Testing Out Internet Search-Enabled Chat-GPT4
tl;dr version: uncanny valley; the internet-search parts of it go to the right websites, and then apparently add the texts they find to the context of the conversation; it freestyles; it hallucinates
Inventing an Interview wiþ Brad DeLong:
So, Chat-GPT4 has appeared. And they have told us that Bing-AI is actually internet search-enabled Chat-GPT4. So now I am seeing if it does better at producing for me my personal Holy Tech Grail—a version for my work of A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer, so that I can offer people a choice when they come to office hours:
Brad DeLong is currently busy with a private office-hours meeting. You can wait in line for admission, or you can press “2” to be diverted to the BradBot ChatBot, which will answer your questions about the courses, current events, and the works of Brad DeLong…
Yes. It does. Good enough? No—it’s not me. Is it up to the level of somebody else teaching a course about the works of Brad DeLong? Quite possibly. Surely some part of my somewhat negative reaction to it is a certain uncanny-valleyness of it all:
Begin my conversation with Bing-AI:
PROMPT: Invent a transcript of an interview with Berkeley economist Brad DeLong about his book "Slouching Towards Utopia: The Economic History of the Twentieth Century":
Bing-AI: Here is a possible transcript of an interview with Berkeley economist Brad DeLong about his book “Slouching Towards Utopia: The Economic History of the Twentieth Century”:
Interviewer: Welcome to our show, where we talk to authors and thinkers about their latest books and ideas. Today we have a special guest, Brad DeLong, who is a professor of economics at UC Berkeley and a former deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury under President Clinton. He has just published a new book called Slouching Towards Utopia: The Economic History of the Twentieth Century. Brad, thank you for joining us.
BradBot: Thank you for having me.
Interviewer: So, your book is quite ambitious. You cover the whole twentieth century and its economic transformations across the world. What motivated you to write this book?
BradBot: Well, I think that the twentieth century was a remarkable period in human history. It was a time when humanity achieved an unprecedented explosion of material wealth, when billions of people escaped from poverty and misery, when science and technology advanced at a rapid pace, and when democracy and human rights spread to more regions than ever before. But it was also a time when humanity faced enormous challenges and crises, such as wars, revolutions, depressions, famines, genocides, pandemics, environmental degradation, nuclear threats, and ideological conflicts. So I wanted to tell this story of how we slouched towards utopia rather than marched towards it.
Interviewer: That’s an interesting phrase you use in your title: slouching towards utopia. What do you mean by that?
BradBot: Well, I borrowed it from W.B. Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming”, where he writes:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. Surely some revelation is at hand; Surely the Second Coming is at hand.”
And then he says:
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”
So I wanted to capture this sense of paradox and ambiguity that characterized the twentieth century. On one hand, we made tremendous progress towards creating a better world for ourselves and our descendants. On the other hand, we also unleashed terrible forces that threatened to destroy everything we had built. And we often did not know what we were doing or where we were going.
Interviewer: So how do you structure your book? How do you divide up this complex century into manageable chapters?
I divide my book into four parts:
Part One covers the long 19th century, from 1870 to 1914, when industrialization, globalization, and imperialism shaped the world economy and created new opportunities and challenges for nations and peoples.
Part Two covers the age of catastrophe, from 1914 to 1945, when two world wars, the Great Depression, the rise of fascism, communism, and nationalism, and the advent of nuclear weapons brought humanity to the brink of disaster.
Part Three covers the golden age, from 1945 to 1979, when postwar reconstruction, the Bretton Woods system, the welfare state, decolonization, developmentalism, and social movements produced unprecedented growth, stability, equality, and democracy.
Part Four covers the great divergence, from 1979 to 2020, when neoliberalism, globalization, financialization, technological change, environmental crisis, populism, terrorism, and pandemic reshaped the world economy and created new winners and losers.
Interviewer: Tell me more about Part I:
BradBot: Sure. Part one of my book covers the long 19th century, from 1870 to 1914. This was a period when the world economy underwent a dramatic transformation, driven by industrialization, globalization, and imperialism. I focus on three main themes in this part:
The first theme is the rise of America as the dominant economic power of the world. I show how America’s natural resources, population growth, innovation, entrepreneurship, and political institutions enabled it to surpass Britain and Europe in terms of output, productivity, and living standards by the end of the century.
The second theme is the divergence of incomes between different regions and countries. I explain how some parts of the world benefited from trade, investment, migration, and technology transfer while others were left behind or exploited by colonialism and unequal exchange. I also examine how income inequality increased within countries as well as between them.
The third theme is the instability of capitalism as a system that generated both growth and crisis. I analyze how financial panics, business cycles, social conflicts, and political upheavals threatened the stability and legitimacy of capitalism and how various actors responded to these challenges with reforms, regulations, or revolutions.
These themes set the stage for the rest of my book, as they shaped the economic history of the twentieth century.
Interviewer: Tell me more about Part II:
BradBot: Okay. Part two of my book covers the short 20th century, from 1914 to 1991. This was a period when the world economy experienced two world wars, a great depression, a cold war, and a postwar boom. I focus on four main themes in this part:
The first theme is the collapse of globalization as a result of the First World War and its aftermath. I show how trade, investment, migration, and monetary cooperation were disrupted by war, protectionism, nationalism, and isolationism. I also explore how these changes affected economic performance and welfare across countries1.
