How do software engineers fit in with the future of AI?

Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash

People have been concerned about artificial intelligence taking over and eliminating human jobs for decades. It feels like the last couple of years–especially around the introduction of ChatGPT–have seen experts and politicians alike creating concern over what that might mean for the future. They are mostly worried about two things: job loss and ethical use of the technology.

Right now, it’s an enabling technology, which means that at best, AI-powered tools help humans do their jobs better and faster. In the coding world, that means doing things like repetitive tasks, low-level coding and finding potential bugs. It can answer questions developers might otherwise turn to StackOverflow for, and it can improve security by assessing vulnerabilities. Project managers can even get more accurate estimations on how long it will take to deliver a project. AI doesn’t change who can do jobs but alters how they do them. 

This is a chance for people who program, scale, configure, and use AI to shine and get creative as they take advantage of the new opportunities available to them. Humans can focus on the innovative and critical thinking aspects of programming and work out the more complex problems that arise. 

Consider this comparison: Autopilot helps pilots fly planes, but it doesn’t replace them. It needs to be supervised and even taken over in extenuating circumstances. Sometimes, it might even malfunction. All are reasons a human remains in charge. The same is true of development. After all, AI is only as good as the code it was initially trained on, and there are inevitably going to be a few bugs in there that limit its usefulness. 

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Soft skills like empathy, emotional intelligence, and social skills are uniquely human. It’s these skills that will keep programmers in their roles for the longest amount of time as AI continues to improve. That, and upskilling to more advanced technology.

Another concern is privacy. If AI is scraping the internet for sources, you could run into a major plagiarism problem. Imagine if you shipped an update with code sourced from a competitor. Not good. Another uniquely human trait is ethics. A developer has to sit in the driver’s seat to ensure moral boundaries aren’t crossed in the process of creating something new.

Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash

On the other hand, if the technology eventually shifts to self-reinforcing and compounding, aka the kind of stuff you see in the movies where the robots no longer have a commander, there are likely to be bigger issues than becoming obsolete. 

So until the day autonomous technology exists, AI and programmers will work in tandem to expand on what is possible and to do so faster and more effectively than ever before. The future of programming is full of more potential than ever before.

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