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Kazuo Ishiguro thinks artificial intelligence could replace human novelists.

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March 4, 2021, 10:21am

Kazuo Ishiguro’s new novel Klara and the Sun, which follows a robot as she tries to understand the human world, has been praised as “a masterpiece about life, love, and mortality” and “a work that makes us feel afresh the beauty and fragility of our humanity” —but according to Ishiguro, he might not have to write these types of books for long. Soon, artificial intelligence might be writing these works themselves. Ishiguro spoke about the possibility of robot novelists on Tuesday in an interview with TIME:

Despite all this, Ishiguro says he is optimistic about the technological revolution coming down the line, and says he finds A.I. “alarming and exciting at the same time.” He believes a future is coming in which machines might compete with novelists, and perhaps surpass them. “It’s not just that A.I. might produce a novel that you can’t distinguish from an Ian McEwan novel. It’s that I think it might produce a new kind of literature, like the way modernism transformed the novel. Because A.I. does see things in a different way.”

It’s a bold claim, but less far-off than one might think. In 2016, A.I. generated a novel that nearly won Japan’s Shinichi Hoshi Literary Award. Last month, the deep learning language prediction model GPT-3 wrote a passing college essay in 20 minutes. And Czech Centre London recently produced a play written by GPT-2 about a robot learning to navigate a world of people. But in all these cases, humans guided the A.I. to their subject matter—so perhaps A.I. will usher in a new kind of robot-assisted literature. Who knows? Soon our bookshelves may be stocked with I, Human.

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