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Adam Smith's Pet Rooster

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

In my last blog, I wrote about my experiments with AI illustration. I waxed lyrical about how it's helped me create appropriate illustrations for the latest Lightbulb Moments in Human History book. In short, it’s been a godsend.

In the same piece, I smugly stated that I would “draw the line at letting ChatGPT do the writing for me.” That was because I thought ChatGPT, for all its amazing features, was “questionable.”

The following is an illustration of exactly how questionable it can be.

The other day I was experimenting with ChatGPT researching the seminal economist Adam Smith for a chapter on the Enlightenment. And, as is my wont, I decided to prompt ChatGPT for an amusing story about the famous Scotsman.

Along with some rather lame anecdotes about “invisible hands” and Smith’s renowned absent-mindedness, ChatGPT turned up this little gem:

Smith was fond of having a pet rooster as a companion during his writing sessions. The rooster, named Dionysius, would perch on Smith’s shoulder as he worked. It is said that Smith found the crowing of the rooster to be a source of inspiration.

Upon reading this, my eyes lit up. I was already formulating jokes about Adam Smith and his inspirational cock, when my brain suddenly screeched to a halt.


This was too good to be true. I had to check it out.

It didn’t take long for me to find there was absolutely no truth to it. Not a skerrick. As far as could be ascertained from the biographical information, it was unclear if Smith had even seen a rooster, let alone had a pet one that helped him write The Wealth of Nations.

adam smith
"Adam Smith" and his pet "rooster" (Midjourney)

Now, as I wrote in the last blog, I wouldn’t stoop so low as to let ChatGPT write for me, but I’m now extremely wary of its veracity in general.

But, hey, I thought, this might make a good story for the blog, so I decided to create a matching AI illustration in Midjourney. If I was looking for something equally absurd as the anecdote, I’d come to the right place. I reproduce it, without further comment, herewith.


lightbulb moments

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