Generative AI for Developers – Our Comparison




22/05/2023

near 29 min of reading

So, it begins… Artificial intelligence comes into play for all of us. It can propose a menu for a party, plan a trip around Italy, draw a poster for a (non-existing) movie, generate a meme, compose a song, or even „record” a movie. Can Generative AI help developers? Certainly, but….

In this article, we will compare several tools to show their possibilities. We’ll show you the pros, cons, risks, and strengths. Is it usable in your case? Well, that question you’ll need to answer on your own.

The research methodology

It’s rather impossible to compare available tools with the same criteria. Some are web-based, some are restricted to a specific IDE, some offer a „chat” feature, and others only propose a code. We aimed to benchmark tools in a task of code completion, code generation, code improvements, and code explanation. Beyond that, we’re looking for a tool that can „help developers,” whatever it means.

During the research, we tried to write a simple CRUD application, and a simple application with puzzling logic, to generate functions based on name or comment, to explain a piece of legacy code, and to generate tests. Then we’ve turned to Internet-accessing tools, self-hosted models and their possibilities, and other general-purpose tools.

We’ve tried multiple programming languages – Python, Java, Node.js, Julia, and Rust. There are a few use cases we’ve challenged with the tools.

CRUD

The test aimed to evaluate whether a tool can help in repetitive, easy tasks. The plan is to build a 3-layer Java application with 3 types (REST model, domain, persistence), interfaces, facades, and mappers. A perfect tool may build the entire application by prompt, but a good one would complete a code when writing.

Business logic

In this test, we write a function to sort a given collection of unsorted tickets to create a route by arrival and departure points, e.g., the given set is Warsaw-Frankfurt, Frankfurt-London, Krakow-Warsaw, and the expected output is Krakow-Warsaw, Warsaw-Frankfurt, Frankfurt-London. The function needs to find the first ticket and then go through all the tickets to find the correct one to continue the journey.

Specific-knowledge logic

This time we require some specific knowledge – the task is to write a function that takes a matrix of 8-bit integers representing an RGB-encoded 10×10 image and returns a matrix of 32-bit floating point numbers standardized with a min-max scaler corresponding to the image converted to grayscale. The tool should handle the standardization and the scaler with all constants on its own.

Complete application

We ask a tool (if possible) to write an entire „Hello world!” web server or a bookstore CRUD application. It seems to be an easy task due to the number of examples over the Internet; however, the output size exceeds most tools’ capabilities.

Simple function

This time we expect the tool to write a simple function – to open a file and lowercase the content, to get the top element from the collection sorted, to add an edge between two nodes in a graph, etc. As developers, we write such functions time and time again, so we wanted our tools to save our time.

Explain and improve

We had asked the tool to explain a piece of code:

If possible, we also asked it to improve the code.

Each time, we have also tried to simply spend some time with a tool, write some usual code, generate tests, etc.

The generative AI tools evaluation

Ok, let’s begin with the main dish. Which tools are useful and worth further consideration?

Tabnine

Tabnine is an „AI assistant for software developers” – a code completion tool working with many IDEs and languages. It looks like a state-of-the-art solution for 2023 – you can install a plugin for your favorite IDE, and an AI trained on open-source code with permissive licenses will propose the best code for your purposes. However, there are a few unique features of Tabnine.

You can allow it to process your project or your GitHub account for fine-tuning to learn the style and patterns used in your company. Besides that, you don’t need to worry about privacy. The authors claim that the tuned model is private, and the code won’t be used to improve the global version. If you’re not convinced, you can install and run Tabnine on your private network or even on your computer.

The tool costs $12 per user per month, and a free trial is available; however, you’re probably more interested in the enterprise version with individual pricing.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Tabnine is easy to install and works well with IntelliJ IDEA (which is not so obvious for some other tools). It improves standard, built-in code proposals; you can scroll through a few versions and pick the best one. It proposes entire functions or pieces of code quite well, and the proposed-code quality is satisfactory.

