GitHub’s AI Copilot is helping write 30pc of new code on the platform

28 Oct 2021

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Copilot, which acts like predictive text for programmers, has also been able to retain 50pc of coders who used it for the first time.

Code hosting service GitHub revealed its AI assistant for programmers, Copilot, back in June. Now, the Microsoft-owned company says up to 30pc of new code on its platform is written with the help of Copilot.

Copilot is an AI tool that acts like predictive text for coders. It is a programming assistant in GitHub’s visual studio code editor and gives users suggestions for lines of code or entire functions inside the editor.

Future Human

Oege de Moor, VP of GitHub Next, the team responsible for Copilot, told Axios yesterday (27 October) that feedback for the tool has been largely positive – with half of the developers who tried it continuing to use it.

“We hear a lot from our users that their coding practices have changed using Copilot,” he said. “Overall, they’re able to become much more productive in their coding.”

The tool is powered by the OpenAI Codex algorithm, a new AI system that was trained on a large dataset of public source code. OpenAI was founded in 2015 with the aim of ensuring that artificial intelligence “benefits all of humanity”.

In a June interview with CNBC, co-founder and CTO Greg Brockman said OpenAI will release the Codex model for third-party developers to weave into their own applications later in the year, meaning that Copilot’s underlying technology won’t be exclusively for major investor Microsoft.

Microsoft invested $1bn in OpenAI in 2019, with plans to work on “secure, trustworthy and ethical” AI to serve the public, while focusing on constructing new Azure AI supercomputing technologies.

‘Broader audiences’

At its Universe 2021 annual event yesterday, GitHub announced upgrades to Copilot that would extend support to more programming languages, including Java. Earlier this year, GitHub said its technical preview works well with Python, JavaScript, TypeScript, Ruby and Go.

GitHub said it is also expanding Copilot’s support to Neovim and JetBrains, integrated development environments that assist programmers in software development.

“This is going to help bring this technology to a much broader audience,” de Moor said in the Axios interview, adding that it is part of GitHub’s effort to “make programming accessible to the next 200m developers”.

AI-assisted tools such as Copilot often prompt fears that the technology could one day replace humans by doing a job better, but GitHub’s Copilot tool is designed to augment human work rather than create original code.

A New York University study in August found that approximately 40pc of the code produced by Copilot had cybersecurity flaws. However, the average human programmer makes 70 bugs per 1,000 lines of code, according to data logging analytics company Coralogix.

GitHub was acquired by Microsoft in June 2018 for $7.5bn in stock. “Microsoft is all-in on open source,” CEO Satya Nadella said at the time.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic

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