Automation is different. It's different because it's automated.
January 24, 2022 11:29 AM   Subscribe

"....[Github's] Copilot doesn't just limit itself to code. It also likes to insert itself into my writing. So, as an experiment, I decided to let Copilot write a post for me."
Software is a complex business. It's a lot like a food industry. You can make a lot of food, but you can't make a lot of food without a lot of people. Software is the exact opposite. You can make a lot of people, but you can't make a lot of people without a lot of software.
posted by jenkinsEar (24 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
About what I would expect. Better writing than some of the top ranked search results for various coding questions. Also, got to hand it to the AI for it's sense of rhythm.
posted by natteringnabob at 11:40 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


Metafilter:
"Automation isn't Magic

Automation is magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic. It's magic.

Note: The word "magic" is a bit of a misnomer. It's not magic if it doesn't do something. It's magic if it does something."

I didn't expect to enjoy reading this as much as I did. It reminds me of the way I have to sometimes flatten down my thoughts into this kind of unusually simple syntax just to get my point across otherwise people don't know what I'm talking about.
posted by bleep at 11:47 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


Copilot is pretty magical when it works, though.

I was recently writing a small script to enable calculations in base-11 using the digits 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-ჭ-7-8-9 (ჭ = thrembo, google it, or don't), and I had to take the thremboish expression, convert it to decimal numbers, do the calculation, then convert it back to thremboish.

So I wrote a function:
def dec_to_thrembo(x):
  y = dec_to_base(x, 11)
  s=''
  for i in y:
    s+=to_thrembo[i]
  return s
then I typed "def thrembo_to_dec(x):" and Copilot suggested:
 def thrembo_to_dec(x):
  y = ""
  for i in x:
    y+=from_thrembo[i]
  return base_to_dec(y, 11)
Just like that, it understood what I wanted to do and how to do it using the functions I'd already defined. Magic.
I was also manually translating a site the other day using .po files and it filled in the correct translations for fairly long and complicated sentences.
posted by signal at 11:48 AM on January 24 [5 favorites]


I think I've read this poem before.
posted by heyitsgogi at 12:06 PM on January 24


Oh, if you're going to make a lot of people, you're definitely going to need some hardware.
posted by biogeo at 12:10 PM on January 24 [14 favorites]


Hey, it's Gertrude Stein.
posted by sy at 12:11 PM on January 24 [7 favorites]


The prosody is fascinating. The text itself is nonsense, but the engine has clearly internalized the notion of repetition with elaboration and modification in a way midway between poetry and explaining something to an unusually slow-witted listener. I'm reminded kind of vaguely of Brian Michael Bendis.

(on preview: yeah, there's more than a little Tender Buttons in there too.)
posted by jackbishop at 12:14 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


I have to admit, I laughed a lot at the bit where it extolled the virtues of removing print(list) from the function.
posted by biogeo at 12:18 PM on January 24 [9 favorites]


Am I right that the joke is that a programmer-essayist has taken something I don't understand (what AI can currently do and not do in programming) and translated it into something that I can understand (a writing voice conforming to and diverging from the logic, organization, and style of a expository essay), as a way of exemplifying the potential but also severe limitations of AI-assisted programming as it currently exists? Because several comments, if I'm reading them correctly, have taken this straight, as a text generated by an AI, and that is not my reading, but if I'm wrong I want to be corrected (both on the facts and whether I, who often miss jokes--"too subtle" is a family catchphrase--have read the comments wrong).
posted by sy at 12:18 PM on January 24


I'm hardly an expert programmer but in my experience "explaining something to an unusually slow-witted listener" isn't altogether a bad description of what programming is so it makes sense that copilot would be good at it.

On edit: Sy, if you're not familiar with GPT-3 text generation, what this essay is doing seems well within what state-of-the-art generative text can do. Maybe this isn't actually Github copilot writing it, I couldn't say if that particular algorithm can write prose like this, but I don't think it's unreasonable to take at face value that this is the work of a computer (or a computer liberally edited by a person) rather than a person pretending to be a computer.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:20 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


Itc's output by CoPilot, sy.

"The insanity that follows is what it came up with. With the exception of a starting quote character (>) to set the tone, Copilot wrote every single line below."
posted by k3ninho at 12:21 PM on January 24


Oh, if you're going to make a lot of people, you're definitely going to need some hardware.

And the process takes like nine months to run...
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:27 PM on January 24 [4 favorites]


I've heard that you can make the hardware self-replicating.
posted by heatherlogan at 3:10 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


I've seen less coherent presidential speeches.
posted by acb at 3:25 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


"The best way to make software easier to use is to make it easier to use."

I mean... it's not wrong.
posted by heatherlogan at 3:51 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


Wow. An AI with severe Dunning-Kruger bias. The only thing that would have made this better is if there was at the bottom:
<!—Nailed it! —>
or
#micdrop
posted by drowsy at 3:56 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


I wonder what kind of data they trained this on... is there a 'house' style the programmers on github use for their inline comments.... or does this come from some other kind of tech writing... it does sound like my math and physics textbooks that had "good writing" from college.
posted by subdee at 5:11 PM on January 24


Copilot is pretty magical when it works, though.

We've banned nondeterministic code generators at my job. These tools have an unfortunate habit of occasionally regurgitating their training dataset, and if you care about software licenses you should treat them with great caution. I mean, Oracle's GitHub-hosted code is in there somewhere.
posted by mhoye at 5:20 PM on January 24 [5 favorites]


As a software developer, what I like best about Copilot is the rage that it seems to induce in quite a few other software developers.
posted by Slothrup at 5:45 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Co-pilot is amazing and terrifying at the same time. I am really shocked by how often it just does what I want.
posted by interogative mood at 8:44 PM on January 24


man, i had never realized computers thought so much about how we're lazy
posted by augustimagination at 11:40 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


It makes sense though. It's a big part of why they exist at all. Of course that is the foremost thing on their minds.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:28 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


>And the process takes like nine months to run...
The training dataset includes a book for managers [unclear corruption] nine women on the task it will take one month.
posted by k3ninho at 12:38 AM on January 25 [4 favorites]


I mean, Oracle's GitHub-hosted code is in there somewhere.

I doubt Oracle has code for doing math in thrembo, but I'll keep that in mind.
posted by signal at 5:23 AM on January 25


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