Steven Spielberg on Storytelling’s Power to Fight Hate

LOS ANGELES — “Pinchas, how old are you?” Steven Spielberg asked the wall screen, a life-size video image of an elderly man in a cardigan, who blinked and answered without missing a beat.

“I was born in 1932, so you can make your own arithmetic,” responded Pinchas, in a Polish accent.

“He asked me to do the math!” Mr. Spielberg laughed. “How did you survive when so many did not?”

“How did I survive?” the screen responded. “I survived, I believe, because provenance watched over me.”

The chat went on for five minutes, and while the artificial intelligence looked eerily reminiscent of Mr. Spielberg’s earlier films, the goal wasn’t entertainment — it was education. On the sound-sensitive screen was an interactive biography of Pinchas Gutter, a Polish Holocaust survivor and part of a tour the director was leading through the redesigned headquarters for the U.S.C. Shoah Foundation, the organization he founded in 1994 to collect testimony from Holocaust survivors. Now Mr. Spielberg has expanded the foundation’s footprint on the University of Southern California campus, along with its mission and public focus: to fight hate, which he says has become commonplace globally.

“The presence of hate has become taken for granted,” Mr. Spielberg said. “We are not doing enough to counter it.”

The prerecorded video conversation is part of a series using playback technology that invites visitors to converse with 16 survivors of genocide, based on specific word patterns and more than 2,000 questions that vary from views on God to personal history. Earlier this month, the testimony of Pinchas was

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