When I hear the term “AI”, or “AI assisted” software in a post somewhere it makes me cringe. Recently it’s been photography related posts related to recovering severely underexposed RAW images, or AI-powered upscaling where you take a 12MP photo and upscale it to something larger. But there isn’t much AI involved here, it’s just an algorithm, that may use lots of data to “learn” from to do whatever it is that it is suppose to do. It’s similar to those algorithms that cut out pieces of a photograph that you don’t want, e.g. telephone poles, people, and seamlessly replace the data so it looks like the obscuring item never was there. Making an image larger is of course challenging because you have to create data. Now there is a lot of data in a 12MP image, so an “intelligent” algorithm might be able to effectively upscale it. The same could not be said for upscaling a 640×480 to 12MP… no amount of intelligence it going to make that happen. Like I have said before the pretext for much of the “AI” in the world is data – we have the ability to store vast repositories of data, and that data can be used to create algorithms that learn, in a fashion. But it is not organic learning in any sense of the word.
I loath statements like “AI will make the photos we take better”. What, so I can go on vacation to Norway and take a photo of a fjord on an overcast day – then the camera-based AI will pump out a beautiful sun-lit photograph? Why? Look the world is already full of doctored photographs, we don’t need any more. Photographs are what they are, and short or some basic improvements shouldn’t be played around with. Doing so destroyed their intrinsic value. Basic algorithms like image segmentation still can’t properly identify objects in the simplest of scenes… AI makes this somewhat better, but it still relies on lots of learning from existing data. Facial recognition, just to be clear, it *not* AI – it is an algorithm which finds faces, and has been around for years. AI, it seems, is the latest shiny object people are chasing because it will “fundamentally change our lives”. But consider this, maybe our lives don’t need fundamental change (except for maybe caring more about the planet, and less about the next piece of transient technology).
Look I think from the standpoint of photography, people should take real photographs, and spend less time worrying about post-processign them. AI is no substitute for experience, and good quality lenses. From other perspectives, algorithms are good at pattern matching, but that’s not really AI. We can’t even get translation to work effectively. There was a whole article earlier this year in The Atlantic about The Shallowness of Google Translate. There are times when translate just doesn’t work. Give it a fancy font, and it can’t even detect the characters (I have another post on that). It is good for simple sentences, but just can’t handle the hard stuff. Machines are devoid of many things, emotion being on the top of the list. But they are also devoid of the sense of thought. Machines don’t think, they process data. They don’t invent, they don’t think outside the box, they don’t paint. Humans do those things, so why try and create something that humans already do?
There is more to life than technology, and algorithms.