ChatGPT Helped Write This Award-Winning Japanese Novel

After receiving the prestigious Akutagawa Prize, Rie Kudan spoke about why she used A.I. to write a portion of her work

ChatGPT open on a phone atop books
The latest winner of a Japanese literary prize said she used ChatGPT to write parts of her novel. Jonathan Raa / NurPhoto via Getty Images

The latest recipient of a prestigious Japanese literary prize has revealed that part of her novel was written with the help of artificial intelligence.

After 33-year-old writer Rie Kudan won the Akutagawa Prize last week, she told reporters that a small portion of her book, Tokyo-to Dojo-to (Tokyo Sympathy Tower), was lifted verbatim from ChatGPT.

“This is a novel written by making full use of a generative A.I.,” Kudan said in her acceptance speech, according to the Japan Times’ Thu-Huong Ha. “Probably about 5 percent of the whole text is written directly from the generative A.I. I would like to work well with them to express my creativity.”

As CNN’s Christy Choi and Francesca Annio report, the awards committee had praised Kudan’s novel as “practically flawless.” Set in the near future, Tokyo Sympathy Tower takes place in a society that depends on A.I. One of its main characters, architect Sara Makina, designs a tower in Tokyo for the “compassionate rehabilitation for criminals” but develops “misgivings about the project,” writes the London Times’ Richard Lloyd Parry, adding: “One of the themes of the book is the way that ‘soft and fuzzy words’ muddle ideas about justice, and it is to reproduce these that Kudan turned to ChatGPT.”

Kudan has also turned to A.I. to discuss subjects in her personal life that “she felt she couldn’t tell anyone,” according to CNN. Such experimentation became fodder for fiction. “When the A.I. did not say what I expected, I sometimes reflected my feelings in the lines of the main character,” she said.

The Akutagawa Prize, awarded biannually to emerging writers, is named after early 20th-century Japanese writer Ryunosuke Akutagawa, known as the “father of the Japanese short story.” As the Short Story Project writes, the author “was drawn to the mysterious and the bizarre.” Awards officials have recently been trying to diversify the group of writers who receive the honor—and now, Kudan’s work is the first to include writing by A.I.

“In recent years, we find ourselves in a situation in which words have expanded without limit and permitted unlimited interpretations,” Kudan said after winning the award, per the London Times. “I want to use the words with care, and to think about the positive and negative aspects of language.”

Ever since A.I. text generators debuted, segments of the literary world have been urging caution. Just last year, a group of high-profile authors—including Jodi Picoult, George R.R. Martin and Jonathan Franzen—banded together to sue OpenAI for “systematic theft” of their work, which they say was used to train ChatGPT.

Kudan, for her part, will maintain her collaboration with the chatbot, per CNN. “I plan to continue to profit from the use of A.I. in the writing of my novels while letting my creativity express itself to the fullest,” she said.

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