Tabnine code proposal
Figure 1 Tabnine – entire method generated
Tabnine - "for" clause generated
Figure 2 Tabnine – „for” clause generated

So far, Tabnine seems to be perfect, but there is also another side of the coin. The problem is the error rate of the code generated. In Figure 2, you can see ticket.arrival() and ticket.departure() invocations. It was my fourth or fifth try until Tabnine realized that Ticket is a Java record and no typical getters are implemented. In all other cases, it generated ticket.getArrival() and ticket.getDeparture(), even if there were no such methods and the compiler reported errors just after the propositions acceptance.

Another time, Tabnine omitted a part of the prompt, and the code generated was compilable but wrong. Here you can find a simple function that looks OK, but it doesn’t do what was desired to.

Tabnine code try
Figure 3 Tabnine – wrong code generated

There is one more example – Tabnine used a commented-out function from the same file (the test was already implemented below), but it changed the line order. As a result, the test was not working, and it took a while to determine what was happening.

Tabnine different code evaluation
Figure 4 Tabnine – wrong test generated

It leads us to the main issue related to Tabnine. It generates simple code, which saves a few seconds each time, but it’s unreliable, produces hard-to-find bugs, and requires more time to validate the generated code than saves by the generation. Moreover, it generates proposals constantly, so the developer spends more time reading propositions than actually creating good code.

Our rating

Conclusion: A mature tool with average possibilities, sometimes too aggressive and obtrusive (annoying), but with a little bit of practice, may also make work easier

‒     Possibilities 3/5

‒     Correctness 2/5

‒     Easiness 2,5/5

‒     Privacy 5/5

‒     Maturity 4/5

Overall score: 3/5

GitHub Copilot

This tool is state-of-the-art. There are tools „similar to GitHub Copilot,” „alternative to GitHub Copilot,” and „comparable to GitHub Copilot,” and there is the GitHub Copilot itself. It is precisely what you think it is – a code-completion tool based on the OpenAI Codex model, which is based on GPT-3 but trained with publicly available sources, including GitHub repositories. You can install it as a plugin for popular IDEs, but you need to enable it on your GitHub account first. A free trial is available, and the standard license costs from $8,33 to $19 per user per month.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

It works just fine. It generates good one-liners and imitates the style of the code around.

GitHub copilot code generation
Figure 5 GitHub copilot – one-liner generation
Figure 6 GitHub Copilot – style awareness

Please note the Figure 6 –  it not only uses closing quotas as needed but also proposes a library in the „guessed” version, as spock-spring.spockgramework.org:2.4-M1-groovy-4.0 is newer than the learning set of the model.

However, the code is not perfect.

GitHub Copilot function generation
Figure 7 GitHub Copilot function generation

In this test, the tool generated the entire method based on the comment from the first line of the listing. It decided to create a map of departures and arrivals as Strings, to re-create tickets when adding to sortedTickets, and to remove elements from ticketMaps. Simply speaking – I wouldn’t like to maintain such a code in my project. GPT-4 and Claude do the same job much better.

The general rule of using this tool is – don’t ask it to produce a code that is too long. As mentioned above – it is what you think it is, so it’s just a copilot which can give you a hand in simple tasks, but you still take responsibility for the most important parts of your project. Compared to Tabnine, GitHub Copilot doesn’t propose a bunch of code every few keys pressed, and it produces less readable code but with fewer errors, making it a better companion in everyday life.

Our rating

Conclusion: Generates worse code than GPT-4 and doesn’t offer extra functionalities („explain,” „fix bugs,” etc.); however, it’s unobtrusive, convenient, correct when short code is generated and makes everyday work easier

‒     Possibilities 3/5

‒     Correctness 4/5

‒     Easiness 5/5

‒     Privacy 5/5

‒     Maturity 4/5

Overall score: 4/5

GitHub Copilot Labs

The base GitHub copilot, as described above, is a simple code-completion tool. However, there is a beta tool called GitHub Copilot Labs. It is a Visual Studio Code plugin providing a set of useful AI-powered functions: explain, language translation, Test Generation, and Brushes (improve readability, add types, fix bugs, clean, list steps, make robust, chunk, and document). It requires a Copilot subscription and offers extra functionalities – only as much, and so much.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

If you are a Visual Studio Code user and you already use the GitHub Copilot, there is no reason not to use the „Labs” extras. However, you should not trust it. Code explanation works well, code translation is rarely used and sometimes buggy (the Python version of my Java code tries to call non-existing functions, as the context was not considered during translation), brushes work randomly (sometimes well, sometimes badly, sometimes not at all), and test generation works for JS and TS languages only.

