Japanese AI writes novel and passes first round of literary prize


Sergey Soldatov / 123RF.com

While many people around the world fear that robots will take over human tasks once artificial intelligence (AI) is fully developed, it’s a safe bet that no one puts “author” at the top of the to-do list. robots. Yet now that a Japanese AI program has co-authored an abridged version novel that passed the first round of selection for a national literary award, it seems that no occupation is safe. The robot-written novel didn’t win the final prize in the competition, but who can say it won’t improve on its next attempt?

The novel is actually called The Day a Computer Writes a Novel, or “Konpyuta ga shosetsu wo kaku hi” in Japanese. The meta-story wasn’t enough to win the top prize at the Third Nikkei Hoshi Shinichi Literary Awards, but it came close. Officially, the novel was written by a very human team who led the development of the AI ​​program. Hitoshi Matsubara and his team at Future University Hakodate in Japan selected words and phrases and set construction parameters before letting the AI ​​“write” the novel on its own. One of the team’s two entries into the competition made it past the first round of selection, despite a blind-reading policy that prevents judges from knowing if an AI was involved in the writing process.

In recent years, the Hoshi Shinichi Literary Prize has been technically open to non-human applicants (specifically, “AI and other programs”). This year was the first time that the awards committee received nominations written by AI programs. A total of 11 of the 1,450 submissions were at least partially written by non-humans. “I was surprised by the work because it was a well-structured novel. But there are still problems [to overcome] to win the award, such as character descriptions, ”said Satoshi Hase, a Japanese science fiction novelist who was part of the press conference surrounding the award.

Of course, many critics and supporters of AI developments agree that one of the hardest hurdles for sentient robots to overcome will be a semblance of humanity. If AI bots cannot identify with humans, it will be difficult for humans to identify with them. This can be factored into the disappointing development of the character mentioned by the very human novelist Hase. But Matsubara and his team aren’t put off by the possibility of creativity within autonomous artificial intelligence. “Until now, AI programs have often been used to solve problems that have answers, like Go and shogi. In the future, I would like to expand the potential of AI [so it resembles] human creativity, ”Matsubara said.

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