So you have heard of ChatGPT, Llama, Alpaca, Microsoft/GitHub Copilot, and Bard – Their ability to generate code with just a few simple prompts. Does that spell “the end” for the jobs called “programmer” and “software developer”? Should you be worried?
That should be obvious enough, AI is not capable of developing complex applications on its own. At least not at the current level of “intelligence”. Just what does that mean, what will the future hold? I shall share a couple of my own thoughts – Read on!
FACT – AI IS NOT FOR EVERYONE
First, let us get some hard facts right. You may have searched online, and bumped into videos of people “creating an app or plugin using AI within minutes”. Yes, that is somewhat true, but take it with a pinch of salt:
- It is true that AI can generate code.
- Not always true that AI can generate good working code, code with good coding practices.
Some people just want “likes, views, shares, comments, subscribe”. Clickbait, get it? They over-exaggerate the capabilities of AI, fail to mention the prior/after, and also the caveat:
- While there are “free trials”, people will eventually hit the paywall if they want to continue using AI.
- You can try to download and set up your own AI instance, but that will require technical knowledge.
- There’s a learning curve to using AI for generating code. Needs plenty of trial and error for “prompt engineering”, you also need some technical knowledge yourself.
- AI can only generate simple plugins and projects at the time of writing; There’s a limit to how much text/code they can generate at once.
So yes, AI is not as click baiters claim – “Stupidly easy, anyone can become a programmer”.
FACT – AI IS A “BETTER AUTOCOMPLETE”
At the time of writing, I am using Amazon Code Whisperer – A free alternative to GitHub CoPilot. Of course, it is unable to create an entire app with a single prompt… Not if your app is along the lines of “add two numbers”, or “a recursive function to find all image files in a folder”.
But it does speed up development with better suggestions and auto-complete. So yep, the best rating I can give the current level of AI and ML is “a better autocomplete”, not a “replacement for programmers”. Feel free to check it out if you are interested.
AI WILL ONLY BECOME BETTER
But as AI technology matures over time, it will only become “smoother” and “smarter”. Here is my take on future AI programming:
- You can grant AI permission to download, install, and do whatever is required to “make things work”. No more struggling with installing a code editor, IDE, compiler, interpreter, server stack, plugins, settings, etc…
- The limitations on AI will be raised, they will become “cheaper to run with better results”. Meaning, capable of studying your existing projects, programming style, and dealing with more complex systems.
- “Superpower autocomplete”. You only need to create the skeleton frame of a new library or API, AI can figure out the rest. Highlight a function, and enter a prompt such as “create a form that submits to this function”.
- The era of “hard coding” will come to an end. AI can pretty much generate code and also do debugging within seconds.
- AI can “see” and “design” – Feed the brand guidelines into AI, and generate ideas for the interface design.
- Simpler drag-and-drop GUI and AI-assisted programming will become mainstream.
SOME PROGRAMMERS MAY BE REPLACED
Now for the part that some people dread, given the circumstances:
- AI will take away the technical difficulty for “normal people”. The barrier of entry becomes very low.
- “Normal people” will be able to do programming to a certain degree with the help of AI.
- An “AI-assisted programmer” will be much more productive than a “non-AI programmer”.
All of these point to less demand for people with technical skills, which may result in some programmers losing their jobs. Now, I don’t want to be gloomy and negative. Nobody has a perfect crystal ball, it’s also a matter of mindset:
- Scarcity & Adversity – AI can do work faster and better than humans, we don’t need that many programmers.
- Abundance & Opportunity – We are so much more productive with the help of AI. Let’s create more jobs and projects.
Yep, we don’t know for sure. Given how AI takes away the technical difficulty, the indie games/apps market may also start to explode with more jobs and opportunities.
THE WORLD WILL STILL NEED PROGRAMMERS!
If you are still worried about “getting replaced”, consider if a “normal person” can do these with zero technical knowledge.
- Develop AI.
- Debugging and troubleshooting.
- Design a database.
- Design a system.
- Come up with operating procedures, and design the process flow.
- All kinds of concepts – Classes, functions, API, OOP, logic, CRUD, MVC, SDLC.
- UI and UX. Responsive design.
- Security and encryption.
Just like how it takes an artist to produce art, and musicians to produce music – It will take a programmer to produce professional software.
HOW TO STAY RELEVANT IN THE AGE OF AUTOMATION
My advice as a senior web developer – “Adapt to the inevitable change. Adopt AI and pick up more non-technical skills”. That’s right. AI Haters are not going to like this, but consider these four groups of people:
- People without knowledge, and do not know how to use AI.
- People with knowledge, but do not use AI.
- People without knowledge, but know how to use AI.
- People with knowledge, and also know how to use AI.
Which group will most likely survive and thrive? The answer is clear, I will hire someone with knowledge and who uses AI – This person easily provides a lot more value than the rest.
Also, technical skills can only get you that far, don’t stop at “I know how to write scripts”. That skill set is easily replaceable, even without AI. Become that person who offers direction and adds value. “This feature is worth implementing”, “this will streamline the process”, and “automating this will cut cost by N”. That is a skill that cannot be replaced by AI. Yet.
Thank you for reading, and we have come to the end. Haters gonna hate, but I still wish to say – Don’t let hate cloud your judgment. Sometimes, we have to pick up things that we don’t like to survive. Fill your stomach, not your ego. If you want to share anything, please feel free to comment below. Good luck and happy coding!