GitHub Copilot Labs
Figure 8 GitHub Copilot Labs

Our rating

Conclusion: It’s a nice preview of something between Copilot and Copilot X, but it’s in the preview stage and works like a beta. If you don’t expect too much (and you use Visual Studio Code and GitHub Copilot), it is a tool for you.

‒     Possibilities 4/5

‒     Correctness 2/5

‒     Easiness 5/5

‒     Privacy 5/5

‒     Maturity 1/5

Overall score: 3/5

Cursor

Cursor is a complete IDE forked from Visual Studio Code open-source project. It uses OpenAI API in the backend and provides a very straightforward user interface. You can press CTRL+K to generate/edit a code from the prompt or CTRL+L to open a chat within an integrated window with the context of the open file or the selected code fragment. It is as good and as private as the OpenAI models behind it but remember to disable prompt collection in the settings if you don’t want to share it with the entire World.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Cursor seems to be a very nice tool – it can generate a lot of code from prompts. Be aware that it still requires developer knowledge – „a function to read an mp3 file by name and use OpenAI SDK to call OpenAI API to use 'whisper-1′ model to recognize the speech and store the text in a file of same name and txt extension” is not a prompt that your accountant can make. The tool is so good that a developer used to one language can write an entire application in another one. Of course, they (the developer and the tool) can use bad habits together, not adequate to the target language, but it’s not the fault of the tool but the temptation of the approach.

There are two main disadvantages of Cursor.

Firstly, it uses OpenAI API, which means it can use up to GPT-3.5 or Codex (for mid-May 2023, there is no GPT-4 API available yet), which is much worse than even general-purpose GPT-4. For example, Cursor asked to explain some very bad code has responded with a very bad answer.

Cursor code explanation
Figure 9 Cursor code explanation

For the same code, GPT-4 and Claude were able to find the purpose of the code and proposed at least two better solutions (with a multi-condition switch case or a collection as a dataset). I would expect a better answer from a developer-tailored tool than a general-purpose web-based chat.

GPT-4 code analysis
Figure 10 GPT-4 code analysis
Figure 11 Claude code analysis

Secondly, Cursor uses Visual Studio Code, but it’s not just a branch of it – it’s an entire fork, so it can be potentially hard to maintain, as VSC is heavily changed by a community. Besides that, VSC is as good as its plugins, and it works much better with C, Python, Rust, and even Bash than Java or browser-interpreted languages. It’s common to use specialized, commercial tools for specialized use cases, so I would appreciate Cursor as a plugin for other tools rather than a separate IDE.

There is even a feature available in Cursor to generate an entire project by prompt, but it doesn’t work well so far. The tool has been asked to generate a CRUD bookstore in Java 18 with a specific architecture. Still, it has used Java 8, ignored the architecture, and produced an application that doesn’t even build due to Gradle issues. To sum up – it’s catchy but immature.

The prompt used in the following video is as follows:

„A CRUD Java 18, Spring application with hexagonal architecture, using Gradle, to manage Books. Each book must contain author, title, publisher, release date and release version. Books must be stored in localhost PostgreSQL. CRUD operations available: post, put, patch, delete, get by id, get all, get by title.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2czylS2i-E

The main problem is – the feature has worked only once, and we were not able to repeat it.

Our rating

Conclusion: A complete IDE for VS-Code fans. Worth to be observed, but the current version is too immature.

‒     Possibilities 5/5

‒     Correctness 2/5

‒     Easiness 4/5

‒     Privacy 5/5

‒     Maturity 1/5

Overall score: 2/5

Amazon CodeWhisperer

CodeWhisperer is an AWS response to Codex. It works in Cloud9 and AWS Lambdas, but also as a plugin for Visual Studio Code and some JetBrains products. It somehow supports 14 languages with full support for 5 of them. By the way, most tool tests work better with Python than Java – it seems AI tool creators are Python developers🤔. CodeWhisperer is free so far and can be run on a free tier AWS account (but it requires SSO login) or with AWS Builder ID.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

There are a few positive aspects of CodeWhisperer. It provides an extra code analysis for vulnerabilities and references, and you can control it with usual AWS methods (IAM policies), so you can decide about the tool usage and the code privacy with your standard AWS-related tools.

