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Apr 19

AI-generated code: Benefits, risks, and usage in Software Development

AI-generated code: Benefits, risks, and usage in Software Development
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Explore the benefits and risks of using AI-generated code in software development and when and how to leverage it to stay competitive.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has shaped numerous industries over the past few years, from automation and minimizing errors to boosting worker productivity. One key field that AI is revolutionizing is software development and programming. In fact, AI-generated code has become the new buzzword in software development circles, with experts discussing its benefits and risks in the short and long term.

While fascinating, using AI to fully or partially generate code is still highly controversial. Before you decide whether to embrace the trend, it’s important to have a solid grasp of the subject matter, its implications, and its benefits and risks.

What Is AI-generated code?

AI-generated code is a product of specialized artificial intelligence software that creates or modifies code. This software is meant to act as an AI assistant proficient in a wide variety of programming languages, able to help coders and programmers write, troubleshoot, and refine their code without having to do it through manual methods.

Complex machine learning (ML) models, like AI code generators, are trained to write code from text input by the user describing the set language of the code and what they want it to do. The code generation is created almost instantaneously and relies on the large volumes of programming data fed to the AI model during its training phase. The more accurate and reliable the data used in training the AI model, the more reliable and functional it will be at code completion.

One of the main concerns of AI-generated content, which includes code, is whether it’s considered plagiarism. Written text is categorized as plagiarism if it copies or replicates text from an outside source without permission or giving adequate credit. AI-powered code would be considered plagiarism if it replicates existing human-authored code snippets without proper attribution. However, while AI generates code based on its knowledge of patterns found in real-life examples of code, it’s generative AI, which only mimics what it already has.

Since AI-generated content is a relatively new concept, clear-cut guidelines, and ethical considerations are still in the making regarding whether AI code should be used in the same way as human-written accurate code.

Benefits of using AI-assisted coding

There are numerous benefits to using AI tools to write code or assist you in writing and debugging it. The advantages of AI code generation, however, may vary depending on your situation, your programming language of choice, and the willingness of your clients and employers to accept it.

Increased efficiency

Increased efficiency is one of the most prominent benefits of using AI to write, polish, or provide code suggestions. AI and software are perfect for automating repetitive tasks and accelerating completion time. AI code using natural language processing enables developers to focus more of their energy on the complex and creative aspects of software development that machines aren’t able to handle.

Massive amounts of code could be generated relatively quickly — depending on available computing resources for the AI. AI allows software developers to write more with less effort and time.

Reduced errors

Even when working in their specialty area with years of experience, humans are still prone to mistakes. AI models, on the other hand, are less likely to commit errors when writing code, reducing the overall number of mistakes in the final product.

Additionally, AI algorithms are exceptional at detecting patterns and anomalies in code that might indicate the existence of a bug or a performance issue. This reduces the chances of them making this mistake in the first place. Developers can also use AI assistants to catch and fix code errors faster than they could with a manual approach to debugging and troubleshooting.

Code optimization

Another great benefit of using AI is code optimization. Programming languages are often considered to be both an art and a science. Lines of code that perform the same task can vary in length and complexity depending on the approach developers choose.

AI can automatically analyze existing code to find areas where performance can be improved and suggest optimizations. The result would be a more efficient, lightweight, and high-quality code.

Accessibility

Depending on the scripting language, learning to code can take anywhere from a few months to a few years to master. Alternatively, AI-assisted coding can make coding more accessible to non-technical users with the click of a button.

Using AI coding tools, users with little to no coding background can create simple programs to help them automate and optimize their repetitive tasks without relying on professionals to write code for them from scratch.

Risks of AI-generated code

Despite the many benefits of using AI to write code, there are also significant risks that come with relying blindly on technology still in an experimental phase. It’s important that you’re well aware of the risks and consequences before investing in an AI solution for computer coding.

Quality concerns

One of the primary risks of using AI-generated code editors is the quality of the results. Since coding AI assistants use what’s known are regenerative AI, they’re likely to produce low-quality and non-functional source code, as this type of AI predicts how code is written based on the material it was trained on but doesn’t comprehend what it’s writing and how it works.

Without close human supervision, the resulting code may be filled with bugs and non-functioning segments. It’s unlikely that it would be as clean, efficient, or elegant as code written by a human with hands-on experience in programming.

Dependence on AI

Another risk of AI-generated code that’s likely to emerge is an over-reliance on AI. This could lead future software developers to lose their essential coding skills or become complacent about AI's role.

Additionally, work could become sloppy if developers rely solely on AI to catch all of the errors and inefficiencies in their code. Over time, this can stagnate the coding and programming field, preventing developers from coming up with innovative solutions to problems.

Job security

As AI continues to improve the quality of code it’s creating, there are fears that AI could begin to phase out coding jobs, leaving human developers out of work. This would result in fewer people going into programming, to begin with, leaving companies unable to find qualified human software developers to hire in their more critical aspects and operations, where AI isn’t as reliable.

Ethical concerns

There are numerous ethical concerns regarding AI-generated content, including AI-generated code. For one, AI algorithms aren’t accountable for errors, nor do they offer transparency into their inner workings and operations. This could result in code that perpetuates harmful stereotypes or inaccurate information.

Another ethical problem is the ownership of the resulting code. While plagiarism is a concern for many, there’s also the problem of copyright since there aren’t yet any laws to regulate the ownership of computer-generated material without sufficient input from a human party.

When to use AI-generated code

You can equalize the benefits and risks of using AI to generate code by only using it in appropriate scenarios. After all, AI is a highly dynamic tool that offers substantial advantages within the right context. It’s best to limit AI's use to automate repetitive coding tasks, expedite software development timelines, or suggest code under the watchful eye of experienced human developers.

Overall, striking a harmony between AI assistance and preserving human coding proficiencies remains vital. An over-reliance on AI may lead to stagnation in skills in the software development industry, while completely overlooking AI could cause you to fall behind compared to your competitors and peers.

Another crucial aspect to consider is transparency. It’s important to disclose the use of AI assistants and generators in the coding process to avoid unintentional issues with clients and customers. This would help you better navigate potential problems and legal claims.

Hire developers who can leverage AI-generated code

While AI-assisted coding presents both opportunities and challenges, it clearly has a place in the future of software development. Hiring software developers capable of leveraging AI can provide a strategic advantage for your business. 

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