There are lots of reasons why you might want a summary of a long piece of writing. You might want an executive summary for the front of a long report. Perhaps you want a summary you can use when you present your report at a meeting or to put into an email where the report is attached. Or maybe you need to summarise something someone else wrote.
Until about 15 years ago MS Word had an Auto Summarize function. I used it a few times. It wasn’t great.
Now we have AI services that can quickly summarise a long text to a given target length (English is spoken at about 200 words a minute so if you want a 2 minute version of your document then ask for a 400 word summary of it).
Here’s an example. The American Declaration of Independence has about 1,300 words. I asked ChatGPT to write me a 200 word summary of it. It actually gave me these 232 words. Pretty good, huh?
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, including Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and institute a new government.
We, the representatives of the United States of America, solemnly declare that the present King of Great Britain has violated our rights and suppressed our liberties. He has imposed unjust laws, deprived us of self-governance, and maintained a standing army without consent. We have petitioned for redress, but our pleas have been met with further tyranny.
Therefore, we declare ourselves free and independent states, absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown. We possess the authority to levy war, conclude peace, form alliances, and engage in commerce. We appeal to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions and pledge our lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to defend our newfound freedom.
We proclaim to the world that the United States of America is a sovereign nation, entitled to all the rights and privileges thereof. This declaration is a testament to our unwavering commitment to liberty, equality, and the pursuit of happiness for all.
What’s most impressive is the speed. If you’re a good typist you might type the above in 5 minutes. Most of us probably would take 8 to 10 minutes. But first we would take 5 minutes to read the original text and then we would have to think about which parts to keep in a summary and which to omit. All in, this task could take 30-60 minutes. It took me about a minute to write the prompt that created the above summary.