Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have become game-changers in software development. Generative AI, in particular, has revolutionized the way developers approach coding by providing them with tools that can automatically generate code snippets or entire applications. Generative AI offers numerous benefits in software development, although concerns about its impact on intellectual property and unintended consequences have arisen. Are these concerns justified and can they be addressed?
Benefits of Generative AI
To address these questions, let’s first explore the benefits and impacts of generative AI on organizations. A notable advantage of utilizing generative AI in software development is its ability to enhance efficiency. Generative AI tools like CoPilot, Tabnine and CodeWhisperer automate tedious and time-consuming tasks such as writing boilerplate code or fixing syntax errors. This allows developers to focus their energy on solving more complex problems, which speeds up the development process and frees developers to work on more creative aspects of the project. Generative AI empowers developers to focus on complex business logic and tough problems, ultimately aiding in the creation of faster and more reliable software through the composition of efficient and optimized code.
Generative AI also can reduce the potential for errors. Even the most skilled developers can inadvertently introduce bugs and security vulnerabilities. Generative AI tools offer an additional layer of code verification, reducing the likelihood of errors. Furthermore, AI-powered tools can identify potential security vulnerabilities and propose enhancements, further elevating code quality.
Given the advantages of improved productivity, efficiency and quality, one might assume that most organizations would readily embrace these tools. At Sparq, we are using these tools today for some clients and will continue offering them to those who are interested. However, we’ve seen some pockets of hesitation about the use of generative AI in software development. This hesitation stems from concerns related to intellectual property and potential legal issues. Organizations often raise valid questions such as, ‘Does the tool own the code it generates?’ or ‘Can the tool generate unsafe code or biased code?’ or ‘Does the tool keep a copy of my code and share it with others?’ These types of concerns can be minimized or completely mitigated by purchasing business or professional licenses and leveraging your already established software development processes.
In the case of CoPilot, Tabnine and CodeWhisperer, you own the code generated. In addition, these tools do not retain or share your code with others or exploit it for tool improvements if you purchase a business or professional license. When using generative AI, we always recommend that you purchase the licenses. Regarding insecure code suggestions, these tools can sometimes suggest insecure or biased code. While each of the tools has mechanisms for avoiding such scenarios, it is still possible. However, the best way to mitigate this risk is the same way you do it today — by conducting proper code and security reviews. These reviews are essential whether you’re using generative AI or not. After all, developers can introduce insecure or biased code as well, and we manage this today with process and tooling.
We understand the hesitation in adopting new technologies, but with the proper safeguards, generative AI promises to change the way we work and provide important efficiencies for software developers. We’re confident it will continue to mature and drive better experiences for organizations and developers. At Sparq we are seeing increased demand from clients to leverage these tools in more projects. In the near future, the question will no longer be, ‘Do you want to use these tools?’ it will be, ‘Why aren’t you using these tools?’
About the Author:
Janet Pierce is Chief Engineering Officer at Sparq. In this role, she leads the strategic positioning of Sparq engineering capabilities in the market. Her leadership helps accelerate delivery and maximize outcomes for Sparq’s clients.
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