Croatian Book Night 2023: Can robots love to read?

Objavljeno 17.4.2023.

On 21 April 2023, the National and University Library in Zagreb (NSK) will host the opening of the 12th edition of Croatian Book Night, Croatia’s annual national programme marking World Book and Copyright Day (23 April) and Croatian Book Day (22 April). Always attempting to respond to current social developments, the 2023 Croatian Book Night programme will spotlight issues related to the rise of artificial intelligence. Starting at 12.00 in the Library’s grand lobby, this year’s Night’s opening programme will include the presentation of the results of the latest survey of Croatia’s book market, an exhibition featuring inspiring and thought-provoking illustrations by Josip Sršen and Sebastijan Čamagajevac and present the results of this Night’s competition as part of which primary and secondary-school students from all parts of Croatia presented their views of the challenges posed by artificial intelligence’s growing presence in our lives.

The visual identity of the 2023 Croatian Book Night, spotlighting issues related to the rise of artificial intelligence.

The 2023 Night’s three-day programme will include more than 1,100 events in 254 cities and other locations all across Croatia – the participants in 155 public libraries, nearly 100 bookstores, antiquarian bookshops and publishing companies and 330 different institutions, ranging from schools and kindergartens, through museums and universities, to senior citizen’s homes and hospitals, will try to provide answers to questions brought about by the advance of artificial intelligence, which, after originating in computer science, is now rapidly becoming an all-embracing social phenomenon. Announced as the foundation of the fourth industrial revolution, it poses various challenges and philosophical and ethical questions to which the answers will obviously have a decisive impact on the fate of humankind.

Maintaining the tradition of organising various humanitarian initiatives, Croatian Book Night 2023 – together with Croatian Ministry of Culture and Media, the TOZ Penkala manufacturer, the Naša djeca publishing company, Croatian Red Cross, Croatia’s public library network and many volunteers – will keep supporting the efforts of iDEMO Institute for Democracy aimed at providing Ukrainian refugees with publications in their own language by making available the titles of Ukrainian publishers in Croatian public libraries. Also, all profit from the sale of the Night’s promotional T-shirts will be donated to Split-based Udruga MoSt association.

Observing efforts to develop artificial intelligence by feeding it with human qualities, we feel anxious about what (or who) exactly we are going to create and ask ourselves whether in this process we can lose something essential, as a civilisation. Literature has been offering answers to these questions for decades, through the science fiction genre, especially dystopian fiction, whose works heralded artificial intelligence as early as 1872 (in Erewhon, by Samuel Butler), which in 1920 endowed the world with the term robot (in R.U.R., by Karel Čapek) and which first articulated possible threats to humankind by robots too similar to humans on the one hand and dissatisfied with their status in the human world on the other.

With fascinating daily examples of how artificial intelligence may be used for solutions to many problems of the contemporary world and in the development of many useful products, services and systems, the following questions arise: May AI be useful when it comes to books and reading? Are we neglecting our own intellectual resources – and that with possibly disastrous consequences – in increasingly relying on AI-based solutions? Will AI at some point be able to completely replace humans? May a machine become a skilled author? If yes, what would that mean for art, especially literature? What are the implications of the advance of AI from the psychological and linguistic perspectives? This year’s Croatian Book Night will try to provide answers to these often uneasy questions, highlighting various anniversaries associated with major Croatian writers – Marija Jurić Zagorka, Dinko Šimunović, Antun Gustav Matoš, Miljenko Smoje and Miroslav Krleža.

The organisers of the Croatian Book Night programme are the Publishers and Booksellers Association of the Croatian Chamber of Economy, National and University Library in ZagrebZagreb City Libraries, books-and-culture-oriented web portal Moderna vremena, Publishers’ Reprographic Rights Association – ZANA (Udruga za zaštitu prava nakladnika)Knjižni blok – Inicijativa za knjigu pro-book association and the Croatian Association of School Librarians, and it is supported by the Croatian Ministry of Culture and Media, City of Zagreb, Publishers’ Reprographic Rights Association – ZANA (Udruga za zaštitu prava nakladnika), Croatian Chamber of Economy and Zagreb Tourist Board.

The partner of Croatian Book Night 2023 is the TOZ Penkala manufacturer, while its media sponsors are the Croatian Radio Television, 24sata and Express dailies and VidaTV television channel.