Who said it better? This bot writes speeches based on election slogans

WATCH: Political strategists Anne McGrath for the NDP, Fred DeLorey for the Conservatives and Richard Mahoney for the Liberals join Mercedes Stephenson to discuss what their party leaders will be focusing on during the federal election campaign.

Canadians watching the federal election campaign over several days will likely notice one thing: everyone repeats themselves.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau wants voters to “choose forward.” Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says it’s “time for you to get ahead.” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says he’s the only party leader who’s in the race for “you.”

And they say it all the time. The federal leaders have spent the last month hammering their respective campaign messages in debates, public appearances and advertisements. Their slogans are so easy to recognize that even a robot could string together a semi-believable speech using them.

As chance would have it, such a robot already exists: named GPT-2, it’s on the cutting edge of artificial intelligence research into neural networks. GPT-2 was developed by OpenAI, a Silicon Valley-based tech company that used Reddit to teach an AI how to predict sentences based on a small sample of text. The company is among the leaders in its field, and it also just taught a computer to solve a Rubik’s cube.

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OpenAI announced last February that it would not be releasing a full version of GPT-2 to the public — out of concern that it might be used for “malicious” purposes — but the company has released scaled-down versions of the software that aren’t as smart as the full version.

“The model is chameleon-like,” OpenAI writes on its website. “It adapts to the style and content of the conditioning text. This allows the user to generate realistic and coherent continuations about a topic of their choosing.”

Canadian engineer Adam King used one of these scaled-down versions to create his own website called Talk to Transformer, where users can input bits of “conditioning” text in order to generate large paragraphs through GPT-2. The AI generates all-new text that can look like a news article, a novel, a poem or a movie script. It simply mimics the style it’s shown.

“Anything that you see will be fake,” King told Global News. “It won’t ever be an actual copy of a web page … Its job is to look at a piece of text and predict what comes next.”

He added that the GPT-2 network on his website is approximately half as smart as OpenAI’s full version, which has not been released. He says that full version could present some dangers, such as allowing bad actors to create fake internet comments or online reviews.

“The better this technology gets, the less you’ll be able to tell whether messages online are written by actual people,” he said.

For now, at least, the simplified version of GPT-2 can deliver passable yet slightly robotic passages of text.

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Global News used the various parties’ election slogans to generate some fairly competent — and sometimes hilarious — political speeches using King’s version of the software. We occasionally had to regenerate the text because it was garbled, or because it appeared to complete the sentence with a fake news article. The speeches below have not been edited in any way, except to add punctuation to the final line of the text.

These speeches are not real. No one has ever delivered them, and they do not exist anywhere else on the internet. An AI simply wrote them by stitching words together. So enjoy.

Conservative Party of Canada — “It’s time for you to get ahead.”

Here’s what the bot wrote:

It’s time for you to get ahead. The government’s spending is too high, and inflation is too low. And you’ve got to be fiscally responsible now, not tomorrow.

So my proposal would cut down on Washington’s overspending. It would cut the deficit by $1.5 trillion between now and 2020.

But the solution is not to cut spending, but to cut taxes. I’d close special-interest loopholes for CEOs and financial executives, to reduce the tax breaks their companies can take for making their executives richer.

The richest households and businesses shouldn’t be allowed to game the tax code, in order to avoid paying more in taxes.

In fact, we need to do a little more than that. We need to break up the largest banks on Wall Street, and the largest mortgage corporations in this country, and break them up.

This has to be my No. 1 priority. We need more transparency and more competition. The best place to start is the bankruptcy laws, which we’re changing.

Not bad, right? If you ignore the American elements, it sounds like a speech a fiscal conservative might deliver.

Liberal Party of Canada — “Choose forward.”

Here’s what the bot wrote:

Choose forward. The first time you do, you’ll be able to put the ball on your target with accuracy. If you try to dribble it into your opponent’s hands, you’ll hit your foot but the ball will go just as far as if you’d held it. When you try to make a pass, keep your front foot pointed forward and throw the ball with good force into your opponent’s legs. If your opponent doesn’t come close enough to hit you, back off your pass and let him shoot.

