Kerala Technology
Devika still a work in progress, says creator

Open-source AI tool creator Mufeed says many coding jobs are already automated. Photo: TikTalk Newsletter

Devika still a work in progress, says creator

Hari Kumar By Hari Kumar, on April 11, 2024
Hari Kumar By Hari Kumar, on April 11, 2024

Twenty-one-year-old Mufeed Hamzakutty is very busy these days as he has been receiving incessant phone calls and messages since March 17. The young programmer from Thrissur, Kerala, has become the centre of attention after releasing Devika, an open-source AI tool that helps users write programs even if they don’t know how to code.

Mufeed initiated the creation of Devika after watching a video about Devin, which its US-based creators had touted as the world’s first AI engineer.

The Devin video caused a stir on the internet as the tool, created by Cognition AI, demonstrated how easy it could be to write a program. All you have to do is type in a prompt, and Devin does the rest.

“This entire Devika project started as a joke. I was at a teashop having a ‘chaya’ and ‘vada’ on March 14 when a friend sent me this video of Devin’s demo. It was a super impressive demo, but later, I started thinking about the name, Devin.”

“It apparently came from the word ‘developer,’ and I started thinking about what Indian parallel name would match that. Devish, Devji, Devendran, Devika....” said Mufeed, evoking much merriment from the audience during an interaction with a group of young coders at Faya in Trivandrum Technopark last week.

“I just tweeted out ‘Devin this, Devin that... who wanna build Devika, the first ever open-source AI software engineer??’I thought I was tweeting a joke and would get a few smiley emojis as replies. But the response was startling.”

Soon after his tweet, Mufeed started receiving replies and messages from both friends and strangers alike, expressing their desire for such an open-source AI tool.

“I expected a few smileys as replies to my tweet, but no one laughed at my joke. Then I thought it would be even more fun if I actually made this thing and released it. It took me about 20 hours to create a sloppy, trash code, like a hackathon-style tool. I released it on March 17, and it went viral.”

Now, Devika is a hot topic on the internet, and Mufeed is receiving calls from media outlets across India who want to know more about it.

“The Indian government posted it on their website IndiaAI, though they did not notify or inform me about this,” says Mufeed with a laugh. “It’s a bit overwhelming, but it’s good to see Devika getting this much coverage.”

While Devika has taken a divergent path from Devin as an open-source model where others can contribute to its development and is available to everyone, it is not difficult to see a similarity in the genesis of their creations.

The creators of Devin include young programmers like brothers Scott Wu and Neal Wu, who have been making their mark at global cybersecurity contests since they were teenagers. They, along with Harvard dropout Walden Yan, are part of a ten-member strong Cognition AI startup of coding enthusiasts.

Mufeed, the creator of Devika, started coding when he was 13. Spending a lot of time online initially raised concerns for his family, but when he began winning cybersecurity contests, their fears began to dissipate.

His first success came when, as a 16-year-old, he won a bounty from Mastercard after identifying a flaw in their setup.

By the time he reached twelfth grade, Mufeed established his own cybersecurity firm, Lyminal. Two years ago, he, along with his friends and coding enthusiasts Vivek R and Asjith Kalam, founded an AI-centric cybersecurity firm called Stition.

“I really love participating in competitions,” says Mufeed. Engaging in challenges honed his skills quickly, leading him to win the gold medal for cybersecurity at the All India Skill Olympics in 2021.

He represented India at the 2022 World Skills Olympiad held in South Korea, where he achieved the eighth rank. Last year, he represented an online skills competition held for Bric country members and secured a bronze medal.

Despite similarities in the paths of their creators, Mufeed is quick to dismiss any comparison with the performance of Devin and Devika.

“I wrote a shabby code, but a lot of contributors signed on to the project and revamped and corrected the code, fixing a lot of issues. It is not stable yet and is still a work in progress,” he says.

He mostly used Anthropic AI’s Claude, as he finds it better than others like Github's Copilot and OpenAI's GPT-4.

“About 60 percent of my work was outsourced to AI. I have to confess I am not a front-end designer, nor do I know user interface (UI). Half of the UI of Devika was done by Devika herself. When I released it, many people were complimenting me about codes that I didn't write.’

