Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most rapidly advancing fields in technology, and one industry that’s looking at it with great interest is software engineering. While AI has the potential to automate many tasks and increase productivity, it has made many professionals worry about the future of their careers. Today, we will examine the current state of AI, whether software engineers should be worried, and what their options are in a post-AI world.
Why Is AI So Feared Right Now?
Artificial intelligence has come a long way this past decade. Almost every field imaginable is being advanced by some kind of AI, from marketing to data analysis. Some are even saying it’s too advanced, with AI making the rounds as a great “job-killer”, out to replace writers, artists, and even their creators, the software engineers.
AI such as ChatGPT is now even capable of spitting out impressive-looking code and projects in mere seconds. This level of speed in automating complex projects begs the question of whether or not software engineering professionals should be worried about AI.
Should Software Engineers Be Worried?
To cut to the chase, AI is not capable of replacing software engineers, especially in its current state. Software engineers are responsible for designing and building systems that solve complex problems, and AI isn’t even close to being capable of that level of nuance. Furthermore, AI systems still require human oversight and intervention, just like any other software.
While the projects they pump out do look passable to a non-expert, AI is still in its early stages, and many challenges remain. Current AI systems still struggle with understanding context and making complex decisions. Thus, AI still has trouble creating something with substance all on its own. Even when it does put out something functional, it does so in inefficient ways.
The more particular a project becomes, the less helpful an AI can be. It needs a set of reliable data to work with, because AI, unlike humans, is incapable of creating something new. It can only regurgitate what it has seen before, albeit in ways that can look mildly impressive to the non-experienced eye.
So What Can AI Actually Do?
Now that any tension about AI “replacing” people have been quashed, this does leave the question of its practical applications for software engineers. As it turns out, there are actually quite a few ways AI can be implemented into the workflow of a software engineer.
Sometimes, the best thing that an AI can do for an engineer is to give them something to work with. It builds the code in a way that looks correct, but obviously, it won’t be. That said, it’s the same as a writer doling out a rough first draft. It’s definitely going to be terrible, but it does provide the writer with something important: direction.
Software engineers can look at the code and fix what’s wrong. If the rest is already fine, then it’s a good thing the AI already typed it out for them. AI-powered tools can provide intelligent code completion suggestions to help software engineers write code faster and more efficiently. However, this still needs a skilled programmer with plenty of experience to actually accomplish.
If the engineer already has some repetitive and structured code they would like to implement on a wide scale, AI could help greatly in automating that process. Engineers have been trying to code themselves out of a job ever since they were hired, and it’s a good system that breeds innovation. If there are no issues and the engineer is just sitting around, then that means they’re doing their job well.
Engineers can save a lot of time and energy by simply having an AI take the tedium out of the process. AI is best used when it has something to work with. A human still has to come up with the idea, functions, and design, but an AI can automate all the boring stuff about the process. Engineers who aren’t looking for a way to “replace” themselves aren’t doing a great job of being essential to their companies. Whenever they make one thing efficient, another task takes its place, although it should be somewhat easier than their previous assignments.
While artificial intelligence can automate some tasks and help create ideas, it’s far from being a danger to any competent software engineer. In fact, AI is likely creating more jobs for up-and-coming software engineers. New hires are tasked with developing new AI systems and applications, and veterans are tasked with integrating said AI systems into existing systems.
It’s the responsibility of anybody in the tech industry to combat misinformation about the capabilities of AI. Software engineering is an industry that’s garnering tons of attention right now, but for all the wrong reasons. It’s important to be balanced and informed on the AI trend as it develops, because how its perceived could affect its development in the future.