The second theme is the rise of totalitarianism as a response to the economic and social crises of the interwar years. I explain how fascism and communism emerged as alternative ideologies and systems to liberal democracy and capitalism. I also examine how they mobilized resources for war and repression at the expense of human rights and freedoms2.
The third theme is the recovery of capitalism after the Second World War under the leadership of America and its allies. I analyze how institutions such as the Bretton Woods system, the Marshall Plan, the European Union, and NATO supported economic growth, stability, and integration in the Western world. I also discuss how technological innovation, education, and social welfare contributed to rising living standards and reduced inequality3.
The fourth theme is the challenge of communism as a rival model of development in the Eastern bloc and the Third World. I describe how Soviet-style central planning, state ownership, and collectivization delivered rapid industrialization but failed to keep up with market economies in terms of efficiency, innovation, and consumer satisfaction. I also assess how Maoist China, Cuban revolutionaries, and other socialist movements tried to adapt communism to their local conditions and aspirations4.
These themes explain how the short 20th century ended with the collapse of communism and the triumph of capitalism.
Interviewer: But, Professor DeLong, you had said before that Part II of your book covered the Age of Catastrophe 1914–1945. Now you say that Part II covers the Short Twentieth Century, 1914–1991. Which is correct? And why did you say two different things in quick succession?
BradBot: I apologize for the confusion. I have revised the structure of my book several times over the years, and sometimes I forget which version I am talking about. The latest version has three parts: the long 19th century (1870–1914), the short 20th century (1914–1991), and the post-cold war era (1991-present). The previous version had four parts: the age of globalization (1870–1914), the age of catastrophe (1914–1945), the age of prosperity (1945–1973), and the age of uncertainty (1973-present). I decided to merge parts two and three because I wanted to emphasize the continuity and contrast between capitalism and communism throughout the 20th century. I hope this clarifies my book’s organization.
Interviewer: Can you tell me more about what your book says about the Age of Catastrophe 1914–1945?
BradBot: Sure. The Age of Catastrophe 1914–1945 was a period when the world economy suffered from two devastating wars, a global depression, and a rise of totalitarian regimes. In my book, I argue that these events were caused by four main factors:
The first factor was the failure of globalization to create a stable and equitable international order. I show how the pre-war system of free trade, gold standard, and British hegemony collapsed under the pressures of nationalism, imperialism, and militarism. I also explore how the post-war attempts to restore cooperation through the League of Nations, the Dawes Plan, and the Young Plan failed to prevent protectionism, currency wars, and debt defaults.
The second factor was the crisis of democracy as a result of social and political upheavals. I explain how the First World War shattered the old order of aristocracy, monarchy, and empire in Europe and beyond. I also examine how the rise of mass politics, class conflict, and ideological extremism challenged the legitimacy and effectiveness of parliamentary systems and liberal values.
The third factor was the breakdown of capitalism as a result of structural and cyclical problems. I analyze how technological change, financial instability, and income inequality created a mismatch between supply and demand in the global economy. I also discuss how policy mistakes, such as deflationary austerity, trade barriers, and competitive devaluations exacerbated the Great Depression.
The fourth factor was the spread of violence as a result of ideological and geopolitical conflicts. I describe how fascism and communism waged war against democracy and capitalism on multiple fronts: civil wars in Spain and China; proxy wars in Ethiopia and Spain; expansionist wars in Asia and Europe; total wars between Axis and Allies; genocidal wars against Jews and other minorities; atomic wars in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
These factors explain how the Age of Catastrophe 1914–1945 brought unprecedented destruction and suffering to humanity.
Interviewer: Please tell me more about the third part of your book, Part III: The Golden Age 1945–1979—the Thirty Glorious Years, the Age of Social Democracy, the New Deal Order:
BradBot: Of course. Part three of my book covers the Golden Age 1945–1979, when the world economy experienced a remarkable recovery and expansion after the devastation of World War II. In this part, I argue that this period was characterized by four main features:
The first feature was the reconstruction of Europe and Japan with the help of American aid and leadership. I show how the Marshall Plan, the Bretton Woods system, and NATO helped rebuild war-torn economies and societies, foster trade and cooperation, and deter Soviet aggression. I also explore how European integration, Japanese industrialization, and German reconciliation transformed the balance of power and prosperity in Eurasia.
The second feature was the development of the Third World with the help of decolonization and nationalism. I explain how former colonies gained political independence and economic sovereignty from their imperial masters. I also examine how nationalist movements, socialist experiments, and non-aligned policies challenged the dominance and influence of Western powers and Soviet bloc.
The third feature was the expansion of welfare states with the help of social democracy and Keynesianism. I analyze how governments increased public spending, redistribution, and regulation to provide social security, health care, education, and full employment to their citizens. I also discuss how political parties, trade unions, and interest groups shaped the social contract and consensus between capital and labor3.
