The huge power and potential danger of AI-generated code

The huge power and potential danger of AI-generated code

Enlarge (credit: Mark Garlick/Science Photo Library/Getty)

In June 2021, GitHub announced Copilot, a kind of auto-complete for computer code powered by OpenAI’s text-generation technology. It provided an early glimpse of the impressive potential of generative artificial intelligence to automate valuable work. Two years on, Copilot is one of the most mature examples of how the technology can take on tasks that previously had to be done by hand.

This week GitHub released a report, based on data from almost a million programmers paying to use Copilot, that shows how transformational generative AI coding has become. On average, they accepted the AI assistant’s suggestions about 30 percent of the time, suggesting that the system is remarkably good at predicting useful code.

(credit: GitHub)

The striking chart above shows how users tend to accept more of Copilot’s suggestions as they spend more months using the tool. The report also concludes that AI-enhanced coders see their productivity increase over time, based on the fact that a previous Copilot study reported a link between the number of suggestions accepted and a programmer’s productivity. GitHub’s new report says that the greatest productivity gains were seen among less experienced developers.

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