Thursday, July 25, 2024

Opinion: Presto, you’re a gorilla. But is that a good thing?

Editor | January 31, 2024 2:00 AM

So the other day my daughter asked me for a reference picture of someone snowshoeing, so I hopped on Photoshop and starting browsing for photos through my hard drives.

The latest, greatest version of this software — which we’ve used to edit photos for the last 25 years at this newspaper — has a “generative fill” filter that shows up under a photo by default.

This allows you to change just about anything you want in a picture with a click or two.

Don’t like your landscape photo? Change the sky. Tree in the wrong spot? Move it. 

This has always been an option in Photoshop, but it took quite a bit of work and the end product often looked exceedingly fake.

No more. 

I found a snowshoer for my daughter and just for fun, I selected him and then typed in the word “gorilla.”

In a few second I had gorilla on snowshoes (albeit a very skinny one).

I tried a few more on a photo of my granddaughter. She was facing the camera, so the “gorilla” filter worked easy on her. Ditto for lizard. Even a campfire.

This all sounds like fun and games, until, of course, it isn’t. The Washington Post recently had a story debunking fake war photos from Gaza and Ukraine. (The Ukraine photo featured a very sad little girl on a war torn street. Certainly could have been real, but it wasn’t).

Adobe issues “guidelines” for artificial intelligence and will even stop some commands. For example, I typed in explosion and it referred me back to its guidelines and wouldn’t complete the command.

But for the most part, Adobe and plenty of other software companies have made it so easy to fake an image that anyone willing to pay the company $10 a month for its software can do so.

The proliferation of AI generated images is a two-way street with the public and in particular, politicians. Say you catch a politician on camera or on video doing something unethical or illegal.

They can simply claim it’s a fake. (They’ve already done that). They can also wield the power to create fake photos, video and audio, too. With a few clicks, they could create a fake conflict, if they saw fit.

It is a fine mess and it will only get worse until we have some real and trusted authentification processes. Adobe has what’s called content credentials, which can tell a user how many times and to what degree a photo file has been altered, but currently it’s very vague and not very useful.

Camera companies like Nikon and Canon and working toward “baking in” authenticity into the image itself, but it hasn’t been implemented, to my knowledge, yet.

In the meantime, my promise to you is the Hungry Horse News, outside of color corrections, cropping, noise removal and resizing for print, does not alter its photos in any way. The photo is as we saw it through the lens and recorded by the camera.