Is Self-Repair a Silver Bullet for Code Generation?

Published: 16 Jan 2024, Last Modified: 12 Mar 2024ICLR 2024 posterEveryoneRevisionsBibTeX
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Keywords: program synthesis, code generation, large language models, machine learning for code
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TL;DR: We study self-repair for code generation, finding that gains are often marginal and quite inconsistent, and offer several insights as to why.
Abstract: Large language models have shown remarkable aptitude in code generation, but still struggle to perform complex tasks. Self-repair---in which the model debugs and repairs its own code---has recently become a popular way to boost performance in these settings. However, despite its increasing popularity, existing studies of self-repair have been limited in scope; in many settings, its efficacy thus remains poorly understood. In this paper, we analyze Code Llama, GPT-3.5 and GPT-4's ability to perform self-repair on problems taken from HumanEval and APPS. We find that when the cost of carrying out repair is taken into account, performance gains are often modest, vary a lot between subsets of the data, and are sometimes not present at all. We hypothesize that this is because self-repair is bottlenecked by the model's ability to provide feedback on its own code; using a stronger model to artificially boost the quality of the feedback, we observe substantially larger performance gains. Similarly, a small-scale study in which we provide GPT-4 with feedback from human participants suggests that even for the strongest models, self-repair still lags far behind what can be achieved with human-level debugging.
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Primary Area: generative models
Submission Number: 3865