2014: ‘AIs Are Now Re-Writing History’ robertelliottsmith.com

Earlier this month, I linked to Marques Brownlee’s overview of computational photography. Both Brownlee and myself have vague memories of an announced iPhone feature that would create the best group photo of many, accounting for smiles and blinking.

I still have not found a trace of this feature anywhere. But Pete Ashton sent me an email about a similar Google Photos feature introduced in 2014.

Chris Guld, Picasa Geeks:

If you upload 2 or more pictures of the same group of people to Google+, the Auto-Awesome feature will create a composite picture with the best smiles.

Robert Elliott Smith (via Pete Ashton):

Over lunch, I pointed all this out to my friend Cory Doctorow. I told him that algorithms are, without prompting from their human designers or the owners of the photos, creating human moments that never existed. He was somewhat non-plused. He reminded me that cameras have always done that. The images they capture aren’t the moments as they were, and never have been.

In a sense, all digital photography is computational; even analog photography only reflects a moment based on the specific chemistry of the film. But this new era instinctively feels different to me, and I have not quite put my finger on why. I think it is something to do with the camera manipulating a specific scene’s contents rather than making adjustments based on the scene’s optical qualities.