back to article Simon Willison interview: AI software still needs the human touch

Simon Willison, a veteran open source developer who co-created the Django framework and built the more recent Datasette tool, has become one of the more influential observers of AI software recently. His writing and public speaking about the utility and problems of large language models has attracted a wide audience thanks to …

  1. Bitsminer Silver badge

    From stochastic parrot... gullible intern on mushrooms.

    The analogies just keep getting better.

  2. Doctor Evil

    moral vs. legal

    "There's the moral, ethical side and there's a legal side and they're not necessarily the same thing, you know. Things could be legal and still feel wrong."

    Do you really think that will stop -- has ever stopped -- a corporation when it's standing in the way of profits? "Don't be evil" ...

  3. Doctor Evil

    runs vs. doesn't run

    "I have a hunch that programmers, software engineers, are the group best served by this technology right now. We get the most benefit from it. And part of the reason for that is that these things are notorious for hallucinating. They'll just make stuff up. If they hallucinate code, and you run the code, and it doesn't work, then you've kind of fact checked it."

    I think the real problems might arise if the LLM has hallucinated code and it does run. Now you've got a thornier problem on several fronts: does it produce correct results in all cases; does it handle edge-case inputs correctly; does it behave appropriately when an error is thrown; etc.

    The hardest bugs to find seem to be the ones where the code compiles and runs -- but not always correctly. And now you're picking through someone (or something) else's code, trying to fully understand the underlying logic ...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Things could be legal and still feel wrong.

    Things could be illegal and still feel right. And?

  5. MOH

    If I set up The Registrar, posting tech related articles in the style of (and sourced from) El Reg journalists, purely automated and Ai-generated, would everyone be ok with me publishing articles about "AI"

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I doubt that coding is a uniquely killer app

    I think it's just that the interviewee is a software person, giving him a biased viewpoint. Also, if you waited until running the code to find out that Copilot had made a mistake, you would be wasting time more time than necessary.

    Many writers (of all kinds) are using it successfully, so long as they keep themselves in the loop, otherwise they will lose their employment or contracts.

    It's not new - Michelangelo had several hired assistants helping him in the Sistine Chapel. Of course he made sure he was directing the artistic content. Just to be clear, I personally shut my eyes and curse every time I see another AI picture used by El Reg. I love human art only and refuse to look at anything else.

    The one thing that might be making coding application of AI move faster is that AI coders tend to improve their own tools first. That was true before AI came along as well.

  7. Grogan Silver badge

    LOL... AI "hallucinating" bollocks code. If you can't follow that code, you could probably predict that it's not even going to compile.

    If it does somehow work, and you can't follow it or understand it, how are you going to maintain it?

    1. tiggity Silver badge


      "If it does somehow work, and you can't follow it or understand it, how are you going to maintain it?"

      That could be applied to lots of code where something has been written by other developer(s), and when you discover it, you look at it and just scratch your head... I'm sure, before the days of code reviews, some people deliberately wrote obfuscated code as a job preservation tactic.

  8. HandleBaz

    Specific, but tedious tasks.

    Using automation to get rid of tedious tasks is a godsend. Be it Ghat-GPT or other tools. For example, El Reg supports formatting with HTML, but what kind of madman would sit there and hand-code HTML for a one-time post? Much better to have an LLM do it for you.

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