My-talk-with-Hitler-1No, it wasn’t exactly what I had planned.

The year is 2026, and what began as a simple quiet evening at my local library, culminated with me coming face to face with one of the most reviled men in all history.

As I entered the library, I caught a glimpse of a new room they had just completed with a labeling above the door that read, “Conversations Room.”

Naturally curious, I asked one of the librarians about it, and she quickly explained how they had just installed a “virtual presence” machine and it would enable anyone to have a “live” conversation with famous people throughout history.

That brief explanation was all it took. In about two seconds I had totally forgotten the reason I came to the library, took my seat, and started tinkering with the controls to figure out how it worked.

No, Hitler wasn’t my first choice, or even my last choice, but after hitting a few wrong clicks, he showed up as an option so I decided to give it a go.

After a few technical flickers, he suddenly appeared, and I was taken back by how real he looked and how authentic it felt. He came from the back of the room, walking rather stiffly, took a seat, and began fiddling with one of his shoes.

I introduced myself with a short, “Hi, I’m Thomas Frey,” and he immediately sat up and gave me a piercing stare.

“Why are you here?” was his response. It was in English but with a German accent.

I was momentarily stunned with the question and fumbled my words trying to come up with the right response. “I-I-I’ve been doing research on WWII and came here to meet you,” was all I could muster.

He continued gruffly, “There’s been several attempts on my life and I’m not sure who I can trust. Who do you report to?”

His paranoia was palpable, but it was his authoritative stare and commanding presence that demanded my full attention. I suddenly got a sense of what it was like being one of his commanders and having to answer to this intensely imposing figure.

In retrospect, I was terribly unprepared for this conversation. I had mistakenly assumed I’d be the one asking the questions, but even as a three-dimensional avatar, this was someone who very much needed to be in control.

Seething with Paranoia

It took me about 45 minutes to gain his trust. I didn’t realize it would be this hard.

At one point I asked a flippant question, “Why are you so worried about who you can trust, you’ve been dead for over 70 years?”

He leaned forward and started screaming, “If I am so dead, how is it that I’m sitting here in front of you answering stupid [expletive] questions about things I don’t give a [expletive] about?

The tone of his voice sent shivers up my spine. After taking a deep breath and watching the trembling veins in his face subside, I decided I never wanted to do that again.

I was pretty sure he didn’t have the ability to order soldiers to come to my home, but I was becoming less certain of that as the conversation proceeded.

What had started off as something I thought would be a rather lame casual conversation with a historical figure had suddenly become one of the most intense experiences in my entire life.

Resorting to a few softball questions, I asked him what it was like growing up in Germany.

He added a bit of personal history. “My papa was a farmer and we raised bees. I had two older brothers and an older sister, but they all died as young children. I was the first one to make it past the age of three.”

He continued, “As a child, I wanted to become a artist and attend art school. But my papa insisted I go to Realschule, a technical school where I could become an apprentice and earn a living. I hated him for this. Art was very important to me and I’ve spent countless hours drawing cartoons and creating art throughout my life.”

Eventually I began asking him about Germany’s progress in making nuclear weapons. I had heard they were close, but I thought he could add a bit more detail.

After fidgeting for a couple seconds, clearly uneasy about revealing too much, he began giving me the names of people and details about some of their top-secret research.

When I asked him about his dislike of the Jews, he became visibly agitated, filling the room with German swearwords. “When my younger brother died of measles, it was a Jewish doctor who failed to cure him. When my mother became ill, it was more Jewish doctors that let her die.”

Now he was on a rant. “They were the ones who causes us to lose WWI. They controlled all the banks, the factories, and the stores. And we lost because they thought the war was costing us too much money.”

His anti-Jew diatribe continued for another 10 minutes.

After the Call 

The entire discussion lasted 90 minutes, far longer than I had anticipated.

After saying goodbye, I began to grasp how stressful the call had been. My shoulders were tense, I was sweating profusely, and I realized I had even been clenching my jaw and grinding my teeth.

I hadn’t been a fan of Hitler before the call and was even less of one now. But in many ways, everything made much more sense. I understood how an imposing figure like this could rise to power and some of the underlying creepiness of why he did the things he did.

Reading historical accounts of his life suddenly seemed so one-dimensional.

Students who prepared for one of these encounters in the future would have far more reasons to do their homework first and be prepared for this kind of confrontation.

As it turned out, Hitler was one of the early “Conversations Room” prototypes, and a team of programmers, movie directors, gamification experts, and historians had spent countless hours stitching this character together from multiple video, audio, photo, and written fragments of information.

Developing technology for a “Conversations Room” is not as far away as some might imagine

An Example of Situational Futuring

The scenario I’ve just taken you through is an example of what I call “situational futuring.” It describes a real life situation taking place with soon-to-be-invented technology, and adds both personal and emotional elements to make it feel genuine.