“It was all done by Devika, but the effort did burn my pocket as the bill from Claude was pretty hefty.”

Since Devika’s release, AI chatrooms and social media platforms have witnessed passionate discussions, and many enthusiasts have joined the open-source initiative. This is opening another front in the AI race between companies that focus on AI for profit and free-to-use platforms like Devika.

GitHub users have welcomed Devika with enthusiasm, and it garnered over 13,000 stars within a few days of its release. Mufeed says a lot of programmers and students have also messaged him, voicing their fears about the job loss that such automation may bring.

“I tell them not to fear automation but to be aware of what is happening so that they can prepare for the future. I avoid sugarcoating and tell them what is already happening. It is super dystopian, but basic coding tasks will become increasingly automated.”

Mufeed says coders working with programs like Crud and Boilerplate are already being replaced by AI tools.

“Our startup has hired Devika as an intern. She gets no salary but gets paid in GPU computing. We joke about this, but many firms, like Microsoft, are using AI agents to automate numerous jobs.”

With AI steamrolling its way into one field after another, how much disruption does this young entrepreneur envisage in the years ahead?

“Before AI with neural networks and transformer technology arrived, the general refrain was that creativity was something unique to human beings. When ChatGPT came, it was like, ‘yes, it can write essays, it can write poems’, but there was no way it could draw a picture.”

Programs like Stable Diffusion proved that also wrong. In fact, Stable Diffusion was released before ChatGPT.  Such art-creating platforms are being increasingly used to replace graphic artists and code developers can expect the same thing, he says.

Does that mean intelligent machines will replace humans more and more? 

“I am on the side of the humans. I believe what humans create is more valuable than whatever AI creates. We cannot conclude that AI is as intelligent as humans. But when you scale it up to millions of parameters, somehow a pattern of intelligence does show up.”



Tesla is coming, Tesla is coming …

Reports of Tesla entering the Indian market are gaining strength, with a Reuters report indicating that its factory in Germany has already commenced production of right-hand drive cars in anticipation. Earlier reports suggested that Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu were potential locations for a future Tesla factory. But now Telangana Industries Minister Sridhar Babu says that they are already in talks with Elon Musk’s company regarding this matter.

Access to the Indian market would be beneficial for Tesla, especially considering the current downturn in global sales as Chinese companies like BYD surge ahead. The sale of electric vehicles (EVs) in India is expected to rise by 66 percent this year, according to research firm Counterpoint. Despite the Indian government's target of achieving 30 percent of total car sales as EVs by 2030, only 2 percent of sales were electric vehicles in 2023.



Machine to help with tea plucking

If there is one sector in India that is in dire need of innovation, it is agriculture. Therefore, we were pleased to learn about Surinova, a Chennai-based company that has developed a T-Rover capable of plucking tea leaves. According to a report on Your Story, this electricity-powered machine, priced at 30 lakh rupees, can easily navigate slopes of up to 30 degrees through its sensors and controllers. Its precision engineering enables it to efficiently pick tea leaves. The company has already received orders for 25 machines from Parry Agro. Wonder if this can inspire a Kerala startup to come up with a similar machine to help our coconut farmers and rubber planters.



Rocket speed delivery from China

Chinese shopping platform Taobao, owned by Jack Ma’s Alibaba, is aiming to expedite its global delivery process using rockets. The company is currently in discussions with rocket manufacturer Space Epoch to procure reusable rockets capable of carrying ten tonnes of cargo to destinations such as the US and Europe. Based in Beijing, Space Epoch has yet to launch its rocket but has conducted preliminary tests and secured funding totalling 41 million US dollars. Despite the press note coming out on April 1, prompting speculation that it might be a joke, Alibaba assured the South China Morning Post that many big ideas often appear humorous or implausible initially.



Some chips to go with your beer

Belgian beers are renowned as some of the finest in the world, but the industry is not content to rest on its laurels. Scientists in that country are now harnessing the power of AI to enhance the taste of their brews and craft new flavours to capture more markets. Professor Kevin Verstrepen of KU Leuven University wrote about their efforts in Nature Communications magazine, and says their focus was on developing models that predict the taste, smell, mouthfeel, and overall appreciation of different beers. Looks like we chose the wrong university!