Chapter 17 VIDEO Introduction to Understanding Unfamiliar Code with AI

This video discusses how AI can be useful when understanding code written by someone else.

You can view and download the Google Slides here.

The dinosaur cartoon says in a speech bubble, 'It’s like having a paired programmer explain things to you.'.

While anyone can learn to understand code written by someone else, using AI language models to achieve this has three significant advantages.

  1. Summarize large codebases. AI can quickly scan large codebases and give you a high-level overview of what they do. This can save you a lot of time and effort, especially when dealing with complex codebases. For example, AI can identify the main functions and classes in a codebase, and it can show you how they are related.

  2. Analyze the code. AI can look at the code and tell you about its structure, complexity, and potential defects quickly and efficiently. This can help you understand the code better and make it easier to maintain and improve. For example, AI can identify parts of the code that are difficult to understand or maintain, and it can suggest ways to improve the code.

  3. Understand comments and documentation. AI can read comments and documentation written by other developers. This can help you understand the code’s purpose and the assumptions and limitations of the codebase. For example, AI can identify the key assumptions that are made in the code, and it can explain the trade-offs that were made in the design of the code.

Keep these ethical considerations in mind when using AI to summarize code.

Who owns the code? If you are not the owner of the code, you should get permission from the owner before summarizing it.

What is the purpose of the summary? If you are summarizing the code for educational or research purposes, it is likely ethical to do so. However, if you are summarizing the code for commercial purposes, you may need to get permission from the owner.

Does the code contain any sensitive or personal information? If the code contains any sensitive or personal information, you should take special care to protect that information.