AI-generated science fiction novel wins literary prize in China

Only one of the judges was aware that the entry, submitted by a professor at the prestigious Tsinghua University, was entirely AI-generated.

It only took three hours for Shen Yang, a professor at the Beijing-based university’s School of Journalism and Communication, to generate the award-winning admission.

The Chinese-language work, entitled The Land of Machine Memories, won second prize at the 5th Jiangsu Popular Science and Science Fiction Competition.

According to Chinese media reports, the draft of over 40,000 characters was generated based on 66 prompts, suggesting a “Kafkaesque” writing style.

Shen was encouraged to submit an excerpt of nearly 6000 characters for the competition by one of the judges, the Wuhan Evening News reported.

The judge, Fu Changyi, told the paper that he did not inform the other judges of the true authorship of the text because he wanted to see their judgment.

Fu is also the head of the Science Fiction Committee of the Jiangsu Provincial Association for Popular Science Writers, which organized the competition. The rules of the contest do not explicitly ban the use of AI.

The protagonist of The Land of Machine Memory is a metaverse adventurer called Li Xiao, who is on a quest to retrieve the lost memories from her real-world life as a neural engineer.

Shen submitted the work under the pseudonym, the only contestant to do so. Three of the six judges voted in favor of the manuscript, which secured it a second prize honor.

Nearly 200 works were submitted to the competition, with six winning grand prizes, 14 first prizes, 18 second prizes, and 27 third prizes.

According to Shen, his entire competition entry was generated by AI, including the outline of the novel, the illustrations, and even his pen name, which translates as @SiliconZen.

Xiao Xinghan, a science fiction writer and one of the judges who voted against The Land of Machine Memories, told the Wuhan Evening News that he recognized the text was AI-generated.

He turned it down because it lacked emotion but “mainly because I didn't think it was good enough,” according to the report.

Xiao said AI-generated literature could turn out to be a “ripple soon to be forgotten in the river of history,” or become so widespread as to pose a “strong challenge to the survival of writers.”

Despite winning the award, judges agreed that The Land of Machine Memories could not be published as is and would require significant revisions. “AI-written text is still very different from those written by humans,” Fu said.

In April, a Berlin-based photographer won the Sony World Photography Awards with an AI-generated image, only to reject the prize. He stated that AI-generated images and traditional photography should not compete in the same contests.

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Massimo Battaglia
prefix 5 months ago
Did Shen Yang use copyrighted material to train his AI system to write The land of machine memories?
How did he deal with this issue?
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