The Future of Novelists: Humans vs. Robots?

Today is one of those cases where I had planned to write about something else, but then something caught my attention that made me realize, I need to write about this. As far as we’re concerned, all novelists are human. They may hail from different countries, be of different races, genders and sexual orientations, and come from different experiences in their lives; but other than these factors, all novelists are human. But as far as the future of the profession goes, is it possible that future novelists may be comprised of not only humans but also (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) robots?

The country of Japan might be optimistic in thinking so, as expressed in an article from the Los Angeles Times earlier this week, where a short novel submitted for the Nikkei Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award was co-written by a robot. It made it passed the first stage, but ultimately did not win the final prize. This literary award is especially unique for accepting submissions from non-human writers (in other words, robots) and it is unknown to the judges which entries were written by humans and which ones were not. Out of the approximately 1,450 novels that were submitted for this year, 11 of them involved AI (artificial intelligence) programs.

So far, there is hope that robots won’t be taking over the profession anytime soon, especially since a. this collaboration did not go on to win the final prize and b. it clearly wasn’t a solo effort. As one professor reported, there was 80% human involvement in these co-written novels. The other 20% was merely the robot writing up the text. Other than that, the robots had no say in character development, plot development, recurring themes and other elements that make up the novels.

And that’s the entire point! Something like writing is something that you can program a robot to do, because writing is a craft that is constantly worked on, polished, and evolved when given devotion and time. While upgrades may be given every now and then to a robot, it’s not the same thing, for the mind of each individual writer is a unique one. It’s something that can never be truly replicated in the form of machine. It also didn’t help that plagiarism was somewhat sidestepped in the process of these novels, for the humans wrote down descriptions and phrases from pre-existing novels into the program, before being processed into a whole new book. Whether or not it would have been as effective if writing down original content into the system is unknown at this time.

In my opinion, I don’t think you can use robots for journalistic writing either. While that kind of writing may be more inclined to be a more natural feat for robots (for as anyone who has studied journalism may know, there’s a certain order one addresses a news story), that’s not all that makes up journalism. Much like writing a novel, it’s also about setting the environment and capturing it in the best way possible, via words. How are people reacting in this particular situation? What are sights and smells happening in that environment? If you could describe the overall environment in one to two sentences, how would you do that? That’s something you can’t teach a robot to do.

The future of technology is bright, and many people in the tech industry in Japan are most likely the best people in the world who would know better. However, I don’t think this technology, robotic novelists, is going to succeed. While it might sound like a wondrous sci-fi story coming true, let’s be real: To write a novel is something that is creatively inclined and developed with time, and that is something that you can never properly program a machine to do.

A Moment’s Worth is now available through the following venues: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, iTunes. Please leave a review if you can, for my goal is to get a total of at least 20 reviews on all venues (so far, I’ve gotten 12 reviews so I’m already just past the halfway point to my goal). Check out its Goodreads page, which includes two trivia quizzes for all who’ve completed reading it already.

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