I could have chosen any number of different historical figures, but Hitler seemed to be the one that would most stand out in a reader’s mind.

In retrospect, it also establishes a valid reason why libraries will still exist in the future. Not only will they exist, they will become a showcase for emerging technology that will enhance both the educational and informational experience for future generations.

Final Thoughts

The path to a better future comes with an enhanced understanding of the past.

In a similar fashion, the path to a better future will come with a deeper understanding of the nuances of future life altering technologies.

Technology will redefine our cultures, our lifestyle, and our value systems. There will always be unintended consequences, and some of it will be difficult to manage, but new technologies will never stop coming.

The more we focus our attention on the future, the better we can prepare for it. It’s in everyone’s best interest to stop getting blindsided by the future.

This is just one example of an anticipatory thinking technique to help plan for tomorrow. Over the coming months I plan to featuring several more.

With this in mind, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the effectiveness of this technique. Was it captivating, realistic, a bit off the mark, or were you simply put off by the selection of Hitler? Please comment below.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

Author of “Epiphany Z – 8 Radical Visions for Transforming Your Future


14 Responses to “My Conversation Last Night with Adolph Hitler”

Comments List

  1. James A. Cronin

    I'm sure that if you had a conversation with Joseph Goebbels, he would be most impressed by the effectiveness of Faux News and the Wall Street Journal... two right wing propaganda organs controlled by the same propaganda minister. He would also be amazed at how close the United States has become to a totalitarian society.
  2. <a href='' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>SPC</a>

    Very intriguing, and if you have spent any time communicating with people who have "passed on", you will know that what you reported on above is not that far fetched. We are only now learning how to communicate beyond words and gestures, and what you are talking about will inevitably result. Can't wait, and only hope i am still alive as there are many i would like to talk with, beginning with FDR and Winston Churchill! Thanks for the ideas
  3. Michael Lusk

    From De Wael's "Misha: A Memoir of the Holocaust Years" to the Neo-cons account of 9/11 and Obama's claims about MH17, there is already endless media-packaged nonsense masquerading as history. Technologies designed to produce such nonsense and present it to consumers as if it were "factual" are already far too prevalent. Such stuff does "captivate" the punters. 9/11 was a blockbuster. Further automating the process is scarcely cause for enthusiasm. Google and the NSA already compete to see which one most closely resembles Orwell's Ministry of Truth. Nothing much of value is left of the once-beautiful U.S. Constitution. Can't wait for 2026 ...
    • Michael

      Like it or not, history is media/propaganda and always has been. From every first-hand account to every careful analysis that considers multiple angles to the "feed-the-consumer-what-we-think-they-want" conglomo-pic. We are stuck within our personal perception of reality and this colors our retelling of events, both consciously and unconsciously.
  4. <a href='' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>John Craig</a>

    I really liked your approach with the story, and you had me hooked in the first paragraph or two. I love the future. One issue of concern is the increasing use of media to alter history to suit conscious, or unconscious, biases and assumptions. In the past, a "historical" novel could serve as a form of propaganda that could alter the reader's perception of whatever the truth was. Today, there are movies that form the basis for what a lot of people think about historical events, whether those movies are close to the truth or are way off base, and whether accidental due to artistic license or on purpose due to purposeful propaganda. In the future, dialog with historical figures will more easily and intensely influence what people think of those figures or events. Perhaps alternative interpretations, or software models of, these historical figures and events could at least provide a way to jog the experiencer to think for themselves about the variability of the real truth. Or maybe there's other ways to work around the possibility of propaganda. Unfortunately, many people are eager to accept and buy into whatever they hear or see that supports their preconceived notions about the world. Much of our political processes work this way. Imagine how interviews with past presidents might be easily biased by the media creator. Will history be effectively and easily re-writable in a culture's collective memory? Overall, I love the concept of these virtual interviews. I just think it's extremely important to address the issue of just how much this technology could be abused, or accidentally misused.
    • FuturistSpeaker

      In response to John, Michael, Matthew and others, there is indeed an opportunity to abuse technology like this. Having lifelike famous people like Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, or Nelson Mandela appear in commercials selling everything from used cars to toilet paper is an obvious abuse of what it would be intended for. And you're right, some Hollywood filmmaker will undoubtedly try to use it to further some particular political agenda. My goal in writing this was to help further our thinking about the possibilities, both positive and negative. Being forewarned of possible abuses will help us manage against it. A first generation of this technology will likely be crude with canned responses to questions. Second generation technology will include artificial intelligence and will automatically stitch together information fragments from a persons life to reverse engineer a personality and interactive response mechanism. A possible third generation could get very interesting, using actual DNA fragments to recreate a personality. This would undoubtedly be the most accurate, giving us the basis to rewrite history the way it actually happened. Although even that would be based on the perception of those individuals, but you could see what was going through their heads at the time. Thanks for all your input. At bare minimum, it is a provocative new technology that so far we can only write about. Futurist Thomas Frey
  5. Bill Trowbridge

