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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The open-source software developer GitHub says that for some programming languages, about 30% of newly written code is being suggested by the company's AI programming tool Copilot.

Why it matters: Copilot can look at code written by a human programmer and suggest further lines or alternative code, eliminating some of the repetitive labor that goes into coding.

How it works: Copilot is built on the OpenAI Codex algorithm, which was trained on terabytes of openly available source code and can translate human language into programming language. It serves as a more sophisticated autocomplete tool for programmers.

  • "We hear a lot from our users that their coding practices have changed using Copilot," says Oege de Moor, VP of GitHub Next, the team rolling out Copilot. "Overall, they're able to become much more productive in their coding."

Between the lines: The company will announce at its GitHub Universe conference today that it will be rolling out Copilot support for all popular programming languages, including Java.

  • "This is going to help bring this technology to a much broader audience," says de Moor, adding that it is part of GitHub's effort to "make programming accessible to the next 200 million developers."
  • De Moor also notes that Copilot has proven sticky with the community's base — 50% of the developers who have tried the product since its launch in July have kept using it.

The catch: Not unlike OpenAI's massive text-generating natural language product GPT-3, Copilot is much more effective in augmenting human work than in creating its own code.

  • Like any algorithm, it is dependent on the quality of its training data. In a study, a group of academics from New York University found 40% of the code produced by Copilot had cybersecurity flaws.
  • Yes, but: Humans are far from perfect either — by one estimate, the average developer creates 70 bugs per 1,000 lines of code.

The bottom line: Even as Copilot improves, human programmers won't be out of a job. Demand for software developers grew 25% in 2020, and most programmers spend less than half of their working time actually writing code.

Editor's note: This story and headline have been corrected to show that the percentage of newly written code being suggested by Copilot is 30% for some programming languages, not all.

Go deeper

The front-runners for Biden's Supreme Court pick

Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson (left) and Justice Leondra Kruger (right) Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images and Lonnie Tague, US Department of Justice

Two highly accomplished Black female judges — Ketanji Brown Jackson, a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals; and Leondra Kruger, a justice on the California Supreme Court — are seen as the early front-runners to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

The big picture: Jackson is a powerful federal judge with a record that progressives feel they can trust. Kruger was a highly regarded litigator and has carved out a reputation for working well with conservative judges.

Fed: Rate hikes are near

The Federal Reserve's headquarters building. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve is on track to raise its main target interest rate in mid-March, as Chair Jerome Powell pledged to be "humble and nimble" in adapting policy to a fast-changing economy.

Why it matters: Fed leaders are looking to choke off inflation by raising interest rates in the near future, but keeping its options open for how fast and far the effort will go.

How long it’s taken to confirm Supreme Court justices

Expand chart
Data: Axios research, U.S. Supreme Court, Supreme Court Historical Society; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

It takes a U.S. president an average of 70 days from the date a Supreme Court seat is vacated to nominate a replacement, according to data from the Supreme Court Historical Society.

Why it matters: With news outlets reporting liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's plans to retire, Democrats will be looking to confirm President Biden's nominee with enough time to refocus the national political debate ahead of the midterms.