AI Copilot programming tool allows up to 30% of code to be written on GitHub

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Open source software developer GitHub claims that up to 30% of the newly written code on its network is done using the company’s AI programming tool, Copilot.

Why is this important: Copilot can examine code written by a human programmer and suggest other lines or alternative code, eliminating some of the repetitive work required for coding.

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How it works: Copilot is built on the OpenAI Codex algorithm, which was trained on terabytes of freely available source code and can translate human language into programming language. It serves as a more sophisticated autocomplete tool for programmers.

  • “Our users often tell us that their coding practices have changed with Copilot,” says Oege de Moor, vice president of GitHub Next, the team that deploys Copilot. “Overall, they are able to become a lot more productive at their coding.”

Between the lines: The company will announce today at its GitHub Universe conference that it will deploy support for Copilot for all popular programming languages, including Java.

  • “This will help bring this technology to a much larger audience,” de Moor said, adding that this is part of GitHub’s effort to “make programming accessible to the next 200 million developers.”

  • De Moor also notes that Copilot has proven to stick with the base of the community – 50% of developers who have tried the product since its launch in July have continued to use it.

The trap : Much like OpenAI GPT-3’s massive text generation natural language product, Copilot is much more efficient at increasing human labor than creating its own code.

  • Like any algorithm, it depends on the quality of its training data. In one study, a group of academics from New York University found that 40% of the code produced by Copilot had cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

  • Yes, but: Humans are far from perfect either – according to one estimate, the average developer creates 70 bugs for every 1,000 lines of code.

The bottom line: Even if Copilot improves, human programmers will not be out of work. The demand for software developers increased by 25% in 2020, and most programmers spend less than half of their working time writing code.

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