My Dinner with Leonardo DaVinci – Living Forever in the Metaverse
The Metaverse not only gives us the opportunity to explore new places and move across a metaverse landscape, but it will also allow us to move about in metaverse history to experience life in the past and interact with historical figures.
In 2014 I wrote a column about a conversation I envisioned having in 2026 with Adolph Hitler. The setting was a rather nondescript room in a library. It was essentially an AI-powered hologram experience, but I’ve had several conversations lately about how the Metaverse could make it possible for us to take this kind of encounter to a new level – not with holograms but within the metaverse. More on that in a bit, but first let’s see how the hologram-powered experience has actually come to fruition.
Preserving Us with AI
The USC Shoah Foundation has used video databases augmented with AI hologram technology to preserve the memories of holocaust survivors. They’ve compiled a visual historical archive so we and other physical people in future generations can have conversations with these remarkable people through their avatars. The avatar communicates based on a massive database of answers their human subject recorded on video. 60 Minutes did a remarkable story on this project two years ago.
This technology is now a growing business. Famous and average people can record their legacies in this way for all of posterity. After all, each one of us is proud of our stories and accomplishments. We’d like to think these accounts won’t die when we do or with the next generation after us.
No doubt our great-great-grandchildren will be amused if they stumble across our avatar. If you’re a historical figure or a pioneer in your field, your avatar might seem a little more interesting to high school seniors decades from now as they download you to pick your brain.
But this pre-recorded approach to legacy conversations is just the tip of the iceberg.
Meeting in the Metaverse
Based on my future experience in talking to Adolph Hitler, I know I never want to run across him again – in the metaverse or anywhere else. But I’d love to talk with Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, and … of course Leonardo DaVinci – the namesake of our organization and an inspiration for futurists for many centuries.
Obviously, it’s too late for historical figures like DaVinci to record 30-40 hours of commentary like those holocaust survivors did for the USC Shoah project. But that doesn’t mean we don’t know a lot about them based on recorded speeches, their own writings, the accounts of others, photographs, and more … depending on their era.
Supercomputers can scour all known sources to pull this information together. AI will recreate the person – their body, their opinions, and their memories – to place an avatar in the metaverse that looks, thinks, and speaks like their former human persona. It will also have their knowledge base – if there are gaps in this database of knowledge, AI will objectively fill them in, based on personality programming. In fact, the avatar can be programmed with additional information so it can talk about nearly any matter outside of its original sphere of knowledge and historic era.
Place this metaverse-derived avatar into the desired metaverse location in the chosen meta-time frame and you have the opportunity to visit with the best and brightest people of every era. These encounters will be pricey, and it will be important to remember that, just like my encounter with Hitler, you may not always be able to control the vibe and flow of the conversation. But that’s what makes it virtually real!
And that leads to my dinner with Leonardo DaVinci in 2032.
My Dinner with DaVinci
Given a range of time and place options, I have chosen to have this encounter circa 1510 in a private dining room setting – quiet, with no distraction except for discrete table service. I planned a simple menu. Based on what I knew of Leonardo’s preferences, we first enjoyed a soup appetizer with bread. I had suspected he might be a vegetarian, so I had instructed my virtual meal planner to prepare a casserole of potatoes and other vegetables, crisp and not overcooked. During dinner, he confided that, in fact, his secret indulgence was a small piece of veal-cooked medium. We had fresh fruit for dessert. A bottle of wine was tableside along with a jug of water, and he helped himself to a bit of both – at the same time in the same goblet as he tended to do.
We met for more than three hours. Leonardo ate very slowly – he claimed it helped with digestion. Early on I was able to talk with him about the inspiration for his work and how he was able to think beyond the bounds of that day’s “common knowledge.” Because of his programming, he was already well aware of how his inventions and famous sketches had been incorporated and improved over time. There wasn’t much I could enlighten him on in that regard.
Between courses, we took slow walks around the grounds, again, for digestive reasons as Leonardo insisted. His human being outlived many of his peers to the ripe age of 68 so I guess he may have been on to something.
The most stimulating part of the evening was comparing notes on the future – not his but ours. He was most interested in my thoughts on the future evolution of spacecraft, space travel, and colonization of the moon and beyond. He proposed outside-the-box ideas and posed mind-boggling questions in the same way he did with his peers more than 500 years before.
My avatar had to keep reminding itself that Leonardo’s avatar was a recent creation, fed with all possible current information. Still, it was jarring to see this man in 16th Century clothing, with grooming to match, talking casually about low-earth orbit satellites and asteroid mining. I could have requested his avatar wear a cardigan sweater or a three-piece suit, but that would have significantly detracted from the experience – one that I had paid handsomely for with ETH cyber currency.
Near the end of our session, I received a polite reminder in my headset that the visit would be ending in five minutes. Would I like to authorize the transfer of more funds for an additional 30 minutes? I was tempted but my avatar was exhausted, overloaded even, so we said our farewells and I offered to host him the next year in a 2033 setting (his avatar was quite booked as you can imagine). I was pleased that he agreed. He promised to dress appropriately, and I promised to have available the best cut of virtual veal that I could arrange.
And What About Us?
As noted above, the technology that will make this meta-visit with Leonardo DaVinci a reality ultimately will be available to the average person. Information about us, based on every online interaction we’ve had in and outside the metaverse, will be combined with interview information we choose to share based on advanced methodologies inspired by the Shoah Foundation work. Our avatar will be available to whomever we designate prior to our passing – for family only for example, or we might choose to put it/us out there for anyone to visit with.
In so many ways, the metaverse will not only allow us to travel to far distant places, or backwards or forward in time, but it will also be a place where no one ever has to die.