    IDEA: Planet Manager Another application of this "virtual conversation" technology would be planet managers. This would overcome aspects of the light-speed communication delay. Earth is about 8 light-minutes from the sun, and Mars is about 13 light-minutes out, resulting in Earth-Mars delays of roughly 5 to 21 minutes; far too long to have conversation. So I envision a system that continuously receives all streams of data from the planet, integrates it all, and presents it via a virtual presence. The same entity could simultaneously conduct such a "live" virtual conversation, as well as video-chats, voice-chats, text-chats, etc. It could also use slightly different personas (just as we do) taking into account the audience, whether it be the director of Mars communication, or a classroom of grade school students. This technology would be useful whether we have only a robot presence on a planet, or a full human colony. To me, it sounds like an idea that would deserve some research dollars. --- Joe: When does the radiation storm hit? MarsMan: In about 3 minutes Joe: Are you fully prepared? MarsMan: Almost. Three crew members remain working on a jammed radiation shield in farmbay 23. All other crew are in bunkers. All other shields are in place. Joe: Notify me of ongoing events. MarsMan: Radiation storm T minus 30 seconds. Work on jammed shield abandoned. Three crew members en route to bunker. MarsMan: T minus 10 seconds. All crew in bunkers. Bunkers sealed. MarsMan: T minus 1.4 seconds. Detected increasing radiation. MarsMan: 10 minutes into the storm. Radiation levels moderate. It appears that we've avoided the worst of it. MarsMan: 1.7 hours after storm began. Radiation levels receded. All crew safe and authorized to resume duties. MarMan: 2 hours after storm. Radiation shield in farmbay 23 replaced. Scheduled an inspection and cause analysis. Radiation sensors indicate we can expect a 43% reduction in crops in that farmbay. With that loss, our production remains at a healthy 126.3% of need. Joe: Thank you for reporting. Please email security tapes of the repair crew to Sandy. Email the radiation data to John and to Dr. Joe Schmoe at U. Whateva. Make a 30-second video of the repair story, and send it to the editors of News and Smooze site. Launch a new educational series about the farmbays, their necessity, and risks. MarsMan: Done.
  6. Matthew

    The title is certainly provocative. I was initially skeptical, but after reading think you picked a fine subject to illustrate your points. I assume, in apparent contradiction to what SPC implies, you are referring to a technology-based simulation of a person rather than a sophisticated connection to the afterlife complete with hologram. Assuming that this simulation isn't simply pre-scripted / programmed (which I'm not sure of in reviewing your last paragraph), the only scalable approach would imply that artificial intelligence was able to recreate a virtual Hitler (or anyone else for that matter) from historical records AND assuming the words used by the virtual likeness are not simply regurgitated from historical conversations and facts, it would mean that the AI technology was sophisticated enough to parse all the historical records, then empathize with a human being. Whether this is "effective" is largely moot at that point... the only effective point would be that humans are irrelevant. I think the only item for debate would be the accuracy of the "historical" records used to recreate a virtual likeness of a person (and whether AI systems would be sophisticated enough to detect historical inconsistencies). In any regard, without the AI component, I think such an encounter would be a bit shallow and Hitler would only seem as imposing if you stuck to a particular line of questions / reasoning... like the driving simulation that looks great until you start venturing into the boundaries of the virtual world.
  7. Gavin

    Maybe we will be able to view the past for real, that will be really interesting. Resurrection from time of death might be a reality, if you could bring people back from death should you, would you, would not bringing people back to life be wrong?
  8. Tony Ciolfi

    Suggested Fine Tuning: I agree we will one day be able to speak to notorious (and not so notable) holographic images about their lives and exploits, but in order for us to really understand what they tell us, we should also be able to hear what their contemporaries had to say, and how their history actually evolved. Then,by advancing your timeline just a little, say to 2027, we should also be able to walk the streets,listen and feel the everyday sounds and events of their epoch. Eventually we will be able to program all the key elements of a past situation/event in order to find alternate far-reaching outcomes which could be used in future situations. That would truly be mind-blowing. “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it: Edmund Burke”
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Tony, Thanks for adding this idea, it's brilliant. I'm not sure how we'd make something like that work, but by the time we get closer to that date, I'm sure it will all become clear. Futurist Thomas Frey
  9. Antonio D'Lallo

    I enjoyed reading the article and think that this technology is helpful for people to reflect on their perspective of the past, present and future. It reminded me of the HoloDeck on the starship Enterprise from the Star Trek series. After teaching social studies for 20 years, I think technology like this could be used to help students prepare for real-world problems. Also, the idea of preparing oneself ahead of time before meeting characters like Adolf Hitler enhances the learning process, and understanding of historical events.

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