It’s that time of year. The most wonderful time of year. The time of year for Microsoft’s Build developer conference. This year was the rising of the computers. That is the emergence of the age of AI is upon us and peeking behind the curtains of copilots that have been dropped on us we find OpenAI’s ChatGPT plastered across everything. I’d say I’ve done a good job of a avoiding it up to now by not reporting on all the copilot type announcements. This cannot be avoided any longer. AI is here and it’s time we have a frank conversation about it.

The biggest point that Microsoft continues to push on us is that AI is a tool for us to use, not the be replaced by. The big quote came from Steve Jobs who said:

Computers are bicycles of the mind.

That is that they are a tool that will help us get to where we are going. AI is the next evolution of this.

Let’s take a stem back. When the Internet and the World Wide Web were really taking off there was a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt about whether it would amount to anything, or if it did would it replace people. We are seeing a lot of this FUD in society again today. But we need to stop looking at it like it’s going to replace us, as much as it’s going to augment us. Computers were bicycles of the mind, but now we’ve added a jet engine to that bicycle.

What do I mean by that? Well, think about an airplane. You are the pilot and AI is the copilot. The pilot regularly relies on the copilot to help fly the plane. AI isn’t autopilot of self driving tools, it’s there to help. As the pilot you are still ultimately responsible for all the people on the plane and for flying the craft to the desired location. The copilot is there to help take some of the responsibilities away from the pilot so they can focus on what’s important.

I think that’s why we have so many copilots. Microsoft said there would be more than 50 copilot plugins

The keynote was broken down into three parts: How we build. What we build. and Why we build.

How we Build

Developers will be surrounded by new tools to make our jobs just a little bit easier. We’ll have tools like Codespaces where we don’t have to have a full development environment sitting at our desk. We could use a low powered machine like a Surface Go and connect to a GitHub Codespace to manage our code. Taking a step up from Codespace is the new Microsoft Dev Box. This is a dedicated machine in the Azure cloud that you can install any code needed for your codebase. Codespaces is great for projects that can rely only on Visual Studio Code, but sometimes you need the full power of Visual Studio or some other IDE along with SDKs that can’t easily be installed inside Codespace. That’s where Microsoft Dev Box comes in handy. It’s a virtual machine in the cloud.

Speaking of GitHub, there are a couple of other categories of tools that will help the developer get more done. Those are GitHub Copilot X and GitHub Actions. Copilot X is a collection of copilot tools to aid in development. Copilot itself is a code generating tool that can get context from comments or existing code to determine what should come next allowing the developer to work faster and smarter. No longer will I have to memorize how to build a connection string, copilot can do that for me and I can focus on higher level things like the SOLID principals. GitHub Actions are workers that act on hooks in your code. For example when I publish this story to GitHub an action takes the source code in and compiles it then deploys that compiled code to Azure for you all to enjoy.

What we Build

At build there were over 50 announcements of things that Microsoft has built with AI. From bringing Bing to ChatGPT, Windows Copilot, to the Copilot stack and plugins there were a lot of announcements to keep track of and they kept throwing new ones at us.

Interesting ones include the Windows Copilot. Now when my wife’s printer goes offline she can ask the Windows Copilot how to fix her printer instead of me. 😁

Copilot isn’t just a walled garden though. They’ve made it extensible by allowing us to integrate into the AI Tool through a plugin model. For an example Microsoft showed off a plugin that adds all the information that Atlassian has on a company in both Jira and Confluence into the Copilot. A worker could just, using natural language, query that data in reports or documentation or even inside code.

Azure AI Content Safety was announced. This AI tool watched user’s use of AI to make sure that it isn’t harmful. This detects harm from both the user as well as the output of AI generated content.

Most importantly, I think, Azure AI Studio was announced that allows a developer to build their own Copilot.

Why We Build

Computers are all around us. Whether it’s a big monstrous computer sitting on our desk or the iPhone in our pocket. The computer revolution has affected each and every one of us. Then the Internet came along and democratized knowledge. The World Wide Web came along and made that knowledge even easier to access. Now it’s the time for the rise of AI. AI will be good for the 8 billion people on this planet. From Satya Nadella seeing a farmer in rural India use AI to help find government documentation for what to grow to me and you using AI to assist in our code AI is going to have a profound effect on all of us.

Kevin Scott, Microsoft’s CTO, left us with one sentence and it resonated with me. So I’ll leave you now with this sentence:

Kevin Scott - “Do legendary shit”