Will We Someday Write Code Just By Describing It?

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    Using millions of programs in online repositories, Intel, Georgia Tech, and MIT researchers created a tool called MISIM (Machine Inferred code Similarity) with a database of code scored by the similarity of its outcomes to suggest alternatives (and corrections) to programmers. The hope is “to aid developers with nitty-gritty choices like ‘what is the most efficient way to use this API’ or ‘how can I correctly validate this input’,”Ryan Marcus, scientist at Intel Labs, told ZDNet. “This should give engineers a lot more time to focus on the elements of their job that actually create a real-world impact…” Justin Gottschlich, the lead for Intel’s “machine programming” research team, told ZDNet that as software development becomes ever-more complex, MISIM could have a great impact on productivity. “The rate at which we’re introducing senior developers is not on track to match the pace at which we’re introducing new chip architectures and software complexity,” he said. “With today’s heterogeneous hardware — CPUs, GPUs, FPGAs, ASICs, neuromorphic and, soon, quantum chips — it will become difficult, perhaps impossible, to find developers who can correctly, efficiently, and securely program across all of that hardware.” But the long-term goal of machine programming goes even further than assisting software development as it stands today. After all, if a technology can assess intent and come up with relevant snippets of code in response, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to imagine that the algorithm could one day be used by any member of the general public with a good software idea. Combined with natural language processing, for example, MISIM could in theory react to verbal clues to one day let people write programs simply by describing them. In other words, an Alexa of sorts, but for software development. Gottschlich explained that software creation is currently limited to the 27 million people around the world who can code. It is machine programming’s ultimate goal to expand that number and one day, let people express their ideas in some other fashion than code — be it natural language, visual diagrams or even gestures. Intel currently plans to use the new tool internally. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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