What is OpenAI Codex?

What is OpenAI Codex

OpenAI released OpenAI Codex, its AI system that translates natural language into code, through an API in private beta. Proficient in more than a dozen programming languages, including JavaScript, Go, Perl, PHP, Ruby, Swift, and TypeScript, Codex can interpret commands in plain English and execute them, making it possible to build a natural language interface for existing apps.

OpenAI Codex is a descendant of GPT-3; its training data contains both natural language and billions of lines of source code from publicly available sources, including code in public GitHub repositories.


What are its availabilities 

OpenAI Codex is now available in private beta via our API, and it's aiming to scale up as quickly as it can safely. 

During the initial period, OpenAI Codex will be offered for free. OpenAI will continue building on the safety groundwork we laid with GPT-3—reviewing applications and incrementally scaling them up while working closely with developers to understand the effect of our technologies in the world, potentially eventually available for both developers and enterprises. 

What are its use cases and value 

In demos of Codex, OpenAI shows how the software can be used to build simple websites and rudimentary games using natural language, as well as translate between different programming languages and tackle data science queries.

“We see this as a tool to multiply programmers,” OpenAI’s CTO and co-founder Greg Brockman told The Verge. “Programming has two parts to it: you have ‘think hard about a problem and try to understand it,’ and ‘map those small pieces to existing code, whether it’s a library, a function, or an API.’” The second part is tedious, he says, but it’s what Codex is best at. “It takes people who are already programmers and removes the drudge work.”

The wider coding community will ultimately benefit from OpenAI’s work. The real net effect is a lot of value for the ecosystem,” says Brockman. “At the end of the day, these types of technologies, I think, can reshape our economy and create a better world for all of us.”

What are the limitations

While highly capable, a recent paper published by OpenAI reveals that Codex might have significant limitations, including biases and sample inefficiencies. The company’s researchers found that the model proposes syntactically incorrect or undefined code, invoking variables and attributes that are undefined or outside the scope of a codebase. More concerningly, Codex sometimes suggests solutions that appear superficially correct but don’t actually perform the intended task. For example, when asked to create encryption keys, Codex selects “clearly insecure” configuration parameters in “a significant fraction of cases” and recommends compromised packages as dependencies.

Instead, it requires thought and a little trial and error to use. Codex won’t turn non-coders into expert programmers overnight, but it’s certainly much more accessible than any other programming language out there.

The future of programming 

OpenAI is bullish about the potential of Codex to change programming and computing more generally. Brockman says it could help solve the programmer shortage in the US, while Zaremba sees it as the next step in the historical evolution of coding.

What is happening with Codex has happened before a few times. In the early days of computing, programming was done by creating physical punch cards that had to be fed into machines, then people invented the first programming languages and began to refine these. 

“Each of these stages represents programming languages becoming more high level,” says Zaremba. “And we think Codex is bringing computers closer to humans, letting them speak English rather than machine code.”

If it succeeds, Codex might not only help programmers but become a new interface between users and computers. OpenAI says it’s tested Codex’s ability to control not only Word but other programs like Spotify and Google Calendar.