The Japanese government will formulate guidelines regarding the use of ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence chatbots in schools possibly by next March, officials said Thursday, as concerns grow over their impact on students' writing and thinking skills.

The move by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology comes as the AI race is creating machines that are smarter than humans and disrupting a wide range of fields, from education to business.

A user in Tokyo asks ChatGPT to write a book report on April 6, 2023. (Kyodo)

Last week, the Italian Data Protection Authority imposed a temporary ban on the use of ChatGPT over suspicions that its developer OpenAI illegally collects vast amounts of personal data. The U.S.-based firm is set to present corrective measures and work to improve transparency, Italian authorities said Thursday following a video call with the firm on the matter.

Chatbots are software applications trained using massive amounts of data from the internet, enabling them to process and simulate human-like conversations with users.

ChatGPT, launched in November 2022 as a prototype, stands for Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer and is driven by a machine learning model that works much like the human brain.

While not always 100 percent accurate, the chat tool can, for example, almost instantly produce an opinion piece on a novel just by prompts containing a title and author, with the prose practically indistinguishable from that written by a human.

But AI chatbots' impressive potential has raised concerns that they could also hamper children's ability to think, as well as make it impossible for teachers to evaluate students' writing levels.

The education ministry is expected to formulate guidelines on using chatbots in schools to address such issues and explore their educational benefits.

Part of the 100 million yen ($761,000) initial budget for fiscal 2023 allocated to promoting cutting-edge technology in schools will be set aside for investigating chatbots, including their utility in Japan and issues faced overseas, the officials said.

"When utilizing new technologies, it is important to keep in mind both the pros and cons," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a press conference Thursday.

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