Generative AI and photographic transparency

AI and Society:1-6 (forthcoming)
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There is a history of thinking that photographs provide a special kind of access to the objects depicted in them, beyond the access that would be provided by a painting or drawing. What is included in the photograph does not depend on the photographer’s beliefs about what is in front of the camera. This feature leads Kendall Walton to argue that photographs literally allow us to see the objects which appear in them. Current generative algorithms produce images in response to users’ text prompts. Depending on the parameters, the output can resemble specific people or things which are named in the prompt. This resemblance does not depend on the user’s beliefs, so generated images are in this sense like photographs. Given this parallel, how should we think about AI-generated images?

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P. D. Magnus
State University of New York, Albany


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