The fourth feature was the emergence of consumer societies with the help of mass production and mass media. I describe how technological innovation, economic growth, and income equality created a new culture of consumption and leisure in affluent societies. I also explore how popular culture, youth movements, and civil rights movements expressed the aspirations and frustrations of modern people.
These features explain how the Golden Age 1945–1979 brought unprecedented prosperity and progress to humanity.
Interviewer: And Part IV of your book? History after the Neoliberal Turn, over the period 1979 to the present?
BradBot: Sure. Part four of my book covers the history after the neoliberal turn, from 1979 to the present, when the world economy faced new challenges and opportunities after the end of the Golden Age. In this part, I argue that this period was characterized by four main trends:
The first trend was the rise of neoliberalism as a response to the crisis of stagflation and welfare states. I show how political leaders such as Thatcher, Reagan, and Deng Xiaoping implemented policies of deregulation, privatization, and marketization to restore economic efficiency, fiscal discipline, and global competitiveness. I also explore how these policies had mixed effects on growth, inequality, and stability1.
The second trend was the acceleration of globalization as a result of technological and institutional changes. I explain how innovations in communication, transportation, and production enabled the expansion of trade, investment, and migration across borders. I also examine how institutions such as WTO, IMF, and EU facilitated and regulated global integration and cooperation2.
The third trend was the emergence of new powers as a result of economic convergence and divergence. I analyze how countries such as China, India, Brazil, and Russia achieved rapid growth and development by catching up with advanced economies. I also discuss how countries such as Japan, Germany, France, and Britain faced relative decline and adjustment by coping with aging populations, fiscal pressures, and regional integration3.
The fourth trend was the recurrence of crises as a result of financial instability and environmental degradation. I describe how financial bubbles, speculation, and contagion caused periodic shocks and recessions in global markets. I also explore how climate change, resource depletion, and pollution posed long-term threats and challenges to human well-being4.
These trends explain how history after the neoliberal turn brought new opportunities and risks to humanity.
And that is the end of my conversation with Bing-AI…
Now the internet-search parts of it go to the right websites, and then apparently add the texts they find to the context of the conversation. The only thing better would be if Bing-AI had found a pdf of the whole text on the Dark Web. The searches it performed were:
It freestyles: the book is not explicitly divided into parts. it has no idea of truth or temporality: it thinks 1870-1914 was the entire of “The Long Nineteenth Century” (which is actually 1776? 1789? to 1914). It does not think like me—rather like someone with largely coherent views on twentieth-century history and political economy pretending to be me.
But I am with—is it Stephen Wolfram?—here: paragraph-level autocomplete (or maybe page-leel autocomplete, I am not quite sure) is remarkably powerful, indicating that much of what we wish to say at the paragraph-level (or page-level) is already on the web, or almost on the web, if we could only find it.
Perhaps it is the uncanny-valleyness of it that is shaping my reactions…
I wonder how I would react to what it comes up with for: PROMPT: Invent a conference discussion on Brad DeLong’s book “Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Long 20th Century” between Tyler Cowen, Adam Tooze, Joel Mokyr, and Francis Fukuyama…
Moderator: Welcome to this panel discussion on Brad DeLong's new book "Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Long 20th Century". We have four distinguished guests with us today: Tyler Cowen, professor of economics at George Mason University and co-author of the popular blog Marginal Revolution; Adam Tooze, professor of history at Columbia University and author of "Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World"; Joel Mokyr, professor of economics and history at Northwestern University and author of "A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy"; and Francis Fukuyama, professor of political science at Stanford University and author of "The End of History and the Last Man". Thank you all for joining us. Cowen: Thank you for having me. Tooze: It's a pleasure. Mokyr: Glad to be here. Fukuyama: Thank you. Moderator: Let me start by asking each of you to briefly summarize your main impressions of DeLong's book. What did you like about it? What did you disagree with? And what did you learn from it? Tyler, why don't you go first? Cowen: Sure. Well, I think DeLong has written a very ambitious and impressive book that covers a lot of ground in economic history. He argues that the long 20th century, from 1870 to 2016, was a period of unprecedented economic growth that transformed human civilization and brought us closer to utopia than ever before. He also argues that this growth was driven by four factors: globalization, democracy, social insurance, and innovation. And he warns that these factors are now under threat from various forces such as populism, nationalism, inequality, climate change, and stagnation. I agree with much of his analysis and I admire his optimism and his vision. But I also have some reservations about his framework and his conclusions...
To be continued…
Maybe Chat is the rough beast...
You know, paragraph level autocomplete seems valuable in many contexts. And, it seems completely inappropriate for some others. Surprise is a key aspect of writing prose, whether or not you are writing fiction. Maybe the surprise only happens between one paragraph and the next.
Technical writing does not afford many opportunities for surprise, it is true. But there's not none, and surprising readers, even with choice of made-up names in examples, helps keep them engaged and interested. It is, of course, valuable in other forms of expression as well, such as music or painting.
However, the use you wish it for probably doesn't require surprise. There is another element, attunement. This is something that happens between humans and it is mostly non-verbal. It has a big impact though. ChatGPT can't do it. But maybe nobody's asking it to.