(2021-07-11) Udell Working With Intelligent Machines

Jon Udell: Working With Intelligent Machines. In The Chess Master and the Computer, Garry Kasparov famously wrote: The winner was revealed to be not a grandmaster with a state-of-the-art PC but a pair of amateur American chess players using three computers at the same time. (centaur)

The title of his subsequent TED talk sums it up nicely: Don’t fear intelligent machines. Work with them.

That advice resonates powerfully as I begin a second work week augmented by GitHub Copilot, a coding assistant based on OpenAI’s Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT-3). Here is Copilot’s tagline: “Your AI pair programmer

GPT-3 is an intelligent machine. How can we apply Kasparov’s advice to work effectively with it?

To prime Copilot I began with a comment: # format day as Mon Jun 15

Copilot suggested the exact strftime incantation I needed.

when you’re in the flow of writing a function, avoiding that context switch doesn’t only save time. There is an even more profound benefit: it conserves attention and preserves flow.

Intentional use of examples is one way to follow Kasparov’s advice for working well with intelligent systems.

It’s hard for me — and likely even for Copilot itself — to know exactly how Copilot works. That’s going to be part of the challenge of working well with intelligent machines.

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