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Enhanced AI photo of OpenAI’s Sam Altman sparks debate at GeekWire

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In a recent encounter with OpenAI CEO Sam Altman at Microsoft’s Build developer conference in Seattle, a journalist discovered the power of AI image enhancement. Despite using a DSLR camera and relying on autofocus, the photos were not as crisp as desired. However, using an AI photo-sharpening tool in Canva, the journalist was able to achieve stunning results. The tool retained the original image’s integrity while clarifying details, making Altman’s features sharper and more defined. This experience raised questions about the ethics and transparency of using AI in photojournalism.

The GeekWire news team has established ethical guidelines for the use of AI images in their articles. They disclose when an image has been generated using AI and steer clear of photorealistic images created with AI, sticking to AI illustrations instead. However, the use of AI to enhance a real photo such as in Altman’s case presented a gray area. Should the use of AI be disclosed in such instances? The team grappled with questions of transparency and how readers might interpret such disclosures, ultimately deciding to err on the side of transparency.

Professional journalism organizations offer guidelines on photo editing ethics, with some advocating for minimal adjustments to photos that maintain the image’s authenticity. The National Press Photographers Association emphasizes maintaining the integrity of the image’s content and context without misleading viewers. The Associated Press guidelines are more stringent, prohibiting changes that substantially alter the original scene. Using an AI tool, even for image enhancement, may violate these guidelines. This raises questions about how photography ethics are evolving in the age of AI technology.

The journalist’s experience with AI photo enhancement sparked a discussion within the GeekWire team about the use of common photo editing tools, autofocus, and intelligent auto settings. Should all editing tools be disclosed in the spirit of transparency? Some team members argued that disclosing every tool used would be impractical, while others pointed out the potential slippery slope of disclosure. The nuances of AI technology add complexity to this debate, with the question of whether AI image enhancement should be treated differently from other editing techniques.

Ultimately, the journalist decided to disclose that the photo of Altman was “sharpened by AI,” avoiding any implication that the image was entirely generated by AI. The decision highlighted the evolving landscape of photojournalism ethics and the challenges posed by emerging technologies. As AI continues to advance, journalists will need to navigate the ethical implications of using AI tools in their work. While AI offers exciting possibilities for image enhancement, it also raises important questions about transparency, integrity, and journalistic ethics in the digital age.

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