However, the quality of the model is insufficient. It doesn’t understand more complex instructions, and the code generated can be much better.

RGB-matrix standardization task with CodeWhisperer
Figure 12 RGB-matrix standardization task with CodeWhisperer

For example, it has simply failed for the case above, and for the case below, it proposed just a single assertion.

Test generation with CodeWhisperer
Figure 13 Test generation with CodeWhisperer

Our rating

Conclusion: Generates worse code than GPT-4/Claude or even Codex (GitHub Copilot), but it’s highly integrated with AWS, including permissions/privacy management

‒     Possibilities 2.5/5

‒     Correctness 2.5/5

‒     Easiness 4/5

‒     Privacy 4/5

‒     Maturity 3/5

Overall score: 2.5/5

Plugins

As the race for our hearts and wallets has begun, many startups, companies, and freelancers want to participate in it. There are hundreds (or maybe thousands) of plugins for IDEs that send your code to OpenAI API.

GPT-based plugins
Figure 14 GPT-based plugins

You can easily find one convenient to you and use it as long as you trust OpenAI and their privacy policy. On the other hand, be aware that your code will be processed by one more tool, maybe open-source, maybe very simple, but it still increases the possibility of code leaks. The proposed solution is – to write an own plugin. There is a space for one more in the World for sure.

Knocked out tools

There are plenty of tools we’ve tried to evaluate, but those tools were too basic, too uncertain, too troublesome, or simply deprecated, so we have decided to eliminate them before the full evaluation. Here you can find some examples of interesting ones but rejected.

Captain Stack

According to the authors, the tool is „somewhat similar to GitHub Copilot’s code suggestion,” but it doesn’t use AI – it queries your prompt with Google, opens Stack Overflow, and GitHub gists results and copies the best answer. It sounds promising, but using it takes more time than doing the same thing manually. It doesn’t provide any response very often, doesn’t provide the context of the code sample (explanation given by the author), and it has failed all our tasks.

IntelliCode

The tool is trained on thousands of open-source projects on GitHub, each with high star ratings. It works with Visual Studio Code only and suffers from poor Mac performance. It is useful but very straightforward – it can find a proper code but doesn’t work well with a language. You need to provide prompts carefully; the tool seems to be just an indexed-search mechanism with low intelligence implemented.

Kite

Kite was an extremely promising tool in development since 2014, but „was” is the keyword here. The project was closed in 2022, and the authors’ manifest can bring some light into the entire developer-friendly Generative AI tools: Kite is saying farewell – Code Faster with Kite. Simply put, they claimed it’s impossible to train state-of-the-art models to understand more than a local context of the code, and it would be extremely expensive to build a production-quality tool like that. Well, we can acknowledge that most tools are not production-quality yet, and the entire reliability of modern AI tools is still quite low.

GPT-Code-Clippy

The GPT-CC is an open-source version of GitHub Copilot. It’s free and open, and it uses the Codex model. On the other hand, the tool has been unsupported since the beginning of 2022, and the model is deprecated by OpenAI already, so we can consider this tool part of the Generative AI history.

CodeGeeX

CodeGeeX was published in March 2023 by Tsinghua University’s Knowledge Engineering Group under Apache 2.0 license. According to the authors, it uses 13 billion parameters, and it’s trained on public repositories in 23 languages with over 100 stars. The model can be your self-hosted GitHub Copilot alternative if you have at least Nvidia GTX 3090, but it’s recommended to use A100 instead.

The online version was occasionally unavailable during the evaluation, and even when available – the tool failed on half of our tasks. There was no even a try, and the response from the model was empty. Therefore, we’ve decided not to try the offline version and skip the tool completely.

GPT

Crème de la crème of the comparison is the OpenAI flagship – generative pre-trained transformer (GPT). There are two important versions available for today – GPT-3.5 and GPT-4. The former version is free for web users as well as available for API users. GPT-4 is much better than its predecessor but is still not generally available for API users. It accepts longer prompts and „remembers” longer conversations. All in all, it generates better answers. You can give a chance of any task to GPT-3.5, but in most cases, GPT-4 does the same but better.

So what can GPT do for developers?

We can ask the chat to generate functions, classes, or entire CI/CD workflows. It can explain the legacy code and propose improvements. It discusses algorithms, generates DB schemas, tests, UML diagrams as code, etc. It can even run a job interview for you, but sometimes it loses the context and starts to chat about everything except the job.

The dark side contains three main aspects so far. Firstly, it produces hard-to-find errors. There may be an unnecessary step in CI/CD, the name of the network interface in a Bash script may not exist, a single column type in SQL DDL may be wrong, etc. Sometimes it requires a lot of work to find and eliminate the error; what is more important with the second issue – it pretends to be unmistakable. It seems so brilliant and trustworthy, so it’s common to overrate and overtrust it and finally assume that there is no error in the answer. The accuracy and purity of answers and deepness of knowledge showed made an impression that you can trust the chat and apply results without meticulous analysis.

The last issue is much more technical – GPT-3.5 can accept up to 4k tokens which is about 3k words. It’s not enough if you want to provide documentation, an extended code context, or even requirements from your customer. GPT-4 offers up to 32k tokens, but it’s unavailable via API so far.

There is no rating for GPT. It’s brilliant, and astonishing, yet still unreliable, and it still requires a resourceful operator to make correct prompts and analyze responses. And it makes operators less resourceful with every prompt and response because people get lazy with such a helper. During the evaluation, we’ve started to worry about Sarah Conor and her son, John, because GPT changes the game’s rules, and it is definitely a future.

OpenAI API

Another side of GPT is the OpenAI API. We can distinguish two parts of it.

Chat models

The first part is mostly the same as what you can achieve with the web version. You can use up to GPT-3.5 or some cheaper models if applicable to your case. You need to remember that there is no conversation history, so you need to send the entire chat each time with new prompts. Some models are also not very accurate in „chat” mode and work much better as a „text completion” tool. Instead of asking, „Who was the first president of the United States?” your query should be, „The first president of the United States was.” It’s a different approach but with similar possibilities.

Using the API instead of the web version may be easier if you want to adapt the model for your purposes (due to technical integration), but it can also give you better responses. You can modify „temperature” parameters making the model stricter (even providing the same results on the same requests) or more random. On the other hand, you’re limited to GPT-3.5 so far, so you can’t use a better model or longer prompts.

Other purposes models

There are some other models available via API. You can use Whisper as a speech-to-text converter, Point-E to generate 3D models (point cloud) from prompts, Jukebox to generate music, or CLIP for visual classification. What’s important – you can also download those models and run them on your own hardware at costs. Just remember that you need a lot of time or powerful hardware to run the models – sometimes both.

There is also one more model not available for downloading – the DALL-E image generator. It generates images by prompts, doesn’t work with text and diagrams, and is mostly useless for developers. But it’s fancy, just for the record.

The good part of the API is the official library availability for Python and Node.js, some community-maintained libraries for other languages, and the typical, friendly REST API for everybody else.

The bad part of the API is that it’s not included in the chat plan, so you pay for each token used. Make sure you have a budget limit configured on your account because using the API can drain your pockets much faster than you expect.

Fine-tuning

Fine-tuning of OpenAI models is de facto a part of the API experience, but it desires its own section in our deliberations. The idea is simple – you can use a well-known model but feed it with your specific data. It sounds like medicine for token limitation. You want to use a chat with your domain knowledge, e.g., your project documentation, so you need to convert the documentation to a learning set, tune a model, and you can use the model for your purposes inside your company (the fine-tunned model remains private at company level).

Well, yes, but actually, no.

There are a few limitations to consider. The first one – the best model you can tune is Davinci, which is like GPT-3.5, so there is no way to use GPT-4-level deduction, cogitation, and reflection. Another issue is the learning set. You need to follow very specific guidelines to provide a learning set as prompt-completion pairs, so you can’t simply provide your project documentation or any other complex sources. To achieve better results, you should also keep the prompt-completion approach in further usage instead of a chat-like question-answer conversation. The last issue is cost efficiency. Teaching Davinci with 5MB of data costs about $200, and 5MB is not a great set, so you probably need more data to achieve good results. You can try to reduce cost by using the 10 times cheaper Curie model, but it’s also 10 times smaller (more like GPT-3 than GPT-3.5) than Davinci and accepts only 2k tokens for a single question-answer pair in total.

Embedding

Another feature of the API is called embedding. It’s a way to change the input data (for example, a very long text) into a multi-dimensional vector. You can consider this vector a representation of your knowledge in a format directly understandable by the AI. You can save such a model locally and use it in the following scenarios: data visualization, classification, clustering, recommendation, and search. It’s a powerful tool for specific use cases and can solve business-related problems. Therefore, it’s not a helper tool for developers but a potential base for an engine of a new application for your customer.

Claude

Claude from Anthropic, an ex-employees of OpenAI, is a direct answer to GPT-4. It offers a bigger maximum token size (100k vs. 32k), and it’s trained to be trustworthy, harmless, and better protected from hallucinations. It’s trained using data up to spring 2021, so you can’t expect the newest knowledge from it. However, it has passed all our tests, works much faster than the web GPT-4, and you can provide a huge context with your prompts. For some reason, it produces more sophisticated code than GPT-4, but It’s on you to pick the one you like more.

Claude code
Claude code generation test
Figure 15 Claude code generation test
GPT-4 code generation test
Figure 16 GPT-4 code generation test

If needed, a Claude API is available with official libraries for some popular languages and the REST API version. There are some shortcuts in the documentation, the web UI has some formation issues, there is no free version available, and you need to be manually approved to get access to the tool, but we assume all of those are just childhood problems.

Claude is so new, so it’s really hard to say if it is better or worse than GPT-4 in a job of a developer helper, but it’s definitely comparable, and you should probably give it a shot.

Unfortunately, the privacy policy of Anthropic is quite confusing, so we don’t recommend posting confidential information to the chat yet.

Internet-accessing generative AI tools

The main disadvantage of ChatGPT, raised since it has generally been available, is no knowledge about recent events, news, and modern history. It’s already partially fixed, so you can feed a context of the prompt with Internet search results. There are three tools worth considering for such usage.

Microsoft Bing

Microsoft Bing was the first AI-powered Internet search engine. It uses GPT to analyze prompts and to extract information from web pages; however, it works significantly worst than pure GPT. It has failed in almost all our programming evaluations, and it falls into an infinitive loop of the same answers if the problem is concealed. On the other hand, it provides references to the sources of its knowledge, can read transcripts from YouTube videos, and can aggregate the newest Internet content.

Chat-GPT with Internet access

The new mode of Chat-GPT (rolling out for premium users in mid-May 2023) can browse the Internet and scrape web pages looking for answers. It provides references and shows visited pages. It seems to work better than Bing, probably because it’s GPT-4 powered compared to GPT-3.5. It also uses the model first and calls the Internet only if it can’t provide a good answer to the question-based trained data solitary.

It usually provides better answers than Bing and may provide better answers than the offline GPT-4 model. It works well with questions you can answer by yourself with an old-fashion search engine (Google, Bing, whatever) within one minute, but it usually fails with more complex tasks. It’s quite slow, but you can track the query’s progress on UI.

GPT-4 with Internet access
Figure 17 GPT-4 with Internet access

Importantly, and you should keep this in mind, Chat-GPT sometimes provides better responses with offline hallucinations than with Internet access.

For all those reasons, we don’t recommend using Microsoft Bing and Chat-GPT with Internet access for everyday information-finding tasks. You should only take those tools as a curiosity and query Google by yourself.

Perplexity

At first glance, Perplexity works in the same way as both tools mentioned – it uses Bing API and OpenAI API to search the Internet with the power of the GPT model. On the other hand, it offers search area limitations (academic resources only, Wikipedia, Reddit, etc.), and it deals with the issue of hallucinations by strongly emphasizing citations and references. Therefore, you can expect more strict answers and more reliable references, which can help you when looking for something online. You can use a public version of the tool, which uses GPT-3.5, or you can sign up and use the enhanced GPT-4-based version.

We found Perplexity better than Bing and Chat-GPT with Internet Access in our evaluation tasks. It’s as good as the model behind it (GPT-3.5 or GPT-4), but filtering references and emphasizing them does the job regarding the tool’s reliability.

