How popular is ChatGPT? Part 1: more popular than Taylor Swift
Harlan Stewart, 23 February 2023
Part 2: slower growth than Pokémon GO
Public attention toward AI seems much higher after the release of ChatGPT at the end of November. But how much higher is it? To better understand this, I looked at search data from Google Trends about ChatGPT, OpenAI, AI, and AI Alignment. Unfortunately, Google Trends only shares relative search volumes instead of the number of searches made for a term or topic. I compared these relative search volumes to other non-AI topics, such as Taylor Swift, to make them more useful. This is similar to adding a familiar “for scale” object in a product photo.
How to read these graphs
In the first graph, the data is about searches for the terms in quotation marks, which are exact search terms. In the others, the data is about search “topics,” which are collections of various search terms related to a topic, as defined by Google Trends.
The vertical axes of these graphs are relative search volume, defined as the percentage of the peak search volume in that graph.
ChatGPT is mainstream
For the time that ChatGPT has been publicly available since November 30 2022, US searches for it outnumbered US searches for Taylor Swift or Drake. However, there were only around a third as many searches for ChatGPT as searches for Wordle, and Wordle itself had only around a third of the search volume that it did in Spring 2022.
Americans suddenly know about OpenAI
For the time that OpenAI has existed, since December 10 2015, Americans usually searched for it less than for Blockbuster Video, a retailer that closed in 2014. In the months since ChatGPT was announced, American searches for OpenAI have increased by around 15x to a volume similar to that for Samsung.
Interest in AI evolved from dinosaurs to birds
For most of the last decade, there has been a similar number of global searches about AI as about dinosaurs. In the time since DALL-E 2’s beta was announced less than a year ago, global searches about AI have roughly tripled, rising to a volume of global searches similar to that about birds.
Alignment interest is at an all-time high but still pretty low
Over the last 10 years, global searches about AI alignment have risen from “digital scent technology” level to “colonization of the moon” level and possibly beyond. Searches about AI alignment seem to have roughly quadrupled in the last two years. Eyeballing this graph, it’s unclear to me whether the announcements of DALL-E 2 or ChatGPT had any significant effect on search volume.
ChatGPT is receiving mainstream attention. Although I have not done any statistical analysis of these trends, it appears to me that the popularity of ChatGPT is also driving interest in both OpenAI as a company and AI in general. Interest in alignment is also on the rise but still about as obscure an interest as colonization of the moon.
It’s unclear whether interest in AI will continue to grow, plateau, or drop back to previous levels. This will likely depend on what near-term future progress in AI will look like. If you expect that AI-related news as interesting as ChatGPT will be rare, you might expect interest to decline as the hype fizzles out. If you expect that the pace of interesting AI advancements will continue at its current fast rate, you might expect interest in AI to continue to grow, perhaps becoming even more popular than birds.