Bots Before Bots
And With Feeling
Is there no precedent for the GPT-4 chatbot’s miraculous flair for churning out painful verse?
Of course there is. The poet first became known to a broad public in 1883, in Great Britain, and in the U.S. early the next year. Her name was Emmeline Granderford.
Here is Granderford’s relative, the boy Buck, remembering how, when she lived, she could fly:
“Buck said she could rattle off poetry like nothing. She didn’t ever have to stop to think. He said she would slap down a line, and if she couldn’t find anything to rhyme with it would just scratch it out and slap down another one, and go ahead. She warn’t particular; she could write about anything you choose to give her to write about just so it was sadful.”
That was her one limitation, compared to GPT-4, which will write any kind of verse, it doesn’t care. To inspire Granderford’s verse, the occasion had to be grievous. Generally, she memorialized someone who had freshly passed away. For instance:
ODE TO STEPHEN DOWLING BOTS, DEC’D
And did young Stephen sicken,
And did young Stephen die?
And did the sad hearts thicken,
And did the mourners cry?
No; such was not the fate of
Young Stephen Dowling Bots;
Though sad hearts round him thickened,
‘Twas not from sickness’ shots.
No whooping-cough did rack his frame,
Nor measles drear with spots;
Not these impaired the sacred name
Of Stephen Dowling Bots.
O no. Then list with tearful eye,
Whilst I his fate do tell.
His soul did from this cold world fly
By falling down a well.
They got him out and emptied him;
Alas it was to late;
His spirit was gone for to sport aloft
In the realms of the good and great.
As you see, Granderford not only had a bot’s facility. She wrote about Bots, very early on.