Dubai: Will AI replace human authors in the future? Experts reveal its status on storytelling

With a total prize of Dh1 million offered to winners, participants at the Global Prompt Engineering Championship shared their experiences with AI

by

Waad Barakat

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Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Published: Tue 21 May 2024, 7:45 PM

Last updated: Wed 22 May 2024, 4:19 PM

A former journalist and copywriter, Aditya Nair, produced a short story in just 10 minutes using AI. On Tuesday, Nair won the literature category at the Global Prompt Engineering Championship. Despite winning, he acknowledged that AI is effective, but cannot replace human writers.

With a total prize of Dh1 million offered to winners in three categories, participants showcased their artificial intelligence skills in literature, art, and coding. However, as the global competition took place in Dubai, a pressing question hung in the air — will AI soon play a role in the literature industry?


Nair, the winning participant who works in AI innovation for a UK-based company, has used AI tools like ChatGPT for years. Using his experience in the competition, he elaborated: "The challenge was to create an original story with AI in just 10 minutes. While the AI generated text quickly, I found that I still needed to provide the overall narrative, character development, and creative direction. AI was an effective tool, but it couldn't replace storytelling's human element."

Aditya Nair (KT Photo: Waad Barakat)
Aditya Nair (KT Photo: Waad Barakat)

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Explaining this further, he said: "I don't think AI can 'write' yet. When I say writing, I mean ideation and the process that takes place before you write words on a screen. It can type words on a screen much faster than I could ever, but you still need a human to do all the thinking."

Mastering the Arabic language

Another finalist, Abobakr Farouk, is an Egyptian computer engineer and literature enthusiast who used artificial intelligence to write a story in Arabic.

Abobakr Farouk (KT Photo: Waad Barakat)
Abobakr Farouk (KT Photo: Waad Barakat)

He found the challenge of presenting an original Arabic literary piece using AI to be "very fascinating". While Farouk believes AI will continue to improve at mastering the Arabic language, he doubts it will reach the level of creating true Arabic literature and poetry anytime soon. "The relationship between Arabic grammar and poetic metre is difficult, or at the current stage, impossible for artificial intelligence to master," he said.

Judging AI-authorised stories

The contestants were judged on their speed, quality, creativity, and accuracy. The selected three from the literature category qualified for the final stage of the challenge taking place on Tuesday, at the Museum of the Future.

One of the three judges, Ahlam Bolooki, CEO of Emirates Literature Foundation, shared her insight about the whole experience, "This experience has been really eye-opening for me. Initially, I wasn't sure what to expect. There is fear in the literature industry around AI, and a lot of resistance to its potential impact on the publishing industry."

Ahlam Bolooki (KT Photo: Waad Barakat)
Ahlam Bolooki (KT Photo: Waad Barakat)

However, Bolooki’s experience while judging contestants was revealing. "What was interesting for me about the experience is that the majority can still tell the difference in writing between AI writing and authentic human-written stories in the early rounds," she told Khaleej Times.

The stories that stood out in the finals were the ones that "were the most creative with the prompts". Bolooki explained: "To have strong literature output with AI, you need deep knowledge of writing styles and a solid literature background."

While Blooki sees AI as here to stay, she recognizes the need for regulation. "I think every industry, especially the publishing industry, will have to learn to regulate using AI. This ensures that it becomes more efficient and does not replace writers. I think it will take time for AI to be regulated so that it can help the industry, rather than diminishing it."

According to Blooki, when asked if the Emirates Literature Foundation would ever publish an AI-written book, she said; "I have yet to see one. Until I see one outstanding book, I won't be able to decide."

The youngest competitor

The competition also included the youngest competitor, 13-year-old Zara Hasnain from the United Kingdom. Despite the competition starting at 18 years old, Zara applied with determination and was granted an exception to participate.

Zara's love for AI and literature led her to the competition. Speaking to KT about her passion, she said: "I feel like it's an excellent opportunity to learn from AI experts and literature experts in their respective field."

Zara Hasnain (KT Photo: Waad Barakat)
Zara Hasnain (KT Photo: Waad Barakat)

Zara, who plans to study literature and journalism, shared her perspective on AI: "Nowadays, people my age rely on AI instead of Google. They can get more precise answers, and it's quicker, making things easier for us. But usually, since we're not allowed to use it in school, I don't use it much for educational purposes."

During the event, Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation, discussed AI's dual-edged nature. He acknowledged AI's potential but also expressed concerns about its impact on the human connection.

Stressing the importance of maintaining the human touch as AI advances, he said: "As much as I'm telling you about the impact and power of AI, which we all want to harness, my concern extends way across the other spectrum. My concern is about human interaction."

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