Winner of the 2022 Pierre & Alexandra Boulat Award
From the 19th century Gold Rush to the present day, San Francisco has attracted young people with dreams. More recently, tales of fortunes made in technology created a modern-day gold rush in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley. “Wild West Tech” explores the lives of individuals and their culture in the Silicon Valley bubble. These lives are intertwined: tech people live together, network, compete, and party together, leaving little time to spend in the non-tech world. Their bubble is an echo chamber reinforcing their own ideas, yet the end-products of their work have consequences worldwide.
The first chapters of the project focused on the frenzy of the boom in smartphones and social media. And the innovations have kept on coming with robotics, self-driving cars, virtual reality, drones, and artificial intelligence, not to mention blockchain technologies and cryptocurrency challenging the financial system.
Artificial intelligence reached new heights when the San Francisco company OpenAI released ChatGPT in late 2022. More entrepreneurs flocked to San Francisco, and by late January 2023 there was a whole community there working in AI start-ups. Almost every night there is an AI networking event to attend, or sometimes several competing events with the same people seen at each one, excitedly showing their current projects in an atmosphere that seems more communal than cutthroat. The new boom with generative AI has developed so fast that even people working on it have been taken by surprise. Many experts consider this breakthrough technology to be historic and just as important as the emergence of personal computing or even the Internet.
I feel it is vital to document the individuals involved to understand how their work will shape the future of humanity.
Photos taken in 2022 and 2023 received support from the Pierre & Alexandra Boulat Award. Parts of earlier stages received support from the Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund.