Generative AI exploded onto the scene at the end of 2022 and continued to be the big story in early 2023, with the novel tech generating widespread curiosity and excitement. However, the latest insights from the Signal AI 500 global reputation rankings indicate the discourse may now be cooling and shifting in key ways as the exuberance of the early days wears off.
The 2023 Signal AI 500, which uses big data and artificial intelligence to benchmark conversation about the world’s most talked-about companies, reveals that in the second quarter of 2023, the volume of mentions related to generative AI started to decrease and negative sentiment appeared in unexpected areas. And while the tech industry continued to dominate the narrative, some of the most positive conversations were actually happening in other sectors.
This dip in the discourse followed a rapid rise: The public release of ChatGPT in November 2022 sparked enormous interest, and the generative AI conversation kept growing through the beginning of 2023 as tech companies battled, investment surged and the stock market soared. A third of the overall AI-related conversation was still driven by generative AI through the first half of this year, and it wasn’t until May that the tide showed signs of turning.
Shifting discourse as generative downsides come to light
The slowdown in the conversation has been accompanied by a change in tone. When generative AI first entered the zeitgeist, the discussion was largely positive as people marveled at its capabilities and businesses speculated about its transformative potential. The discourse turned darker over time as it became apparent the technology wasn’t perfect, with downsides ranging from mild creepiness to major security risks.
So, does this mean the bubble is about to burst? It depends where you look. The Signal AI 500 insights do indicate the generative AI discourse is decelerating and turning more negative, but they also reveal that companies are still being rewarded with positive attention for embracing the technology.
This complexity can be seen in conversation related to two key tech firms: OpenAI and Apple.
Not surprisingly, OpenAI—the pioneering organization that created ChatGPT—owns the biggest proportion of positive discourse surrounding generative AI. And, along with Microsoft (a major investor in OpenAI), it has accounted for half of all mentions about the technology. Apple, on the other hand, has been very cautious about generative AI, which has uncharacteristically garnered the firm the most negative sentiment.
AI discourse broadens beyond Silicon Valley
The fact that OpenAI has the most positive share of voice among high-profile companies and Apple has the most negative highlights that the generative AI discourse is still being led by a few tech firms. But these are by no means the only companies in the conversation: Brands across a number of other sectors—including hardware and semiconductors, electronics and appliances, entertainment and games, and auto—have all garnered a significant volume of mentions related to generative AI in 2023.
The sentiment of these conversations has been mixed, with generative AI driving both positive and negative narratives. For example, Nvidia, which controls the market for the chips that power solutions like ChatGPT, has become a Wall Street darling and seen its stock reach record highs. Meanwhile, entertainment companies such as Disney and Spotify have found themselves navigating a fraught “Wild West” scenario as AI has raised thorny copyright and creator compensation questions.
New sectors embrace generative AI
A paradox of the generative AI discourse is that while it may be contracting in volume, it is simultaneously expanding in scope. Key players in sectors such as retail and travel that were on the outside early on are just now entering the conversation in earnest as they explore what the technology means for them.
In the travel space, Expedia has earned the greatest volume of mentions and most positive sentiment by rolling out generative AI-powered offerings such as a trip planning chatbot and hotel comparison tool. These weren’t rushed to market but rather came after a period of experimentation and planning in which the company first focused on its tech platform, data sources and culture.
Along similar lines, online retailer Instacart has gained attention for its AI-powered search tool that can handle complex questions such as “What’s the best fish for tacos?” As with Expedia, Instacart took its time in developing the experience, creating a specialized model designed to answer food-related queries instead of relying on an out-of-the-box solution.
These emerging storylines showcase how the conversation is evolving. The heady beginning phase where the discussion was narrowly focused on the flashy spectacle of the technology is likely coming to a close. Now, the discourse appears to be maturing and widening, with more high-profile companies across a greater number of sectors grappling with the many implications of generative AI—both good and bad—and focusing on how it can truly benefit their customers and the bottom line.
Check out the full Signal AI 500 rankings here.