Will AI actually kill jobs?


In late April, Google announced that it had upgraded its Bard AI “experiment” with the ability to help people with programming and software development tasks, including code generation, code debugging, and explanation.

Maybe it’s a coincidence, but about that same time, software engineers began to fear for their future.

Just days after Google’s announcement, the BusinessInsider website published an article headlined ‘Software engineers are panicking about being replaced by AI.’

The article pulled anonymous comments from the networking website Blind and did not verify the comments. But those comments were full of, well, panic.

“Software engineering is a dying profession,” wrote one Microsoft engineer. “And since GPT is already great at writing its own prompts, you’re up the creek without a paddle.”

TechRepublic had a similar view, writing that “Artificial intelligence and machine learning are changing how businesses operate. Enterprises are amassing a vast amount of data, which is being used within AI and ML models to automate and improve business processes.”

The article went on to say that AI and ML tools will fundamentally alter the ways in which applications are built – from design-to-code platforms and tools, to ML models that automatically generate code, to models that automate elements of application testing.

The Brainhub website also chimed in, posting a paper that says software developers have a reason to worry. It quotes a team of researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory as saying there’s a high chance that AI will replace software developers as early as 2040.

Those researchers said, “Programming trends suggest that software development will undergo a radical change in the future: the combination of machine learning, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and code generation technologies will improve in such a way that machines, instead of humans, will write most of their own code by 2040.”

Even Congress is worried about the potential risks of AI, holding hearings this week so tech CEOs and others can testify about the need for potential regulatory measures.

That’s a lot of gloom and doom, but a Bloomberg columnist offered a different view of the employment prospects for software developers, at least in the near term.

In an opinion piece, Conor Sen recounted all the layoffs at tech companies so far this year and then made this pivot: “But an unexpected savior has come riding to the rescue of tech workers, at least for now. Companies and investors are hyped up about what artificial intelligence could mean for future profits, and worried about what it could mean if they’re left behind. And while AI may eventually destroy millions of jobs, the products and services that will be responsible for that don’t yet exist. Companies have to build them, and they’ll need tech workers for that.”

Which is a lot like the captain of the Titanic saying icebergs could sink the ship but we’re good for tonight.

But Sen also cites the jobs website indeed.com, which keeps track of job postings over time, noting that since the middle of April new listings — those posted within the past seven days — for software developers have risen by 30%.

So how should software engineers prepare for their ultimate demise?

That Brainhub paper suggested they start working to acquire new skills including statistics, big data, data mining, data science, machine learning, MLOps, cognitive computing, text analytics, natural language processing, R, Hadoop, Spark, and many others.

After noting that it would be impossible to truly master every AI-related skill, the paper suggested that “software developers who want to stay relevant in the Age of AI should see themselves as expert-generalists and treat learning new skills as an ongoing process.”

Continuous skill development is something we advocate at Fulcrum Consulting Services, and we love to see people grow. For now, we know that software engineers and developers continue to be in demand by our clients. When that demand shifts to new skills, we’ll be ready to help find the right talent.

That’s why we’re here; we match talent with the right company. Contact us to learn how.

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