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AI Norito

Jinja Shinpō has an irregular series of short opinion pieces by journalists working on the paper, printed on the first page. (In weeks when they do not have one, they print a short explanation of why they appear to be spelling so many words wrong — they use the pre-war conventions for kana choice, although they do use hiragana rather than katakana.) The 19th June issue had one, about changes in society.

It started by discussing the problems that the law was having keeping up with generative AI, particularly the strong possibility that training the AIs has violated copyright. The Japanese government is promising to address this problem, while also using the technology to improve people’s lives. It then shifts to saying that faster is not always better when it comes to laws. The Diet has just passed the “Increased Understanding of LGBT People Law”, and the author suggests that it was rushed, noting that several LGBT organisations have spoken out in opposition. (I don’t know the details of their complaints, but the law has provoked conservatives who were basically ignoring this issue, and contains no concrete protections or benefits. If I were an LGBT activist, I might well be unhappy with this law, and the way it was handled.)

The last, brief, section is the most interesting. It notes that software to generate suitable posthumous Buddhist names has existed for at least ten years, and then thinks about norito. If the technology continues to develop, an AI will probably be able to write good norito. However, the author thinks that it is important to have enough space that we do not “drown in convenience”.

I think that this is an issue that the Shinto community is going to have to address. Norito are the sort of thing that current generative AI is good at: they use a lot of stereotyped phrases, and are very rarely truly original, but they do need to be adapted to situations. They also do not rely on facts, so hallucination is not a problem. I haven’t tried it, but GPT4 might already be able to write decent norito. If it can’t, it is only a matter of time, and probably not much time. Given that, at present, most priests just copy sample norito (there were sample norito for the Tennō’s trip to Indonesia on the same page as the opinion piece), it is not immediately obvious how copying from an AI is worse.

There was an earlier discussion of printing norito, but this is the first consideration of AI composition I am aware of. I expect to see much more discussion in the future.

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2 thoughts on “AI Norito”

  1. Just tried it, and here’s what I got.

    Sure! Here’s a Shinto norito, a traditional Japanese ritual prayer:

    Ookami no miya e, mukae mairase.
    Kami no michi no kokoro o motte, tachimukae naru.
    Kagayaku tokoro ni, tamashii no hikari o sosogu.
    Fukaki yami o terasu tamashii no akari to narase.

    Makoto no kokoro de, tamashii o sasaete.
    Kami no chikara o atae, kono kuni o mamoru tame ni.
    Kagiri aru mono no hazama ni, hikari o tomose.
    Megumi o hakobu tamashii no kaze to narase.

    Kamigami no hikari, watashitachi o terashite kudasai.
    Yasuragi to ai no hana o sakasemashou.
    Sono kagayaki o mune ni idaki, michi o susumeyo.
    Watashitachi no tamashii o, kami no kodomo to shite michibikimashou.

    Kami no tamiyo e, norito no inori o sasagemasu.
    Kokoro o tsumuide, inochi no kotoba o tsumekonde.
    Kami no megumi o kashikomarimashou.
    Kono norito ni yorite, watashitachi no negai o todokemashou.

    Kami no mae ni tachimukae, tamashii no hikari o sashidase.
    Watashitachi no michi o terashite kudasai.
    Ima koso watashitachi o michibiki, tamashii no kotoba o katarimashou.
    Kami no megumi to tomo ni, watashitachi no inochi o mimamorimashou.

    In this prayer, we call upon the divine spirits, asking them to guide and protect us. We seek their light to illuminate our path and bring peace and harmony to our lives. May the sincerity of our hearts and the power of the kami support us in protecting this land. Let us ignite the light in the depths of darkness and let the wind of grace carry our souls.

    We humbly ask the divine light to shine upon us and blossom the flowers of peace and love. Embracing this radiance in our hearts, let us advance on our journey. May our souls be guided as children of the kami.

    To the honored spirits, we offer this prayer. We weave our hearts and fill our words with the essence of life. Let us acknowledge the blessings of the kami. Through this norito, may our wishes be conveyed.

    We stand before the divine, extending the light of our souls. Please illuminate our path. Now, guide us and let us speak the words of our souls. Together with the grace of the kami, let us watch over our lives.

    Note: Norito prayers can vary in style and content. The above composition aims to capture the essence and structure of a Shinto norito.

    1. Thank you! That’s very interesting, in part because it is a total failure. That text does not abide by any of the conventions for norito. I wonder whether you would get a better answer if you asked in Japanese. In any case, on this evidence, AI cannot write decent norito yet.

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