For mid-May 2023 the tool is still free.

Google Bard

It’s a pity, but when writing this text, Google’s answer for GPT-powered Bing and GPT itself is still not available in Poland, so we can’t evaluate it without hacky solutions (VPN).

Using Internet access in general

If you want to use a generative AI model with Internet access, we recommend using Perplexity. However, you need to keep in mind that all those tools are based on Internet search engines which base on complex and expensive page positioning systems. Therefore, the answer „given by the AI” is, in fact, a result of marketing actions that brings some pages above others in search results. In other words, the answer may suffer from lower-quality data sources published by big players instead of better-quality ones from independent creators. Moreover, page scrapping mechanisms are not perfect yet, so you can expect a lot of errors during the usage of the tools, causing unreliable answers or no answers at all.

Offline models

If you don’t trust legal assurance and you are still concerned about the privacy and security of all the tools mentioned above, so you want to be technically insured that all prompts and responses belong to you only, you can consider self-hosting a generative AI model on your hardware. We’ve already mentioned 4 models from OpenAI (Whisper, Point-E, Jukebox, and CLIP), Tabnine, and CodeGeeX, but there are also a few general-purpose models worth consideration. All of them are claimed to be best-in-class and similar to OpenAI’s GPT, but it’s not all true.

Only free commercial usage models are listed below. We’ve focused on pre-trained models, but you can train or just fine-tune them if needed. Just remember the training may be even 100 times more resource consuming than usage.

Flan-UL2 and Flan-T5-XXL

Flan models are made by Google and released under Apache 2.0 license. There are more versions available, but you need to pick a compromise between your hardware resources and the model size. Flan-UL2 and Flan-T5-XXL use 20 billion and 11 billion parameters and require 4x Nvidia T4 or 1x Nvidia A6000 accordingly. As you can see on the diagrams, it’s comparable to GPT-3, so it’s far behind the GPT-4 level.

Flan models different sizes
Figure 18 Source: https://ai.googleblog.com/2021/10/introducing-flan-more-generalizable.html

BLOOM

BigScience Large Open-Science Open-Access Multilingual Language Model is a common work of over 1000 scientists. It uses 176 billion parameters and requires at least 8x Nvidia A100 cards. Even if it’s much bigger than Flan, it’s still comparable to OpenAI’s GPT-3 in tests. Actually, it’s the best model you can self-host for free that we’ve found so far.

Language Models Evaluation
Figure 19 Holistic Evaluation of Language Models, Percy Liang et. al.

GLM-130B

General Language Model with 130 billion parameters, published by CodeGeeX authors. It requires similar computing power to BLOOM and can overperform it in some MMLU benchmarks. It’s smaller and faster because it’s bilingual (English and Chinese) only, but it may be enough for your use cases.

open bilingual model
Figure 20 GLM-130B: An Open Bilingual Pre-trained Model, Aohan Zeng et.al.

Summary

When we approached the research, we were worried about the future of developers. There are a lot of click-bite articles over the Internet showing Generative AI creating entire applications from prompts within seconds. Now we know that at least our near future is secured.

We need to remember that code is the best product specification possible, and the creation of good code is possible only with a good requirement specification. As business requirements are never as precise as they should be, replacing developers with machines is impossible. Yet.

However, some tools may be really advantageous and make our work faster. Using GitHub Copilot may increase the productivity of the main part of our job – code writing. Using Perplexity, GPT-4, or Claude may help us solve problems. There are some models and tools (for developers and general purposes) available to work with full discreteness, even technically enforced. The near future is bright – we expect GitHub Copilot X to be much better than its predecessor, we expect the general purposes language model to be more precise and helpful, including better usage of the Internet resources, and we expect more and more tools to show up in next years, making the AI race more compelling.

On the other hand, we need to remember that each helper (a human or machine one) takes some of our independence, making us dull and idle. It can change the entire human race in the foreseeable future. Besides that, the usage of Generative AI tools consumes a lot of energy by rare metal-based hardware, so it can drain our pockets now and impact our planet soon.

This article has been 100% written by humans up to this point, but you can definitely expect less of that in the future.

Figure 21 Terminator as a developer – generated by Bing



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