Development / Machine Learning

This Week in Programming: Microsoft Makes Low-Code No-Code with OpenAI GPT-3 Model

29 May 2021 6:00am, by

Beware the sensational headlines forewarning the end of programming jobs as we know them, for they are far from true. Nonetheless, for all of us who might dabble, who might consider ourselves to be “the programming equivalent of a home cook,” our lives are about to get even easier with the news coming out of this week’s Microsoft Build developer conference, where the company announced that it would be harnessing the GPT-3 model to “help users build apps without needing to know how to write computer code or formulas.”

The news builds on another announcement from earlier this year, when Microsoft unveiled its low-code Power Fx language at Microsoft Ignite. Power Fx, dubbed “the low-code programming language for everyone” by Microsoft, is essentially an open source formula language for low-code that’s based on Microsoft Excel used in Microsoft’s Power Apps. With the introduction of this new feature, low-code quickly becomes nearly no-code.

Now, as you can see above, we’re not talking about AI writing an entire application for you, but rather translating a natural language query into a database query. The example Microsoft offers is turning “find products where the name starts with ‘kids'” into “Filter(‘BC Orders’ Left(‘Product Name’,4)=”Kids”).” Rather than relying on documentation to find the correct commands and syntax or, let’s face it, Google or StackOverflow to find a piece of pre-written code of someone else’s to CTRL-C and CTRL-V, these developer-hopefuls can now type their query in English (that’s the language of choice for launch) and hopefully get a query that suits their needs.

Microsoft’s phrase of choice, by the way, is “citizen developers,” and they explain that said “citizen developers” will still need a basic understanding of logic to use the new feature.

“The features don’t replace the need for a person to understand the code they are implementing but are designed to assist people who are learning the Power Fx programming language and help them choose the right formulas to get the result they need. That can dramatically expand access to more advanced app building and more rapidly train people to use low code tools,” they write.

As for how the whole thing works, GPT-3 is a “massive natural language model that runs exclusively on Azure” originally developed by OpenAI for which Microsoft has an exclusive license to integrate directly into its products. GPT-3 scans billions of pages of publicly available text to train its models and, in case you haven’t seen, can offer up some pretty convincing text, wherein an AI tries to convince you, dear reader, that it is not out to end humanity. It might not, however, have the rosiest picture of Muslims after all that scanning. All that aside, it is likely perfectly suitable for turning your natural language business language into database queries using all appropriate parentheses, commas, and semicolons.

And lest you remain fearful that the robots are here to take your jobs, Microsoft ends its announcement with a quote from Charles Lamanna, corporate vice president for Microsoft’s low code application platform: “In all cases, there is a human in the loop,” Lamanna said. “This isn’t at all about replacing developers, it’s about finding the next 100 million developers in the world.”

…for now…(muahahaha)

This Week in Programming

  • Amazon Extends Lambdas, Offers ECS Anywhere: Finally, Amazon has come out with a few bits of news this week worth mentioning. First, Amazon ECS Anywhere is now generally available, bringing Amazon’s Elastic Container Service to locations outside of an AWS Region – such as on premise. Amazon ECS Anywhere lets users “run and manage container-based applications on premises, including virtual machines (VMs), bare metal servers, and other customer-managed infrastructure” with all the bells and whistles you get with Amazon ECS itself. Next, AWS Lambda Extensions are also now generally available, which brings monitoring, observability, security, and governance tools to the serverless architecture. The news comes with a number of new partners – Imperva, Instana, Sentry, Site24x7, and the AWS Distro for OpenTelemetry – and enables asynchronous responses, which “enables extensions to perform activities like sending telemetry to a preferred destination after the function’s response has been returned.” While there are many partners with extensions available, you can also build your own extensions using the Lambda Extensions API.

The New Stack is a wholly owned subsidiary of Insight Partners. TNS owner Insight Partners is an investor in the following companies: MADE, Bit.

Feature Image par marian anbu juwan de Pixabay

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