A common perspective being touted is that large language models and AI are dramatically simplifying the process of creating quality software. Some even predict that this trend could lead to a future where software engineers become redundant and simplified abstractions, such as no-code solutions, would handle all our business problems. As someone with 30 years of experience in the tech industry, allow me to share my viewpoint on this matter.
I’ve been hearing the phrase “we won’t need programmers anymore” throughout my career. It started in the 1990s with code generation tools, then came the idea of outsourcing all software engineering overseas, and later the emergence of web application frameworks like Rails and Django which were touted to simplify coding to the point that anyone could write software.
But here’s the truth: these predictions never came to fruition then, and they aren’t likely to now. The reason is straightforward: there is a stark shortage of quality software in the world. Whether you subscribe to Marc Andreessen’s proclamation that “software is eating the world” or simply spend a few days observing any business in the United States, it becomes evident. Almost every large enterprise grapples with suboptimal tools and processes that they would love to automate with even basic software. However, the greatest roadblock is the cost and complexity of creating and maintaining such software.
To argue that AI will replace programmers, one must assume that we already have enough software and software engineers, and the best way forward is to improve efficiency by substituting these individuals with AI. Quite frankly, that’s an outlandish proposition.
What’s actually occurring, as with the previous instances I mentioned, is that it’s becoming more efficient for software engineers to craft software. AI isn’t going to automate away the most complex aspects of building software systems in my career time frame. This includes understanding market trends, formulating a strategy, deciding when to invest in performance or new features, and so on. Up to now, even the most advanced AI can’t perform tasks as elementary as system design.
Looking ahead, it’s crystal clear: emerging tools will empower us to create better software more swiftly. This, in turn, will increase the demand for more software and likely more software engineers, just as it always has.
Being a software engineer is a rewarding profession, and it’s set to become even more thrilling. We’re on the cusp of a golden era for programmers, and I, for one, can’t wait to see what unfolds.
Will AI Replace Software Engineers? A 30-Year Veteran's Perspective
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