The rise of the Epik app (and its AI-powered yearbook photos) has spotlighted a curious trend: students opting for generative AI images in their school yearbooks. At face value, it’s a novel application of technology, blending nostalgia with the cutting-edge, but it raises questions about authenticity, memory, and our posterity.

Imagine future generations flipping through old yearbooks: “Look! Here’s an old-fashioned generative AI image of grandpa in high school. Gee. I wonder what he really looked like at that age?” It’s a statement that seems almost surreal. Yearbooks have traditionally been a snapshot of a moment in time that capture the raw, unfiltered essence of our younger selves.

This trend also raises broader questions about the ethics of image manipulation. We already “Photoshop” everything; from smoothing out wrinkles to adjusting lighting, we enhance images all the time. Is generating an entirely new image with AI where we draw the line? If so, why? Where is the boundary between enhancement and fabrication? It’s a distinction that might seem subtle, but it will have profound implications.

As generative AI evolves, so too will our relationship with our own images. The choice to use AI-generated photos in yearbooks is emblematic of a larger conversation about authenticity in the digital age. As we navigate this new terrain, it’s critical to reflect on what we might be gaining – and what we could be losing.

Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it. This work was created with the assistance of various AI models, including but not limited to: GPT-4, Bard, Claude, Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, and others.

About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and CEO of The Palmer Group, a consulting practice that helps Fortune 500 companies with technology, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” he covers tech and business for Good Day New York, is a regular commentator on CNN and writes a popular daily business blog. He's a bestselling author, and the creator of the popular, free online course, Generative AI for Execs. Follow @shellypalmer or visit



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