slam.
I shook my head and turned back to the screen. I noticed the numbers had changed, but not in an encouraging direction. I frowned, wondering where I had gone wrong. I had been so careful. I pressed the button to rerun the simulation.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, November 17th, 2022

Author Comments

This piece was inspired by an article I read on the ethics of digital twins for personalized medicine, which got me thinking of other ways digital twins could be used--or misused.

- Victoria L Brun
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