Artificial intelligence competes with computer programmers

In computer science, any beginner begins by writing a program displaying « Hello world ! ». But the American company OpenAI, a specialist in artificial intelligence, put the tradition in jeopardy on August 10. That day, in video, its technical and scientific directors announced the release of a software program, called Codex, which makes it possible to do without learning a computer language since it responds to instructions given in natural language. Just say, “Write Hello world”, for the program to obey and suggest the few lines of code that will give the traditional result.

Even more, it works to order the display of an image, a clickable button, the creation of a mini Web page server… A version linked to the famous Microsoft software, Word, also allows you to give orders by voice to remove spaces, bold lines … And all in a dozen languages ​​including the most common, Python, Ruby, Javascript, Php …

Automatic writing

In thirty minutes of demonstrations, has OpenAI just put millions of programmers out of work? Not yet. Two days later, the company issued a challenge to volunteers: convert five problems into lines of code, as quickly as possible. Many humans beat the new software, even though it did faster than the average participant. “It was really very simple problems which do not allow to measure the interest of Codex”, notes Vincent Terrasi, product director at Oncrawl, which optimizes the referencing of its customers in search engines. Nevertheless, in a matter of seconds, Codex allowed him to write a program that takes all the links from a web page and stores them in a file. “A developer often reinvents the wheel by writing fairly repetitive and classic pieces of code that could be automated, freeing up time for value-added tasks. It’s a kind of augmented intelligence ”, specifies the specialist, who also appreciates the function of automatic writing of the comments of a program to explain its operation.

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“It’s not really intelligence. The machine spits out code logically by inductive algorithmic processing. This automates some of the programmer’s tasks, but computer science is a craft and anyway, you’ll have to get your hands dirty. I doubt the value of such a tool ”, estimates François Pellegrini, professor of computer science at the University of Bordeaux. “When I see that even the worst students are recruited, I am worried to see tools appear that make it even easier to write codes”, sighs Roberto Di Cosmo, professor of computer science at the University of Paris.

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