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12 months ago
GitHub and OpenAI Launch a New AI Tool That Generates its Own Code

 
Originally published in The Verge, June 29, 2021.

GitHub and OpenAI have launched a technical preview of a new AI tool called Copilot, which lives inside the Visual Studio Code editor and autocompletes code snippets.

Copilot does more than just parrot back code it’s seen before, according to GitHub. It instead analyzes the code you’ve already written and generates new matching code, including specific functions that were previously called. Examples on the project’s website include automatically writing the code to import tweets, draw a scatterplot, or grab a Goodreads rating.

It works best with Python, JavaScript, TypeScript, Ruby, and Go, according to a blog post from GitHub CEO Nat Friedman.

GitHub sees this as an evolution of pair programming, where two coders will work on the same project to catch each others’ mistakes and speed up the development process. With Copilot, one of those coders is virtual.

This project is the first major result of Microsoft’s $1 billion investment into OpenAI, the research firm now led by Y Combinator president Sam Altman. Since Altman took the reins, OpenAI has pivoted from a nonprofit status to a “capped-profit” model, took on the Microsoft investment, and started licensing its GPT-3 text-generation algorithm.

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