AI programmer’s assistant: GitHub Copilot is ready

GitHub is a code hoster, CI/CD provider and now also a recruiter – at least for digital programming assistants: GitHub Copilot has received masses of code as training data and is now intended to support human programmers in their work. When typing, the software may suggest suitable next lines of code, knows well-known algorithms and typical patterns.

Previously GitHub Copilot was tested in a beta phase, now it’s available as a product. For $10 a month or $100 a year, you can embed the assistant in Neovim, JetBrains IDEs, Visual Studio, and Visual Studio Code and benefit from his code literature knowledge. GitHub names boilerplate code, unit tests, but also entire algorithms as areas of application in which it should pay off particularly well. Before you have to pay, you can try the help for free for 60 days. Offers for companies are to follow later in 2022.

In the example that GitHub published to showcase Copilot, the AI ​​could implement an entire function using only the function name.

(Image: GitHub)

GitHub boss Thomas Dohmke is extremely satisfied with the test phase in his blog post. 1.2 million users have tried Copilot in the past 12 months. According to GitHub, in files in which he was active, he contributed an average of almost 40 percent of the code to widely used programming languages ​​such as Python.

The fact that the Copilot AI is so well-read and could use all the open source code on GitHub as training data has led to criticism since the beginning of the test phase, especially from representatives of the free software scene. One of the controversial questions: Can GitHub train an AI with GPL-licensed code and then rent out the trained network for a fee? This is followed by a philosophical and fundamental question about the role of artificial intelligence: Is the training of an AI to be evaluated differently than the learning process of a person who can also use open source code for self-study and use what they have learned in their own code?

In the blog post, GitHub does not address the criticism directly, but points out that Copilot can only work thanks to a lively open source community. To give something back to them, they want to make Copilot available to students and maintainers of popular open source projects free of charge. Students must verify their status on GitHub.


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