Recipient of Top Japanese Literary Award Reveals She Used ChatGPT – Is She a Deserving Winner?

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Rie Kudan, the most recent awardee of Japan’s prestigious literary honour, the Akutagawa Prize, has openly disclosed her use of ChatGPT in composing the novel that clinched the award. This revelation has sparked a debate regarding the merit of her deserving of the prize.

The arguments

At the award ceremony, the 33-year-old author of the acclaimed novel “Tokyo-to Dojo-to” or “‘Tokyo Sympathy Tower,” disclosed that she harnessed the full capabilities of AI in crafting the book.

The book in question impressed the Akutagawa jury to the extent that they deemed it “so flawless that finding fault with it is challenging”.

Kudan revealed that around “5% of the book is made up of sentences generated by AI” and quoted word for word. She thinks that the generative artificial intelligence software played a pivotal role in unlocking her creative potential.

“I plan to continue to profit from the use of AI in the writing of my novels while letting my creativity express itself to the fullest,” Rie said.

Nevertheless, the revelation of this creative collaboration has sparked controversy, with numerous individuals questioning the ethical implications of such a practice. Many are debating whether Kudan truly merits the prestigious Japanese prize. Additionally, concerns have been raised about the potential feelings of unrewarded authors who invest considerable effort in rigorous learning and research for their books.

“So she wrote a book by skilfully using AI… Is that talent? I don’t know,” wrote one user on X.

Kudan mentioned that in her personal life, she would turn to ChatGPT when grappling with issues she hesitated to share with others. She noted that when the AI didn’t respond as anticipated, she would occasionally channel her emotions into the expressions of the main character in her novel.

“It seems that the story that Rie Kudan’s award-winning work was written using generative AI is misunderstood… If you read it, you will see that the generative AI was mentioned in the work. There will be problems with that kind of usage in the future, but that is not the case with ‘Tokyo Sympathy Tower,’” writer and prize committee member, Keiichiro Hirano wrote on X in defence.

Ultimately, whether the recipient is a deserving winner would depend on how the literary community, critics, and the awarding body view the integration of AI technology into the creative process.

The facts

Rie Kudan’s novel revolves around the challenges faced by an architect assigned to construct a modern high-rise prison in Tokyo focused on rehabilitating offenders. The narrative prominently incorporates the theme of artificial intelligence.

She received her award on Wednesday, and despite the ‘uproar’ surrounding the victory, organisers of the Akutagawa Prize have refrained from commenting on their disappointment or outlining the path forward.

On the contrary, Rie is not the first artist to stir controversy by incorporating artificial intelligence, especially during a period when numerous creatives perceived their livelihoods as being jeopardised by this technology.

In 2023, Boris Eldagsen, a photographer based in Berlin, declined the Sony World Photography Awards prize. His decision stemmed from the revelation that the award-winning image was not a photograph but a digital creation produced using the AI program DALL-E 2.

Introduced in 2022, the AI tool ChatGPT can generate requested texts within seconds. Its rapid capabilities have stirred apprehension across different sectors, with numerous figures in the cultural realm decrying it as the demise of “authentic art” and branding it as “a grotesque mockery of human essence.”

Over 10,000 authors, including prominent figures like James Patterson, Roxane Gay, and Margaret Atwood, endorsed an open letter urging leaders in the AI industry to seek consent from authors before utilizing their work to train extensive language models.

Additionally, the letter advocates for fair compensation for authors when their work is employed in this manner.

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