There’s no doubt that we’re in the middle of a technological revolution. Artificial intelligence – AI – has been in the news for months. It’s affecting our daily lives in ways we never could have predicted just a few years ago. For some, it’s become a necessary tool for work. But will AI replace the need for software engineers and programmers? What can AI do to help coders – and what can’t it do?
Will AI Replace Software Engineers?
That’s the big question. The simplest, most straightforward answer is that no, AI will not replace software engineers for the foreseeable future.
However, software engineers’ roles are evolving, partly due to AI. Writing lines of code is becoming an increasingly smaller part of the job. There are still human aspects to writing code: problem-solving, creativity, design skills, security awareness, and understanding complex system components. Those will always be there for human software engineers.
As AI becomes increasingly ubiquitous and takes on more coding tasks, IT professionals will need to shift their mindsets. Skills like data-driven design, human-centered design, user interface design, and test-and-learn will still be crucial for human engineers to apply to programs. While AI technologies like ChatGPT-3 can generate computer programs without coding, they are not entirely developed enough to replace programmers.
The best thing programmers can do is to stay abreast of emerging technology and how it can automate specific repetitive tasks to help them work more efficiently.
Advantages of Incorporating AI into Software Engineering
Software engineers can make AI work for them by incorporating it into their workflow.
Automating Repetitive Tasks
AI allows software engineers to focus on more critical and complex aspects of software development instead of repetitive and mundane coding tasks. AI can also make suggestions and auto-complete commands as engineers write line after line of code. This frees up time that software engineers can use for more advanced – more human – tasks in their work.
Making mistakes is an inevitable human quality. With AI, software engineers can more accurately detect bugs in the code before it’s even tested. AI can be set up to detect bugs as soon as they’re written and either suggest solutions or make fixes as it goes along.
Prediction of Future Issues
Speaking of setting up AI to detect bugs, human engineers can also use AI to predict problematic code. AI can detect redundancies, inefficiencies, and other issues – all before the code is even tested, thus saving time.
Accurate Project Estimation and Collaboration
Based on previous performance, AI can help make more accurate predictions regarding how long a programming project will take to complete. Imagine – no more missed deadlines! And with the code suggestions mentioned above, AI can ensure an entire team is on the same page throughout the project.
Advantages of AI: The Takeaway
While AI like ChatGPT-3 can’t – and shouldn’t – replace all aspects of a software project, it can be used to make the project run more smoothly and efficiently. Think of it like an assistant who can identify mistakes and flaws in real time while ensuring all team members work within the same set of parameters.
Disadvantages of Incorporating AI into Software Engineering
Not all aspects of writing code will benefit from AI, though. And not all AI will be able to help software engineers.
AI can usually write more accurate code than humans can. But not always. AI is still code, and humans write that code. AI is also still new-ish. This can sometimes lead to bad code, even if it’s AI-generated. ChatGPT will not be replacing programmers anytime soon. Software engineers are still needed to oversee code writing and programming.
Because AI learns as it goes along, it can use previously input code to generate new code – for users outside your company. As the recent data leak proves, inputting proprietary code into something like ChatGPT allows the system to spit that data out to non-authorized users, creating a massive security problem.
The potential for data leaks works the other way, too. When you ask ChatGPT to create lines of code, you can’t be sure where that code comes from. Is it proprietary, and will you be sued for using it? Is it full of viruses or Trojan horses? These are things to consider when using AI to help write code.
Lack of Innovative Solutions
AI can only help you with what it already knows. It can’t innovate or “think outside the box.” AI mimics what it’s already absorbed. It may help brainstorm ideas from those that already exist, but as of right now, it can’t create new or unique solutions.
Lack of Understanding
Anyone who’s used ChatGPT knows that sometimes the answer it gives you is entirely unrelated to the prompt you gave it. Even the most specific prompts can result in useless answers. That’s because, as stated above, AI can only mimic what it already knows. If your prompt asks for information that’s never been put into it, it won’t give you the desired results.
Disadvantages of AI: The Takeaway
AI makes a great assistant but not a great team leader. While it can help eliminate repetition and bugs, it can’t replace human software engineers’ insight, instinct, and ingenuity.
Other Potential Implications
AI is still evolving, which means some of the drawbacks of using it to code may disappear one day. As we said, that’s why it’s essential for human coders to stay on top of new and emerging technologies as they’re released. When you know what’s coming, you can anticipate using it to your advantage – rather than letting it take your job.
Keep in mind, too, that new sets of skills are needed with the rise of AI and machine learning:
- Programming languages and frameworks used to create AI and machine learning
- Data analysis
- Creative design
- Complex algorithms
And so on. If AI can only mimic what’s put into it, then there is still a need for software engineers who can decide what that input will be and how it can be helpful.
As we move forward with AI, there will be a constant need for software engineers with specialized skills to help maintain and guide it.
The World Still Needs Software Engineers
While we may be in the midst of an AI revolution, there is still an enormous need for software engineers. This need exists across industries, not just in the tech sector. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
“Increased demand for software developers, software quality assurance analysts, and testers will stem from the continued expansion of software development for artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, and other automation applications.
In response to concerns over threats to computer security, organizations are expected to increase investment in software that protects their electronic networks and infrastructure. This investment could result in an increased demand for developers to create security software and for quality assurance analysts and testers to create and execute software tests.
Software developers, software quality assurance analysts, and testers are likely to see new opportunities because of the increasing number of products that use software. For example, software systems continue to be built for consumer electronics and other products, including IoT-connected devices and electric vehicles.”
In other words, coding jobs aren’t going anywhere. In fact, there’s predicted to be an increase in the need for software engineers in the coming years. Anywhere there’s software, people need to hire employees who can code, with or without AI.
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