As for your opponent’s speed, be sure of this, too. He doesn’t get the ball back quickly as fast as you do. The best shot you can get is to keep close to your opponent because he’ll be too slow. When you catch him off guard, you should give him a blow with your fist as he tries to run away.

Don’t overshoot. Keep your aim down low to hit your target with all your might. Don’t aim for the legs, your chest, or other vital parts of your opponent’s body.

This is a speech that you might hear from a terrible basketball coach, not a politician. Yet somehow it all works together in a weird way.

Bloc Quebecois — “Quebec, it’s us” (translated from French).

Here’s what the bot wrote:

Quebec, it’s us. In the last 12 months alone, at least a half a dozen of the Quebecers I’ve worked with, myself included, have been out of work in the energy sector.

I’m going to make my first trip back home in August, and by August I’m going to be looking for employment in the energy sector.

I’m not going to take no for an answer. I’m not going to stand by when a government comes and throws the book at people.

I’m going to have my friends and colleagues there to tell me that this is not going to be an easy road. And we’re going to have to fight hard. And we’re going to have to show the people who are watching us in Ottawa that things are changing.

That I won’t have to walk this back to Ottawa to continue to hold these jobs.

I’ll be back soon. I’ll be back on Sept. 1. We want to do this. I feel very proud and very proud.

Perhaps it’s the word “Quebec” in the prompt, but this is a fairly believable speech for a politician in Quebec. The dates are wrong, but it certainly captures the “us vs. Ottawa” spirit of the party while touching on energy as an election issue.

Green Party of Canada — “Not left. Not right. Forward together.”

Here’s what the bot wrote:

Not left. Not right. Forward together. But when you ask me to walk you back, I am sure I must, to your needs, walk you down. To the end of the road. So many times I have stepped aside, and it is hard for me to stand here today. To ask you to trust me, but to walk me back. To make me worthy of your trust. I will make you worthy. Just once and for me. I can go and return to your sleep. But you must. Just one. Just one. So many of you will want to look to me for that which you do not understand. But I will tell you what it is to be loved. To be loved by someone. This is what I will do. If I are worthy, I will walk with you as you turn to walk with me. And so will you. But if I do not step forth with you. So must others. I do not know which comes first. But I know that it will make you stronger. And will lead to a better understanding. That I have a purpose. To be here.

The bot produced a lot of tiny sentences here that sort of make sense, in a rambling way. It reads more like a letter to a loved one than a political speech.

People’s Party of Canada — “Strong and free.”

Here’s what the bot wrote:

Strong and free. I’m going to work with you on those, and on that day, that is a victory for you that we will take out all the evil. But this is going to be a good day for you, my friend.

This is going to be, this is going to be a fight for you. You are going to fight, my friend, for the world you’ve always dreamed of as a child. We all have a choice about who will hold on to that kind of freedom.

Because when we stop trying, we can’t sustain this kind of freedom and justice for long.

Our children and our citizens will never forget the sacrifice of the men and women of this military. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten. There will be no second Vietnam or Vietnam War for a long time.

I’ve met with all kinds of different groups who are protesting today. They’re all upset because at some point they want us in their country. But we’re not going to have another Vietnam War, OK?

The bot appears to have turned the PPC slogan into a pump-up speech that veers into a discussion of the Vietnam War.

New Democratic Party — “In it for you.”

Here’s what the bot wrote:

In it for you. If someone is trying to take from you, then show him how much you love him before you do the taking. As soon as you make a decision to do something, don’t hesitate to say: “This isn’t about me anymore. I’m going to do this for you, because I love you.”

So, this article is about how to give. Because if you can give, then someone else will have a reason not to take from you. It’s not going to be easy to be giving. No single gift is going to give what you value. You just have to show yourself willing. As you take life by the hand, you will learn that this gift that comes with it might go right to the heart of each and every recipient.

In a recent chat I had with an acquaintance, she asked me about taking what she really loves in life. I replied with an open question: what I love in life is … being a good person. If this is what I love in life, then what’s the reason for you to take from me?

This speech doesn’t sound strange if you imagine it coming from Jagmeet Singh. He’s faced prejudice and racism on the campaign trail, and he’s responded by reaching out to people in a compassionate way.

It also raises a bigger question: Did an AI just write a moving speech about love?

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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