Researchers From Google AI and UC Berkeley Propose an AI Approach That Teaches LLMs to Debug its Predicted Program via Few-Shot Demonstrations

Producing accurate code in a single effort for many programming jobs can be challenging. With several applications, including code synthesis from natural languages, programming by examples, and code translation, code creation has long been a problem. Recent big language models, in particular, have substantially improved over earlier deep neural networks. One line of research has developed reranking techniques to choose the best candidate from multiple samples, typically requiring tens of samples. These techniques were inspired by observations that correct code is much more likely to be predicted when various programs are sampled from the model.

It makes intuitive sense that a programmer’s first piece of code is usually inaccurate. Humans often examine the code, check into the execution outcomes, and then make adjustments to fix implementation flaws rather than entirely rejecting faulty code. Previous research has suggested deep learning algorithms to correct the anticipated code, which shows considerable performance improvements on various coding jobs. Nevertheless, these methods call for extra training for the code repair model.

Prior studies suggest that large language models are not yet able to correct code in the absence of external feedback, such as unit tests or human instructions, despite some recent studies showing that these models have the potential to generate feedback messages to critique and refine their outputs for some natural language and reasoning domains. In this study, researchers from Google Research and UCB offer SELF-DEBUGGING, using few-shot prompting to educate the huge language model on debugging its own projected code. SELFDEBUGGING commands the model to run the code, then create a feedback message based on the code and the execution outcome without needing extra model training.

SELF-DEBUGGING trains the model to detect the implementation issues by code explanation, in contrast to earlier studies on using human feedback for code repair, where the feedback message describes the code errors and how to correct them. This debugging procedure is akin to the rubber duck debugging technique used by human programmers. Describing the code to a rubber duck in normal language line-by-line improves debugging effectiveness without professional help. The entire SELF-DEBUGGING technique is shown in Figure 1. They assess the GPT-3 model family’s code-DaVinci-002 for SELF-DEBUGGING.

For a variety of code-generating tasks, such as text-to-SQL generation, code translation, and text-to-Python generation, SELFDEBUGGING delivers the most cutting-edge performance. With code explanation and no unit tests in the challenge description, the Spider benchmark for text-to-SQL generation shows that self-debugging reliably increases the baseline by 2–3% with varying numbers of beginning programs and increases prediction accuracy on the most complex SQL queries by 9%.

Using unit tests coupled with code explanation on TransCoder for code translation and MBPP for text-to-Python generation increases accuracy by up to 12%. In comparison, code explanation alone without debugging also regularly improves code translation performance by 2–3%. Self-debugging increases sample efficiency and can perform on par with or better than baseline models that sample more than 10 predictions. According to their research, teaching large language models to perform SELF-DEBUGGING without human supervision is another promising way to increase coding capability and lower the sampling cost needed to complete difficult tasks. This is in addition to improving their ability to generate code from scratch.


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Aneesh Tickoo is a consulting intern at MarktechPost. He is currently pursuing his undergraduate degree in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence from the Indian Institute of Technology(IIT), Bhilai. He spends most of his time working on projects aimed at harnessing the power of machine learning. His research interest is image processing and is passionate about building solutions around it. He loves to connect with people and collaborate on interesting projects.