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Revising Poetry with GPT-4

I love Scott Alexander's ideas, and I love his writing. One thing I don't love is his poems, which I typically find to be excellent meditations on important themes that would be great fun if he only paid a bit of attention to how they sound out loud. Fortunately, I now have history's most versatile doggerel producer at my disposal. Let's see how GPT-4 responds to the challenge of improving verse - namely, verse about Sam Altman, Eliezer Yudkowsky, and superintelligence x-risk.

First, here's the original version from the latest ACX post:

One rainy evening at a bar, Eliezer told Sam Altman

"AI could be the end of us, your research has to halt, man

We can't maintain control; alignment isn't the default, man

So just in case, slow down your pace," Eliezer told Sam Altman

"Slow down yourself, it's not so bad," said Sam to Eliezer

"We'll dial the caution up when there's a danger we can measure

And once we've got a lead, we'll solve alignment at our leisure

Then even odds, we'll be as gods," said Sam to Eliezer

With downcast eyes and heavy heart, Eliezer left Sam Altman

Some years go by, and AGI progresses to assault man

Atop a pile of paper clips he screams "It's not my fault, man!"

But Eliezer's long since dead, and cannot hear Sam Altman.

I'll accept the repetitive rhyme scheme, but "progresses to assault man"? Come on, man! Emphasis! Anyway, here's mine after a short session with GPT-4:

Some years ago, one rainy eve, Eliezer said to Sam

"AI could end us all, you know! Our fate is yours to damn

You can't maintain control. You'll be the butcher to our lamb

Shut down the race and slow your pace," Eliezer begged of Sam.

"Slow down yourself, it's not so dire," said Sam to Eliezer

"We'll raise our caution when we find a risk that we can measure

Once we've got the lead, we'll solve alignment at our leisure

Then even odds, we'll be as gods," Sam countered Eliezer.

Heart heavy, Eliezer left. The years flew swiftly by

AIs waged war, the humans lost, and with a final sigh

Sam on his mound of paper clips protested "I did try..."

But Eliezer was long dead, and could not hear Sam's cry.

I hope you'll agree it reads better and more consistently, though I make no claims about its relative artistic merit. More importantly, how good is GPT-4 at playing co-editor? Let's examine the transcript, presented as a sequence of screenshots (which add up to the full interaction). First, an open-ended request:

Nice variation and better metric alignment, but the last stanza got much worse. Let's see if we can give GPT-4 the right idea.

Better-ish, but still not great. What if we could teach by example instead?

Can't write so great, but it does play professor! Now, let's see if our artificial friend has learned anything.

I still don't agree with "pleasure" over "leisure," and "damned" and "plan" only half-rhyme, but at the very least we've achieved several alternative phrasings for Eliezer's warning. However, "Eliezer" is a hard word to fit in the middle of a line. And I haven't actually told GPT-4 how to pronounce it yet, so maybe let's fix that...

Qualified success! "Tamed" and "game" is also a better rhyme attempt than "damned" and "plan," although now we're looking at an ABBA scheme instead of AAAA in the first stanza.

I could continue playing conversational tennis indefinitely, but I suspect we've reached the limit of GPT-4's creative impulses in whatever default RLHF persona it's inhabiting. Time to finish up with a bit more explicit guidance. I'm having trouble coming up with good alternatives at the end of the first stanza. Maybe GPT-4 can help with that?

Not really. Fine then, we already know GPT-4 makes an excellent critic, so let's pin down a final version and ask for feedback!

Aww, thanks, GPT-4! You sure know how to flatter the editor.

Looking at the full transcript, I would declare this experiment a partial success. GPT-4 is great at coming up with alternatives and following simple instructions, but a bit less proficient at integrating mood and imagery or achieving a sense of flow. We'll have to wait for GPT-5 to declare poets and novelists obsolete.

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