Language models are starting to take on programming work.

What’s new: SourceAI uses GPT-3 to translate plain-English requests into computer code in 40 programming languages. The French startup is one of several companies that use AI to ease coding, according to Wired.

How it works: Companies have trained language models to anticipate programmers’ needs.

  • SourceAI, currently in beta test, enables users to describe the function they want, then select a programming language. Between 80 and 90 percent of code generated by the beta version works as intended, founder Furkan Bektes told The Batch. He plans to charge $0.04 to $0.10 per piece of code.
  • GPT-3 also powers Debuild, which builds web applications like buttons and text input fields based on plain English descriptions.
  • Belgian startup Tabnine has a GPT-2-powered tool that automatically suggests follow-on lines of code as programmers type.

Behind the news: Other companies are also using machine learning to increase coders’ productivity and sniff out bugs.

  • Facebook’s Aroma lets developers search code databases for snippets similar to whatever they’re working on.
  • Intel’s Machine Inferred Code Similarity is a similar tool that compares pieces of code to determine their function.
  • DeepMind published a model that rewrites human-generated code to make it run more efficiently.

Why it matters: In the hands of a skilled programmer, such tools can save time, freeing up brainpower for more complex tasks. In the hands of the newbie, they make it possible to create applications with little experience and — with diligent attention — gain skills more quickly.

We’re thinking: No AI system should replace a sacred rite of passage for neophyte coders: print(“Hello World!”).


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