HomeAI ToolsProgrammingsmol-developer: An AI-Assisted Junior Developer in Your Pocket

    smol-developer: An AI-Assisted Junior Developer in Your Pocket

    Whole Program Synthesis Made Simple with Human-Centric AI Developer Tools

    • The smol-developer is a prototype AI-assistant capable of synthesizing whole programs from human-provided specifications.
    • The tool champions a human-centric approach, facilitating code development, debugging, and decompiling through iterative collaboration with AI.
    • Utilizing GPT-4, the smol-developer excels at generating code from English prompts, handling API implementation, CSS animations, and error-handling directives.

    In a bold stride towards the future of programming, smol-developer has been unveiled as a new tool designed to take programming, debugging, and decompiling to the next level. Open sourced on GitHub, smol-developer comes in at a mere 200 lines of code (LOC), half of which are in plain English, in keeping with the ethos of simplicity, safety, and clarity.

    This AI-powered junior developer tool adopts a human-centric approach to whole program synthesis. Once given a product specification, smol-developer is capable of scaffolding an entire codebase, thereby acting as a personal assistant to developers. Rather than making rigid, one-shot starters such as create-react-app, smol-developer offers a broader functionality – effectively a create-anything-app where the scaffolding prompt evolves interactively with the AI developer.

    The smol-developer process prioritizes human-in-the-loop workflow, with the AI serving as a supportive co-worker rather than an overbearing assistant. Initially, the human developer writes a basic prompt for the app they intend to build. The AI assistant generates the corresponding code, which the developer can run and assess for errors. Errors and underspecified parts of the prompt can be addressed by refining the initial prompt, all while maintaining an iterative loop until a satisfactory outcome is achieved.

    smol-developer has demonstrated some remarkable insights and innovations in the course of its creation. First and foremost, the utility of Markdown as a prompt language cannot be overstated. Its ability to blend English and code effortlessly presents a conducive environment for whole program synthesis. The tool also permits ‘copy and paste programming’ whereby new APIs or error messages can be incorporated into the code simply by pasting them into the prompt.

    Notably, smol-developer showcases the impressive capabilities of GPT-4, which outperforms GPT-3.5 and Anthropic Claude for code generation tasks. With minimal human instruction, smol-developer can effectively code around a new API, handle error messages, and even write CSS animations based on the desired outcome described in English.

    Despite these achievements, there are a few caveats. For instance, the current feedback loop is slow, and there are some case-specific coding issues that need addressing. Nevertheless, there’s considerable potential for further enhancements. Some proposed future directions include bootstrapping the for existing codebases, enhancing the tool’s ability to install its own dependencies, and creating agents that can autonomously run this code in a loop.

    smol-developer represents a significant step forward in AI-assisted programming. It is not a no-code or low-code solution, but rather a new evolution in programming where developers can harness the power of AI to automate code synthesis while retaining control over the creative process. This human-centric, AI-assistant tool promises to streamline the development process, offering developers a small but powerful AI collaborator right at their fingertips.


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