In what could be one of the most important events towards AI’s integration into human lifestyles and creativity, Japanese author Rie Kudan recently won one of Japan’s most prestigious literary awards, the Akutagawa Prize, even after admitting that around 5 per cent of her book Tokyo-to Dojo-to was verbatim generated by ChatGPT! Kudan claimed she resorted to AI in order to find “soft and fuzzy words” that captured the muddled themes about justice that ran throughout her book, which the prize judges deemed “flawless.”

Even if AI may not have made a big enough contribution to Kudan’s book, it’s crucial that the selection committee didn’t find anything wrong with her use of AI. This happened during a period when a lot of creatives believed AI technology threatened their livelihoods, a kind of pervasive worry and apprehension that was partially reflected in the recent historical strikes by Hollywood actors and screenwriters.

The New York Times book critic, AO Scott, wrote in December that he believed using AI in writing was a gimmick as well as a mortal threat to literature. As “the latest iteration of an ancient literary conceit: the fantasy of a co-author, a confidant, a muse,” some people have embraced AI, according to Scott. However, how can morality and reality be balanced? Some in the literary community have been warning about using AI text generators since their inception. Prior to Kudan, in October, an AI-generated novel titled Land of Memories was created in three hours by a professor at Tsinghua University of Beijing, and it went on to win a prize in the Jiangsu Youth Popular Science Science Fiction Competition.

Although Kudan stated that she would like to work well with AI to express her creativity, in contrast, last April, German photographer Boris Eldagsen became a whistle-blower when he didn’t accept the Sony World Photography Award after revealing his prize-winning entry was created using AI. In the academic world, several journals have now made it mandatory that AI cannot be a co-author of a research publication, despite the fact that ChatGPT was listed as a co-author on many research papers published in late 2022 and early 2023. In general, it appears that people are unsure about whether or how to embrace AI.

Faster divergence

However, since we are already in the AI era and, in many ways, the difference between AI and human capacities will diverge much faster than we can anticipate, the natural question is how to leverage AI in our lives for our mere survival. In 1997, IBM’s supercomputer Deep Blue defeated world chess champion Garry Kasparov, signalling the beginning of AI’s ascendancy over humanity. Two decades later, in contrast to many detractors who see AI as a threat, Kasparov argues in his 2017 book Deep Thinking that humanity should embrace rather than fear its most exceptional creations in order to achieve greater heights.

The way that different societies handle AI-generated art legally varies, though. A Beijing court recently granted copyright protection to an image produced by the AI text-to-image generator Stable Diffusion, finding that the artwork was “directly created from the plaintiff’s intellectual input” and “manifested in individual expression.” Has the lawsuit paved the way for other “half-human, half-AI works” to obtain intellectual property rights? However, according to the US Copyright Office, AI-generated images are “not the product of human authorship.” And the highest court in Britain recently decided that “an inventor must be a person” in order to apply for patents.

But as handicrafts are not completely replaced by industrial automation, the idea that literature will be absorbed by massive language models may be exaggerated. However, the dispute intensifies. AI must be integrated by society in both the context of lifestyles and human creativity, today or tomorrow. We also have a responsibility to safeguard human creativity against significant contamination. And at this crucial juncture in human history, the judiciary and lawmakers would play a significant role as policymakers.

The writer is Professor of Statistics, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata