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Japan author sparks debate after revealing she used AI in novel that won top award

Comments by a Japanese author who revealed she used generative artificial intelligence (AI) to help write the novel for which she won Japan’s most prestigious book award have roiled the country’s literary industry.

While some welcome the use of AI as a new writing tool, those managing Japan’s book contests question how the technology is influencing authors’ creativity, although most agree it is a long way from producing novels of superior quality on its own.

The novel by 33-year-old Rie Kudan, titled Tokyo-to Dojo-to (“Sympathy Tower Tokyo”) is set in the Japanese capital in the not-so-distant future when generative AI has become ubiquitous, and took the 170th Akutagawa Prize for up-and-coming authors in January.

The commotion surrounding Kudan’s novel comes after she said at a press conference upon claiming the prize that “around 5 per cent of the book’s text was taken directly from generative AI”.

Shuichi Yoshida, a novelist who sits on the prize’s selection panel, said AI hardly came up in discussions during the evaluation process, adding that “it may have been perceived as just another character in the story”.

But Kudan’s comments about using AI have stirred debate, with arguments coming from both sides on social media. The story has also made international headlines, being reported by CNN and other networks.

Generative AI is capable of generating text, images and other content via machine learning, often under the direction of commands input by a user. The technology enables people to generate literary and artistic works at the push of a button, without specialised knowledge in a given field.

As the number of people using generative AI grows rapidly, concerns abound that it could be used to disseminate false information or