Neural Code Comprehension: A Learnable Representation of Code Semantics

Tal Ben-Nun, Alice Shoshana Jakobovits, Torsten Hoefler
ETH Zurich, Zurich 8092, Switzerland
arXiv:1806.07336 [cs.LG], (19 Jun 2018)


   title={Neural Code Comprehension: A Learnable Representation of Code Semantics},

   author={Ben-Nun, Tal and Jakobovits, Alice Shoshana and Hoefler, Torsten},






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With the recent success of embeddings in natural language processing, research has been conducted into applying similar methods to code analysis. Most works attempt to process the code directly or use a syntactic tree representation, treating it like sentences written in a natural language. However, none of the existing methods are sufficient to comprehend program semantics robustly, due to structural features such as function calls, branching, and interchangeable order of statements. In this paper, we propose a novel processing technique to learn code semantics, and apply it to a variety of program analysis tasks. In particular, we stipulate that a robust distributional hypothesis of code applies to both human- and machine-generated programs. Following this hypothesis, we define an embedding space, inst2vec, based on an Intermediate Representation (IR) of the code that is independent of the source programming language. We provide a novel definition of contextual flow for this IR, leveraging both the underlying data- and control-flow of the program. We then analyze the embeddings qualitatively using analogies and clustering, and evaluate the learned representation on three different high-level tasks. We show that with a single RNN architecture and pre-trained fixed embeddings, inst2vec outperforms specialized approaches for performance prediction (compute device mapping, optimal thread coarsening); and algorithm classification from raw code (104 classes), where we set a new state-of-the-art.
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