Skip to main content

Techies swarm San Francisco’s first-ever generative AI conference as industry booms

An attendee photographs a projection of AI art generated by Jasper during Gen AI, the first-ever conference on generative AI. | Michaela Vatcheva for The Standard

As people around the world marked Valentine’s Day, techies in San Francisco were celebrating their love for something else entirely: generative artificial intelligence.

More than 1,000 people from across the country and the globe converged on the Pier 27 conference center to hear from some of the leading luminaries of the AI industry at the Gen AI conference, which billed itself as the “first-ever conference on generative AI.”

Hold the jokes about nerds unable to get dates: In 2023, AI people are probably much cooler and more dateable than you. 

Products like OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot and Dall-E digital image generator have captured the public imagination, and venture capitalists have thrown over $6.8 billion at Bay Area AI companies. Everywhere you turn, people are discovering—and funding—the nascent industry.

Hosted by Jasper, which calls itself an “AI copywriter,” the conference was an barometer of just how hot AI is right now: Despite tickets going for $450, the one-day conference sold out and Pier 27 was jampacked. 

The audience was buzzing with techies already using AI in their work—and convinced that the technology will fundamentally change the way we live. The Standard talked with attendees about where they think the world’s hottest technology is headed.

The Enthusiast

Jerlyn O’Donnell | Michaela Vatcheva for The Standard

Jerlyn O’Donnell, who works at a New York-based health care marketing firm, experiments with AI daily.

She’s made OpenAI’s ChatGPT create worksheets for her, serve as a travel guide and summarize Wikipedia articles about her native country of Dominica—although it got some facts wrong with that last task. ChatGPT even wrote the out-of-office message for her trip to Gen AI.

“You don’t want to be the one who’s catching up,” she told The Standard about the technology. “You actually want to be one of the people using it.”

She believes tools like ChatGPT could help health care companies rewrite text for people with lower reading levels or explain medications in understandable language.

“In our health care sector, we focus a lot on accessibility,” she said. “Our industry saves lives, so you want to make sure the content is understandable to everyone.”

Although many of her friends are afraid of AI and its potential to eliminate human jobs, O’Donnell says she isn’t worried—in her industry, everything must be accurate and must undergo legal review.

“The human behind it still has to fact-check anything that is generated,” she said.

The Disrupter

Atin Gupta | Michaela Vatcheva for The Standard

Atin Gupta is an old-school AI professional.

He works as a vice president at, a company that uses AI to avoid waste in global supply chains. But Gupta also had another reason for attending Gen AI: He believes generative AI will disrupt the entire creative industry.

“I think it's a big risk to Netflix, a big risk to YouTube and a big risk for TikTok,” he said, “because you and I can just type in a prompt and start creating a video in literally five minutes.”

Make no mistake: The technology isn’t there yet. An AI-generated parody of Seinfeld had crude graphics and not-very-funny scripts created by OpenAI’s GPT3 technology. And it was later banned from streaming platform Twitch after the Jerry Seinfeld-esque main character ditched the non sequiturs and told transphobic and homophobic jokes during a stand-up routine.

Give it a year, said Gupta.  

Generative AI will “make everyone a creator,” he said. “I think the time is right for some company to become the new social video platform.”

The Musician

Pedro Tsividis | Michaela Vatcheva for The Standard

Pedro Tsividis spent much of his life as a classical and jazz pianist before getting a Ph.D. in cognitive science and artificial intelligence. Now, he is the founder of Infinite Music, a startup using AI to build tools for musicians, producers and others.

He believes AI could allow just about anyone to create music, whether they’re musically trained or not. 

“If you give them the ability to interface with music generation, image generation and video generation at a level where that low-level stuff gets taken care of and they can think more abstractly,” Tsividis told The Standard. “I think we're going to see entirely new kinds of art being created.”

The International Visitor

Michael Cockburn | Michaela Vatcheva for The Standard

Michael Cockburn came all the way from Edinburgh, Scotland, for Gen AI.  He is co-founder of Desana, a startup that helps multinational tech companies find flexible workspaces around the globe.

He hopes AI can help the company increase its internal efficiency and better use its own proprietary data.

“At this stage for us, we're not leveraging at all. We're playing with it,” Cockburn said. “So we're playing about it and seeing where we may get value.”

He thinks that GitHub’s Copilot, which offers autocomplete-style suggestions to coders as they work, and other AI programs that can assist with marketing, copywriting and customer service could help Desana. 

“If we don’t start adopting [AI], we get more bloated as a company,” he said.

The Opinion Advocate

Thea Ulrich | Michaela Vatcheva for The Standard

Thea Ulrich is a senior producer at Blockchains Inc., a company creating an interoperable Web3 ID that will give people “identity sovereignty.” 

She isn’t sure exactly what the future of AI holds, but she hopes that its ability to gather facts and perform functions will put more emphasis on human opinions.

“Hopefully, it will empower us to put more focus on how you really feel about something and developing your own personal point of view and take on things,” she told The Standard. “Because that is the one thing that will be unique to us.”