• 03.28.16

This Japanese Novel Authored By A Computer Is Scarily Well-Written

First they came for our jobs. Then they came for our creativity.

This Japanese Novel Authored By A Computer Is Scarily Well-Written
Of course, the story is called “The Day a Computer Writes a Novel.”

The Nikkei Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award isn’t like other literary prizes. In addition to work authored by humans, it also considers the literary output of artificial intelligence software. And the results of the latter are–surprisingly and scarily–not that bad.


Researchers from Japan’s Future University Hakodate submitted a short story called “The Day a Computer Writes a Novel,” or “Konpyuta ga shosetsu wo kaku hi,” and it comes across as something a human might have written (though not perhaps a human called Jonathan Franzen):

I writhed with joy, which I experienced for the first time, and kept writing with excitement. The day a computer wrote a novel. The computer, placing priority on the pursuit of its own joy, stopped working for humans.

(That’s how it ends).

The prize was created in the memory of Hoshi Shinichi, a science fiction writer whose novels include The Whimsical Robot. Hoshi’s daughter Marina Hoshi Whytemade decided to include AI entries in 2014. Four such books were entered this year, with at least one accepted for the initial shortlist.

According to Asahi Shimbun, the team first created a conventional novel to act as a template, then deconstructed it into words and phrases, and created a choice-matrix for the program to follow. It recreates a novel in a similar pattern to original, doing about 20% of the overall work, the report says. The next stage of the research is for the AI to create a story plot.

That AI is able to mimic something as human as novel-writing shows its increasing flexibility and sophistication. Even if it’s not going to win any literary prizes soon, AI is likely to be creating lesser-order written products before too long.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.