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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Individual Developers Can Now Use Github’s Copilot ‘AI Assistant’

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I love writing code to make things: apps, websites, charts and even music† It’s a skill I’ve been working hard on for over 20 years.

So I must confess last week’s news about the release of a new “AI assistant” coding helper called GitHub copilot gave me complicated feelings.

Copilot, which spits out code to order based on “clear English” descriptions, is a remarkable tool. But is it about to put programmers like me out of work?

Trained on billions of lines of human code

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GitHub (now owned by Microsoft) is a collaboration platform and social network for developers. Think of it as a cross between Dropbox and Instagram, which is used by everyone from individual hobbyists to highly paid software engineers at large tech companies.

Over the past decade, GitHub users have uploaded tens of billions of lines of code for more than 200 million apps. That is a lot ifs and fors andprint("hello world") explanations.

The Copilot AI works like many other machine learning tools: it is “trained” by scanning and searching for patterns in those tens of billions of lines of code written and uploaded by members of the GitHub coding community.