To get setup:
- Signup with your GitHub account
- It costs $10 p/m, with a free 2 month trial, and free for students and open source maintainers
- Install the CoPilot extension in your IDE e.g. VS Code
I was blown-away at how well CoPilot performed for the small project I was working on, but it’s limitations became clear over time.
What it does well
- It is spookily efficient at suggesting code for common tasks
- Its suggestions were in the context of my existing work
- It a great job working within a single file
What it doesn’t do well
- It didn’t always do a good job of understanding the contents of other files in the project
- For whatever reason it really struggled with CSS (which I could really use the help with)
- It doesn’t plan your project for you, it just gives you the code you ask for
CoPilot will reduce the demand for small projects e.g. rather than using Fiverr to create a scraper or a simple form, people with a little technical skill will build their own. For example I created this simple Python script by typing a couple of comments and pressing tab a lot:
However ultimately CoPilot suffers from the same limitation as GPT3; it’s an incredible guessing machine, but it has no context. Maybe in future it can work in tandem with ‘bigger picture’ models, but without context, CoPilot can’t plan ahead in the same way as a human.
The big loser from this kind of technology might turn out to be Stack Overflow. Normally I would check it, via a Google search, anytime I get stuck, but as CoPilot was suggesting syntax for me there was no need.
I’ll pay the $10 p/m - I can forsee that it will be a big productivity win for me and others who work on small projects, automate tasks etc, but it won’t be replacing professional software engineers.
Header image courtesy of Dalle-2.