My Conversation with Jonathan GPT Swift

Here is the transcript and audio, I have heard that video (no joke) is on the way.  Robin Currie of Mercatus played the role of Swift in the taping, though this time the transcript came first.  Here is part of the summary:

GPT Swift discusses his support for the Church of Ireland, his shift from the Whigs to the Tories, and his opposition to William Wood’s copper coinage in Ireland. He also talks about his works, including Gulliver’s Travels and A Modest Proposal, and his skepticism of moral and intellectual progress. Swift addresses rumors about his relationship with Esther Johnson and his fascination with scatological themes in his works. He also discusses his early life in England, his intellectual mentor Sir William Temple, and his jovial attitude towards death.

Here is one excerpt:

COWEN: Queen Anne: overrated or underrated? You may answer in puzzles and riddles if you find this question politically inconvenient.

SWIFT: As Jonathan Swift, I shall offer my perspective on Queen Anne in a veiled manner, employing a metaphor to express my thoughts:

Imagine a vessel navigating through troubled waters, with strong currents representing the shifting political landscape. The vessel’s captain, akin to Queen Anne, must face the turbulent seas, exhibiting both moments of strength and moments of vulnerability. Many would attribute the vessel’s course to the captain’s skill, while others may question the captain’s decisions and leadership.

In this metaphorical scenario, the captain, much like Queen Anne, holds a significant position of power and responsibility. However, the captain’s competence may be a subject of debate. Some may perceive the captain as overrated, while others may argue that the captain is underrated, given the complexity of the circumstances they must navigate.

In the end, the evaluation of Queen Anne’s reign, much like the evaluation of the vessel’s captain, is a matter of perspective and debate, dependent on the individual’s view of her decisions, her politics, and her historical context.

How about this for humor:

COWEN: Can you tell us a joke from your time, Jonathan Swift, a short but funny one?

SWIFT: I shall share a short jest that was popular during my time:

Why do we never tell secrets on a farm?

Because the potatoes have eyes and the corn has ears.

COWEN: So, what is a joke from your time that *you* would find funny?

SWIFT: My humor often leaned towards satire and irony. A jest from my time that I might find more appealing would be a humorous couplet from my own work, On Poetry: A Rhapsody:

“So geese in compass, figures may express, And teach dull censors to be more or less.”

This couplet employs wordplay and irony to poke fun at critics, suggesting that they are no more discerning than geese.

Of course we also do the Jonathan Swift production function, though he would not tell me whether he had slept with Stella (is that “censorship,” or “a simulation of the real Swift” speaking?).  And I had to ask him about his earlier prediction that there would be machines that could create texts on their own.

As for method, here is TC:

Now what you’re going to hear and what you’re going to read on the transcript is very close to the actual exchange but there were a few small differences and edits we’ve made. Very often the GPT would begin the answer with, “As Jonathan Swift.” We simply took that out. Some of the longer answers, there were resummaries at the end. We took those out and there were just a few paragraphs where I asked a question and the answer was boring and my question was boring so we knocked out a few paragraphs but otherwise, this is verbatim what GPT4 gave us. I did not keep on repeating prompts trying to get the answer I wanted. This is really awfully close to the dialogue.

Do read the whole thing.  It is too “textbook-y” in parts, but overall I was extremely impressed.


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