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Three Reasons Why ChatGPT Won't Take Developer Jobs

Generative AI Developer Jobs

Midjourney prompt: “cyborg writing code”

In this article I’m going to give you three reasons why you don’t have to worry about ChatGPT or AI taking away your developer job, and then I’m going to ask if you buy my arguments.

Reason One: As Far as the Eye Can See

Let’s start with this comforting quote:

…look around you and count how many products or services you use regularly that you wish are better digitized or “software-ized.” Unless and until that number is 0, there will be more developers, not less.

In other words, think of all the horrible software we use on a regular basis.  Your local library system.  Your bank’s 1990 interface (or its ATMs’ 1980s interface).  Some online vendor’s poorly-integrated shopping cart.  Etcetera.

All of those are opportunities for someone to step in and fix the problem.  This is an argument about opportunities for work.  This argument is that while maybe in some future dystopia, only AI will crank out code for itself but we’re a long, long ways from that and until that day comes, there is more than enough work because the backlog is vast beyond vast.

Reason Two: Power Suits

When you sit down to develop a Windows, macOS, or web application, you don’t start by writing a lexer.  Or a compiler or a linker, either.  You’re not writing basic string handling routines, nor implementing a linked list.  You’re not writing queue management software, windowing toolkits, or database software.  All that stuff is already done.

If you wanted to write a word processor in 2023, you could probably get something up and running in a matter of…days?  Not all the features but I bet a good dev could write something that would do 50-75% of what Microsoft Word does in that period of time.

That’s because instead of starting on the ground floor, a developer in 2023 starts much higher up – say, the 20th floor of a skyscraper, with everything already built below.

When Windows or macOS came out, they didn’t destroy developer jobs – they created more.  There were not groups of hard-luck guys who specialized in writing linked lists that were put out of work by standard libraries.  Better platforms translate into power suits for developers, not replacements.  In other words, AI is just another story or two up the skyscraper.  You’ll benefit as a developer from custom code snippets on steroids, but that will only empower you to go faster and further.

Reason Three: Parlor Tricks Write Code, But Don’t Conceive Apps

ChatGPT is a parlor trick.  It’s an awesome parlor trick, but that’s all it is.

The “learning” that large language model AI does is not true learning.  There is nothing inside AI that truly “understands” what it’s doing.  Yes, if you ask ChatGPT to explain how a vacuum cleaner works you’ll get an explanation, but that’s just regurgitating text from different sources.

There’s also no creativity, or ability to organize and manage data, or ability to manage a conversation fraught with inter-human politics.  Those are all vital to software development.

It’s good at code snippets or even lengthy code excerpts, but not at the scale of “I’m going to give you an idea and a GitHub login and you handle it from there”.  Generative AI may seem creative but it plainly isn’t.  It is limited to what’s in the library.  It can remix and spin but everything comes out of the library it was trained on.  Humans have no such limit.

And yes, it will be 10x better in (who knows?) amount of time, but we are still many fundamental breakthroughs away from completing the Generalized Artificial Intelligence milestone on the tech tree.

So What Do You Think?

Will ChatGPT write Windows 12?  Should people entering computer science courses quit and major in theater instead?

This poll is no longer accepting votes

Will Generative AI Lead to More or Fewer Developer Jobs?



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