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One in Four Americans Thinks a Gigabyte Is an Insect

Americans are confused.

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For a country that’s home to Silicon Valley, MIT, and some of the biggest consumer tech juggernauts, America is frightfully ignorant about technology—or so a new survey suggests.

According to a study published this week by, many Americans have no idea what many common tech terms—like SEO and USB—even mean. The survey of nearly 2,400 adults from across the country collected respondents' definitions of various terms, revealing some truly ridiculous findings.

For example, when given a list of possible definitions for the term “USB,” about 12 percent of respondents decided it was “an acronym for a country in Europe.”

Less than a quarter of participants (23 percent) correctly identified “SEO” as “Search Engine Optimization,” while a larger number (27 percent) thought a “gigabyte” was an insect commonly found in South America.

23 percent of respondents thought "MP3" was the name of a Star Wars robot.

The most common misconception was “MP3,” which 23 percent of respondents thought was the name of a robot from Star Wars. An alarmingly confused 11 percent of participants thought “HTML” was a sexually transmitted disease.

“It seems that quite a few of us need to brush up on our tech definitions,” said Jessica Glaus, an account manager at, in a statement. “It’s perfectly understandable that a lot of people won’t know what SEO is, but it will be interesting to see how many more of these terms become more mainstream as tech continues to play a huge role in our lives.”

Star Trek's Captain Picard palm to face.

Despite these impressive feats of ignorance, 61 percent of respondents agreed it is “important” to have a good understanding of today’s technology.

As a tech journalist, I sometimes misjudge the extent to which average folks understand the concepts I spend my days reading and writing about. Still, I have to wonder: Who exactly are the 2,400 individuals who participated in this study, and why are they so suspiciously ignorant?

Well, a little research reveals the findings are actually not that surprising—not when you consider the mere 71 percent of young Americans who can correctly identify where the Pacific Ocean is, or the 29 percent who don’t know who the current vice president is, or the 26 percent who think the sun orbits around the Earth.

So yeah, I think I’ll stay here in my little tech bubble, thank you very much.

Hero Image: Flickr user, "ignoranceisstrenght" (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)