Will AI Steal My Job?
If you’re afraid that AI will replace programmers, don’t be. It’s understandably nerve-wracking for someone with their sights set on becoming a junior developer, but even as AI models learn to write and correct lines of code, your future as a developer remains safe.
AI is replacing low-skilled, repetitive tasks. It simply doesn’t have the same adaptability and range, creativity or critical thinking skills as a person.
In the future (and it already can be used this way) artificial intelligence will be your co-pilot, or assistant. It will automate mundane tasks, and it will help you to be more productive.
In fact, in a recent experiment, Westpac gave their software engineers generative AI tools to test and saw a 46 per cent productivity gain with no noticeable drop-off in code quality.
Why AI Can’t Replace Human Developers
AI cannot replace knowledgeable, human developers, because using AI to its full advantage requires skill.
If someone with no knowledge of coding expects ChatGPT (or any other AI) to create software, a website or an app for them then they won’t have the knowledge needed to refine their prompts or to correct the AI’s mistakes. And there will, inevitably, be mistakes.
Large language models like ChatGPT can predict, while other generative AI tools are being trained on specific datasets and can surface information on coding languages to answer questions much faster than a human can.
But these tools still don’t think in the same way humans do. When asked for assistance, they can’t truly understand someone’s intent. They aren’t able to show true understanding or to create human connection with a client.
Coder Academy’s lead academic, Jairo Bilbao isn’t worried for the future of his students.
“In my opinion, it’s a great tool to boost the efficiency, but not able to replace a developer/engineer as you still need to ask the right questions in the right way, and you need to be a professional that totally understands the big picture to do that,” Jairo said.
This seems to echo the experience of recent Coder Academy graduates, who are already using AI in the workplace as a tool. Although they’ve found it useful, they’ve also tested and experienced its limitations, and do not believe it’s a suitable substitute for junior developers.
Stephen and Cameron are two Coder Academy graduates who recently joined us for a webinar, and were asked by an anxious audience member whether coding would be replaced by AI.
“I mean, I can’t predict the future, but personally, no, I don’t think so,” Stephen said. “I think it’s definitely shown that it can enhance our jobs and maybe it will have an impact on the programs you’ll see out there, or organisations, but I kind of get the feeling that it will probably just make us more productive which just means we’ll end up writing more code.”
Cameron was quick to agree, and talked about some of the ways he is using AI as a tool in his daily work.
“My response would be identical,” Cameron said. “It just makes you a lot more productive. It lowers the barrier to entry. If I’m coding, I will have ChatGPT on one screen, and I will have Copilot in my IDE [integrated development environment].”
But Cameron also pointed out that you have to use your judgement when making use of AI tools.
“If you’re learning to code, don’t have that stuff there, and sometimes I will consciously say, this is not helpful right now, and I’m going to turn off this, and go back to thinking through the problem.
“But in many instances, what we’re doing, we’re working through solved problems. We have an interface, we communicate with a database, and those are solved problems, so why not use a tool that helps you do that much quicker?”
“I would add as well though, that AI cannot do the high-level, complex thinking of, this part connects to this part, connects to this part. It cannot do that, that’s creativity, and that’s being an engineer.”
So it looks like human developers are pretty confident that their jobs are safe. But what about AI, does it have any plans to take our jobs?
We decided to ask ChatGPT, feeding it the prompt, “I’m a coder, will you steal my job?”
The little chatbot was very humble when admitting its own limitations, noting that advanced language models cannot match human coders in critical areas, and that ChatGPT lacks “true understanding or creativity.”
What Does the Research Say?
AI is becoming more of a polarising force in our world, with many individuals and organisations keen to adopt it, while others fear its harmful potential.
In The Future of Jobs Report 2020, the World Economic Forum (WEF) predicted that between 2020 and 2025, as many as “85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labour between humans and machines, while 97 million new roles may emerge that are more adapted to the new division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms”.
No wonder people are worried. Jobs will be lost, but the net gain in jobs is encouraging for developers, who are in the best position to take advantage of emerging technologies.
In more good news for coders, the WEF also found that “In 2025, analytical thinking, creativity and flexibility are among the top skills needed; with data and artificial intelligence, content creation and cloud computing the top emerging professions”.
Rather than stealing our jobs, AI is likely to create more jobs, and with the need for the very human skills of analytical thinking, creativity and flexibility, those new jobs won’t be filled by machines.
Australia’s need for programmers is on a steady upwards trajectory, with no signs of generative AI disrupting the need for more workers in this field.
The Australian Government’s Labour Market Insights research predicts future growth of 27% for software and applications programmers, reaching a workforce of 198,400 by 2026, with even higher demand expected in our major cities.
The Challenges of AI in the Workplace
There’s no doubt that AI will bring disruption and change, but developers have always needed to adapt to changing technology. This is not a career bound by tradition where things remain as they were for generations. It has always been the case that programmers cannot afford to allow their skills to stagnate.
This need for lifelong learning is something graduate Stephen has certainly experienced.
“I’ve worked in hospitality, and you know, once you learn how to make a good coffee, you can make a good coffee, and then you just do that every day,” Stephen said. “But in tech, you learn something, and then next week you have to learn this other thing, and, you know, tech evolves constantly, so you’re constantly having to learn new skills, and I love that, and I enjoy that.”
When starting out, junior developers will need to master the fundamental skills so that they’re smarter than AI. Understanding the essential building blocks, including different coding languages, debugging and testing, information systems and more will help you to embark on a career where you won’t be replaced by a machine.
Once they’ve completed a Coder Academy bootcamp, our graduates are already far more valuable to a potential employer or client than an AI tool can be. But the journey doesn’t stop there. Throughout your career, you will always need to keep pace with changing technology. With further development AI will become more capable, but so will you.
If you have the right foundations in coding, then you can even choose to specialise in the field of AI. As different models are trained, developed and deployed, there will be a real need for human workers in this growing field.
Robots can’t take your job if you’re the one programming them, right?
Unless this all turns into some dystopian nightmare where the machines rise up against their creators… but in that case you’ll definitely want to know how to code. How else are we going to defeat Skynet?
All sci-fi horror stories aside, the bottom line is that developers don’t need to fear being replaced by AI. The world of programming is constantly changing, and if anything, learning to become a full stack web developer just got a whole lot more exciting.
Coder Academy is the original Australian Coding Bootcamp. Our accredited Web Development Bootcamps will set you up for a new career in tech via our Accelerated or our Standard Bootcamps. Our immersive Bootcamps help students gain in-demand skills through hands on, project-based training by industry immersed educators.
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