“The machines are coming”. The idea that AI and automation will be destroying vast numbers of jobs has spread throughout the media the last few years. The jobs of lawyers are being automated, as is much of the job of doctors. It’s not happening as fast as people hoped or feared, but it is happening. It’s only natural that software engineers consider their own jobs.
Yes, software engineering will be automated. But that’s already true.
Take a deep breath and ask yourself the last time you implemented an HTTP server. How long ago was that? Have you ever done it? No?
Very few people bother to implement an HTTP server because that task has been done.
What about connecting that server to your app? And creating a basic REST API? Hrmm… it seems there’s a command line tool that does that now.
This constant automation of software engineering is why our tools get better every year and why keeping up in the industry can be so difficult.
Automation of software engineering protects it from automation
Because so many small pieces are constantly being automated, the profession as a whole cannot be. Once a practice becomes sufficiently routine that AI could effectively automate it, there is no need. Someone has created a tool, a script, a framework, or all of the above. That which can be automated will be. Then, someone will automate stitching all those pre-automated things together. And so on.
Software engineering is constantly changing. As a result, change is constant and so is the job (if you can keep up).
Don’t fear the reaper
The best part of being a software engineer is creating new things and solving new problems. For me at least, there’s little joy in solving the same problem over and over. I’ll automate that, thank you very much.
The deeper skill of being an engineer is wholistic problem solving. Being able to see a problem not only for the technical pieces, or what library you’d use, but how it affects people, users, even society.
The more software engineering is automated, the more accessible it is. Writing code today is vastly easier than it was 10 years ago. In another 10 years, we won’t be out of engineering jobs. It’s that engineering jobs will be that much more powerful and impactful.
Automation is power
We shouldn’t fear automation. Instead, we should be alert for what we might do with it. Will we use it properly? Will the effects on people and society be a clear win for the world?
Tell me your thoughts.