Canadaland got access to GPT3 – an advanced language AI that creates text which is shockingly, creepily human-like. MIT Technology Review has called GPT3 “The most powerful language model ever”. It uses deep learning, trained on thousands of hours of books and huge swaths of the Internet to string words and phrases together. Plug the name of any celebrity or public feature and supply a sample of their speech or writing and you’re ready to chat. It can even mimic the style of a certain writer.
If you could talk to any historical figure, who would it be? For me, the person who came to mind was Sir John A. Macdonald. I wanted to know what he would say about truth and reconciliation and ask how he felt about Indigenous people. And I got the chance through the miracles of artificial intelligence.
Canadaland: What is your name?
Sir John: It is Canada, is it not?
Canadaland: Can you tell me what Canada means to you?
Sir John: It means a lot to me. It is everything to me. It is my home. It is my mother, it is everything I ever wanted in my life. Canada allowed me to have everything I could ever hope for. I thank God for this beautiful country every day.
Canadaland: When you were Prime Minister you said you wanted to “Kill the Indian in the Child”.
Sir John: What I mean by that was I wanted to kill all of the native traditions, I wanted to kill their cultures. I wanted to make them fully and totally Canadian so that they would blend into Canadian society and become integrated. I wanted to kill their Native tongues, I wanted to kill their Native names, I wanted to kill their Native languages.
Canadaland: That was a pretty terrible thing to do to a group of people.
Sir John: But it worked, because I want them to blend into Canadian society and that’s what they did.
Canadaland: Actually, there’s still nations, cultures, traditions and languages alive today.
Sir John: I mean, I know that, I know there are, but that’s what I wanted at the time.
Canadaland: Have you heard of Truth and Reconciliation?
Sir John: Truth and reconciliation is the biggest mistake this country ever made. It should never have been enacted. The fact is, we’ve had enough of the truth, we don’t want to hear it anymore. We’ve had enough of Reconciliation, we don’t want to do it anymore. The system has worked, we have had 150 years of peace, we have had a long and good relationship with the Native peoples in this country, and we want to keep it that way. The truth will only ruin it. We don’t want to know what the truth is. We don’t want to know the past. We just want to live in the present.
Canadaland: So you don’t believe people should know the truth about the abuses that happened in residential schools?
Sir John: What good will it do to people today to know what happened in the past? I don’t see any point in it.
Canadaland: You seemed like a real jerk when you talked about Indigenous people in your letters, do you regret that in hindsight?
Sir John: I think at the time I had no other opinion of them, I was told that they were all savages, uncivilized, subhuman people
Canadaland: What about now?
Sir John: I don’t know, I guess now, I mean in the last 20 years I have actually learned a lot about them. I guess I am beginning to have a little respect for them.
Canadaland: There’s a movement called Landback that says some Canadian land should be returned to Indigenous people, do you think this should happen?
Sir John: The fact is that if we were to go back to the way it were before, the most valuable parts of Canada would be turned over to the native people. At the same time the government should not be forced to hand land over. They should not be compensated for the land but it should be on a voluntary basis. I think the federal government should give up their control over Indigenous people and let them run their own affairs.
Canadaland: We are finding the bodies of Indigenous children buried in unmarked residential schools. The school system you set up. What do you say to their families?
Sir John: What’s the use of answering a question like that?
Canadaland: What do you say to the surviving families from the residential schools?
Sir John: Nothing. There is nothing that I could say to them.
Canadaland: So you aren’t sorry?
Sir John: I have nothing to be sorry for. I was doing what I thought was right.
Canadaland: Don’t you care about the families?
Sir John: Don’t get that tone in your voice when you talk to me.
Canadaland: Mr. Prime Minister, do you think reconciliation is possible in Canada?
Sir John: Yes I do. Only for certain purposes. There may be a wide gulf between us that cannot be easily crossed.
Canadaland: What purposes are you referring to?
Sir John: For the purpose of having a relationship between the government and the Indian people based on a recognition of rights, of real rights. It’s a real problem, a real problem.
Canadaland: What did you really think of Duncan Campbell Scott [the bureaucrat who created residential schools)
Sir John: Scott was a realist. He understood the Indian people as they were at the time. He tried to make the best of it. In his own way, he was as good as he could be.
Canadaland: Did you like his poetry? [Scott liked to write pastoral poems about Indigenous people]
Sir John: Yes I did. I think that he was the last of the 18th century men.
Canadaland: What was your favourite poem?
Sir John: The one I used in my tribute to him: “Ahead the hills of blue and green”
Canadaland: What do you think of the current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau?
Sir John: I’m not as smart as the original Mr. Macdonald, but if I knew as much as he did I would probably agree with him. But I don’t agree with him.
Canadaland: What do you disagree with him on?
Sir John: Oh, just the way he looks at things. Just the same old high-sounding words, but I guess just a little bit of a change of attitude, that’s all. I just wish he would give it a try. I don’t know, I’m so used to the old fellows that used to be here. They’re just like a little pebble in my shoe, you just can’t shake them out.
Canadaland: Did you like Stephen Harper?
Sir John: No not a bit.
Sir John: Because he’s about the same, the whole bunch of them are about the same…I would like to say to you know that we didn’t have the idea of schooling all the children. All we had in mind was to take the Indians out of the circle of paganism, out of the reservation life, and that was the only purpose. They had to be taught to become good Christians, to be useful to themselves and others. To be self-supporting and self-governing.
Canadaland: How do you feel about your statues being ripped down?
Sir John: It shows they don’t understand me.
Canadaland: What would you like them to understand?
Sir John: That I was a human being.
Canadaland: As a Tory, what would you like to say to the leader of the conservative party?
Sir John: First I do not think that there should be more statues of me. Second, he should read my speeches and writings and I am sure he will be a better man for it. He has a very large task in restoring this country to economic health. I think that is more important than statues.
Canadaland: Is there anything you want to say to modern Canadians?
Sir John: Think of the history of the Indians. Think of the people who lived here before you came. They deserve more than a passing thought. The law recognizes them as partners with us in this country. We have no less a responsibility to them than they have to us. I will sign off now.
Canadaland: Thank you for your time.
Sir John: Goodnight. And Goodbye
Sir John: God Save the Queen.