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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

A new AI system can read written instructions in conversational language and transform it into working computer code.

Why it matters: The model is the latest example of progress in natural language processing, the ability of AIs to read and write text.

  • But it also points toward a future in which coders will be able to offload some of their work to AIs, and where ordinary people may be able to code without actually learning how to code.

Driving the news: Today OpenAI is releasing an improved version of its Codex AI model and inviting businesses and private developers to access it through its API.

  • Codex is a descendant of OpenAI's massive text-generating model GPT-3, which was released last summer.
  • But while GPT-3 was trained on a huge quantity of language data taken from the internet — enabling it to read and then complete text prompts submitted by a human user — Codex was trained on both language and billions of lines of publicly available computer code.
  • As a result, users can issue commands in written English, and Codex will produce computer code capable of carrying out those instructions, essentially making it an English to Python (or JavaScript or Ruby or any of the more than a dozen programming languages in Codex's training data) computer code translator.

What they're saying: "We think this is a tool that can remove barriers of entry to allow more people to get into computer coding," says Greg Brockman, a co-founder and chief technology officer at OpenAI. "It's really the start of being able to talk to your computer and get it to do what you're asking in a capable, reliable way."

How it works: At an online demo for Axios, Brockman showed how Codex could be instructed to print text, add emotional feeling and even send that text as an SMS.

Credit: OpenAI

What's next: Developers in the OpenAI beta test will be able to build applications on top of the Codex API, allowing them to "push the envelope on what's out there," says Brockman.

Go deeper

Aug 18, 2021 - Health

Texas school district adds masks to dress code, skirting ban on COVID mandates

Photo: Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

A school district in Paris, Texas, will change its dress code to require masks — finding a possible loophole around Gov. Greg Abbott's statewide ban on mandates.

Why it matters: The school district's decision comes after the Republican governor, who has fought vehemently against public health measures, tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
1 hour ago - Technology

Facebook's scandals have been great for shareholders

Expand chart
Data: YCharts; Chart: Axios

Facebook has been embroiled in scandal for the past five years, and while the specific allegations change over time, a central theme is constant. Given the choice between commercial and moral imperatives, Facebook always seems to choose the option that is best for the share price.

Why it matters: Facebook's stock chart supports that narrative. Since the 2016 scandals alleging that the social network was infiltrated by foreign actors trying to influence the outcome of democratic elections, Facebook's revenues — and its stock — have been soaring.

Biden to tap telecom trio for NTIA, FCC posts

Jessica Rosenworcel. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

President Joe Biden on Tuesday is expected to name Alan Davidson as head of the telecom arm of the Commerce Department, Jessica Rosenworcel as chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission and Gigi Sohn as a commissioner at the FCC, according to a person familiar with the process.

Why it matters: Internet availability and affordability has been a key policy priority for the White House, but the administration lagged in tapping people for the agency posts that oversee the issues.