Fun with ChatGPT

Every page of ChatGPT ( bears the legend: “ChatGPT can make mistakes. Consider checking important information.”

Nonetheless, last night I was multitasking in front of the TV (and next to my wife), and I thought it would be interesting to experiment.

Some way down the list of my explorations of the designers of Liberia’s stamps, I have surveyed 44 Liberian stamps designed by the Victor Whiteley studio, plus some personal history, bringing together an account that is solid but not scintillating. I wondered whether AI might scrape the internet and offer me something surprising.

No. Not so much.

ChatGPT’s response to a bland prompt (“The postage stamps designed for the Republic of Liberia by the Victor Whiteley studio”) was, in full:

“I'm sorry, but I do not have specific information about postage stamps designed for the Republic of Liberia by the Victor Whiteley studio in my knowledge. It's possible that this is a relatively obscure or specialized topic, and information about such stamps may not be readily available in widely accessible sources.

“If you are interested in learning more about these stamps, I recommend reaching out to philatelic organizations, stamp collectors, or specialized libraries and archives that may have more detailed information on the topic. Additionally, you can try conducting online research or contacting experts in philately for more specific information.”

Fair enough: the field of enquiry is a bit niche, and I have apparently out-geeked l'intelligence artificielle du jour. Nevertheless, the advice is well phrased, and perhaps I should reach out to the members of the Liberian Philatelic Society.

Out of curiosity, however, I thought to try the same ploy going back to the artist Erich Teschemacher, since there might be more “out there”. With the same prompt, the result was more bizarre (again in full):

“Erich Teschemacher, a German artist and designer, is known for creating postage stamps for the Republic of Liberia. Liberia, a country in West Africa, has a rich history of issuing interesting and collectible postage stamps. Erich Teschemacher's designs for Liberia's stamps are notable for their unique and artistic qualities.

One of Teschemacher's most famous stamp designs for Liberia is the ‘Bursting Bud’ series issued in 1921. These stamps featured a beautiful illustration of a flower bud just before it bursts open, symbolizing the growth and development of the nation. The set included various denominations and color variations.

“Liberia's stamp issues are diverse and include many thematic subjects, including nature, history, culture, and famous personalities. Erich Teschemacher's contributions to the country's stamp designs are highly regarded by philatelists and collectors for their artistic quality and historical significance. Collectors often seek out these stamps for their unique and attractive designs.”

This time, the general chatbot bloviation is again well-written … but what is that bollocular bit that I have highlighted in the middle? To take the words of Jay Leno: what is that all about?

To test this, I zoomed in on that detail with the further prompt, “The ‘Bursting Bud’ series of postage stamps issued by Liberia in 1921 and designed by Erich Teschemacher.” The response:

“The ‘Bursting Bud’ series of postage stamps was indeed issued by Liberia in 1921 and featured designs created by Erich Teschemacher, a German artist. These stamps are well-known for their striking and artistic designs, which showcase various aspects of nature, including flowers, insects, and other elements. The series consisted of several denominations and a variety of designs, all centered around the ‘Bursting Bud’ theme.

“Erich Teschemacher was a renowned artist and designer, known for his intricate and detailed artwork. His contributions to the field of philately, particularly through the ‘Bursting Bud’ series, have made these stamps highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts. The stamps from this series are considered philatelic classics and are often prized for their aesthetic beauty and historical significance.”

Have I seeded the internet with a new hallucination for future AI to build upon and to propagate? Has anybody any idea what this “Bursting Bud” business is all about?


  • Hi Martin,

    Great post. As I read this, the only thing that came to mind was Scott #187. Even if that is a "bursting bud", it isn't an entire series.

    Quit feeding AI with fake news! :)
  • Martin
    I was about to post about my experience also having heard a lot of AI but not having used it before

    I'm looking into the background of the early forgers of Liberia so I asked for information about "Francois Fournier, the well-known stamp forger"

    Up came some information - quite a lot. Much of this detailed what I already had found out about the guy but one section caught my eye - about his trial in Paris for forgery in 1905. I'd never seen mention of this elsewhere.

    So I asked for more information about this trial.

    I then got a reply saying ChatBot had "made this part up" based on the facts that:

    a) he was a well-known forger
    b) he was around in 1905
    c) he was French
    d) as a known forger it was likely at some stage that he'd be found out and tried!

    Use AI bots at your peril!
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