Price of ChatGPT's API vs Human

Some napkin maths on the price of the recently released API for ChatGPT, as written by /u/TotalPositivity here on 2023-03-02.

The Implication of ChatGPT's API Cost

As many of us have seen, the ChatGPT API was released today. It is priced at 500,000 tokens per dollar. There have been multiple attempts to quantify the IQ of ChatGPT (which is obviously fraught, because IQ is very arbitrary), but I have seen low estimates of 83 up to high estimates of 147.

Hopefully this doesn’t cause too much of an argument, but I’m going to classify it as “good at some highly specific tasks, horrible at others”. However, it does speak sections of thousands of languages (try Egyptian Hieroglyphics, Linear A, or Sumerian Cuneiform for a window to the origins of writing itself 4000-6000 years ago). It also has been exposed to most of the scientific and technical knowledge that exists.

To me, it is essentially a very good “apprentice” level of intelligence. I wouldn’t let it rewire my house or remove my kidney, yet it would be better than me personally at advising on those things in a pinch where a professional is not available.

Back to costs. So, according to some quick googling, a human thinks at roughly 800 words per minute. We could debate this all day, but it won’t really effect the math. A word is about 1.33 tokens. This means that a human, working diligently 40 hour weeks for a year, fully engaged, could produce about: 52 * 40 * 60 * 800 * 1.33 = 132 million tokens per year of thought. This would cost $264 out of ChatGPT.

Taking this further, the global workforce of about 3.32 billion people could produce about 440 quadrillion tokens per year employed similarly. This would cost about $882 billion dollars.

Let me say that again. You can now purchase an intellectual workforce the size of the entire planetary economy, maximally employed and focused, for less than the US military spends per year.

I’ve lurked here a very long time, and I know this will cause some serious fights, but to me the slow exponential from the formation of life to yesterday just went hyperbolic.

ChatGPT and its ilk may takes centuries to be employed efficiently, or it may be less than years. But, even if all research stopped tomorrow, it is as if a nation the size of India and China combined dropped into the Pacific this morning, full of workers, who all work remotely, always pay attention, and only cost $264 / (52 * 40) = $0.13 per hour.

Whatever future you’ve been envisioning, today may forever be the anniversary of all of it.