As soon as Tom Smith was able to get in touch with Codex – a new artificial intelligence technology that writes its own computer programs – he interviewed him for a job.
He asked if he could solve the “code challenges” that programmers often face when interviewing them for high-income jobs at Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook. Could you write a program that hyphens to replace all spaces in a sentence? Even better, could you write one that identifies invalid zip codes?
He did both in an instant, before completing various tasks. “These are difficult problems for many humans to solve, myself included, and he wrote the answer in two seconds,” said Smith, a seasoned programmer who oversees an artificial intelligence startup called Gado Images. “It was creepy to see.”
Codex seemed like a technology that was soon to replace human workers. As Smith continued to test the system, he found that his abilities extended well beyond a gimmick to answering prepared interview questions. He was even able to translate from one programming language to another.
However, after several weeks working with this new technology, Smith believes that it poses no threat to professional programmers. In fact, like many other experts, he considers it a tool that will end up boosting human productivity. You could even help a whole new generation of people learn the art of computers, by showing them how to write little bits of code, almost like a personal tutor.
“This tool can make a programmer’s life a lot easier,” Smith said.
Codex, a product of OpenAI, one of the world’s most ambitious research labs, reveals information about the state of artificial intelligence. Although a wide range of artificial intelligence technologies have improved rapidly over the past decade, even the most impressive systems have ended up complementing rather than replacing human workers.
Thanks to the rapid rise of a mathematical system called a neural network, machines can now learn certain skills by analyzing huge amounts of data. For example, after analyzing thousands of photos of cats, they can learn to recognize a cat.
This is the technology that recognizes the commands you give your iPhone, translates between languages in services like Skype, and identifies pedestrians and street signs when autonomous vehicles are speeding down the street.