Study provides insights on GitHub Copilot’s impact on developer productivity

by | Sep 7, 2022 | Technology

Recently, writing software code has become a promising use case for large language models like GPT-3. At the same time, like many developments in artificial intelligence (AI), there are concerns about how much of the excitement surrounding large language model (LLM)-powered coding is hype. 

A new study by GitHub shows that Copilot, its AI code programming assistant, results in a significant increase in developer productivity and happiness. Copilot uses Codex, a specialized version of GPT-3 trained on gigabytes of software code, to autocomplete instructions, generate entire functions, and automate other parts of writing source code.

The study comes one year after GitHub launched the technical preview of its Copilot tool and just a few months after it became publicly available. GitHub’s study surveyed more than 2,000 programmers —  mostly professional developers and students, who have used Copilot throughout the past year. 

While AI-assisted coding is still a new field and needs more research, GitHub’s study provides a good look at what to expect from tools such as Copilot.

Happiness and productivity 

According to the GitHub’s findings, 60–75% of developers feel “more fulfilled with their job, feel less frustrated when coding, and can focus on more satisfying work” when using its Copilot tool.

Feeling fulfilled and satisfied is a subjective experience, though there are some common traits across what developers reported.

“Knowledge workers in general – and that includes software developers – are intrigued and motivated by problem-solving, and creativity,” GitHub Researcher, Eirini Kalliamvakou, told VentureBeat. “For example, a developer tends to find it more satisfying to think about what design patterns to use, or how to architect a solution that implements a particular logic, drives an outcome, or solves a problem. Compared to that, the rote memorization of syntax or ordering of parameters is considered ‘toil’ that most developers would love to get through quickly.”

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