How to get someone who’s been dead 278 years to speak to you.

We were gobsmacked by Jonathan Swift speaking in a podcast interview yesterday.

That’s the Anglo-Irish satirist we’re talking about, the 1667-1745 Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels.

Thanks to ChatGPT he comes alive, speaking about satire, religion, politics, economics and literature.

With that he’s no less than a charmer. And you learn an amazing amount. 

Take a moment to see for yourself, here’s a link to the podcast, Conversations With Tyler.

Click on the “Jonathan GPT Swift on Jonathan Swift” episode.

The interview is conducted by Tyler Cowen, a polymath and professor at George Mason University who has hosted something like 175 deep thinkers with engaging rapid-fire questions.

Cowen’s guests range from Barak Obama, Sam Harris and Ken Burns to Margaret Atwood, Malcolm Gladwell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Kwame Anthony Appiah, a philosopher at NYU and Karl Ove Knausgård, a literary sensation from Norway.

We should add: with guests like Katherine Rundell, Emily Wilson, Amia Srinivasan and Lydia Davis, Tyler Cowen feels his interviews with women are among the best.

To keep you on your toes, new episodes appear every other Wednesday.

Here’s how the Jonathan Swift podcast was put together.

Tyler Cowen rapid-fires questions and the responses are printed out by ChatGPT to be read by someone who may well be an actor.

Questions and answers are then combined to create a polished interview.

The result is machine learning that starts with a moral seriousness then progresses with wit, charm and sudden outbursts of humor – Jonathan Swift comes across as sharp, resourceful, charismatic and above all, current. 

If only learning at school could have been as riveting.

Applied to advertising, agencies and their clients could benefit if the right questions were aimed at the ChatGPT personas of long-gone greats like Bill Bernbach, Howard Gossage and David Ogilvy.

That way some of the best minds in advertising could ensure we’re not dead when it comes to ideas.

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