How software developers can survive the coming tech crash

Vic Cekvenich
Aug 18, 2019 · 3 min read

As a younger programmer in the 90s I was faced with tech disruption — I’d mastered a popular tool called PowerBuilder but noticed its popularity was fading quickly. Instead of learning this hot new language called Java, I believed surely someone would need me to maintain their PowerBuilder apps, and I would be the last man standing. Instead, demand went to zero — and I was forced to learn Java. In 2001, tech leaps brought more change, and today, another disruptive change is already coming fast: AI.

Computing power has increased about 20 percent each year for the past ten to 15 years, with fewer and fewer humans required. It has also been ten to 15 years since the last technology jump — and the resulting major tech disruption caused by the transition to new and more advanced tech.

Some examples: Mainframes(eg. IBM/Fujitsu); Mini computers (eg. Sun/Dec); Data Centers (‘8086/PC’); Cloud(eg. AWS/Digital Ocean). If you’re not convinced, here are more examples, this time of software waves: 1st and 2nd generation languages (machine and assembly; 3rd generation functional/object-oriented, i.e., PHP, Javascript and Python. Each tech jump has created havoc and impacted the careers of professional developers. For those of you who know COBOL, you were probably out of a job after Y2K.

We must ask this difficult question: like truck drivers and retail workers, can AI-type tech such as automatic generation be used to replace programmers? From a manager’s point of view, the idea of cheaper exponential productivity makes this a no-brainer. But, the programmer’s ego may be thinking, not me! But, let’s take a deeper look using a straw man approach to replacing us expensive programmers with AI and automation.

There are more than two dozen such low-code tools, including but not limited to:

  • MS PowerApps
  • Oracle Visual Builder
  • Wix Corvid
  • Airtable
  • Bubble
  • iCodeBetter

We talked a bit about 3GL, and it’s starting to look like 4GL will be redefined as “low-code”: for high productivity. While other less radical approaches still leverage programers — static generators (e.g., Hugo/Jekyll) and cross platform (e.g., Flutter/Ionic) — low-code tools offer a lot more promise and power. Low-code tools allow citizen developers to complete an application — without programmers. Each low-code tool already has a track record of replacing programmers for complex apps, so while your ego may be bruised, it’s true — a citizen-developer can write an app faster than a trained pro developer. And, what about the .js framework wars? I think they simply contributed to the perception that developers have low productivity.

Welcome to the tech next disruption. So, what can you as a software developer do about it?

You can fight it, convince your managers and end-users not to leverage new tech that simplifies their workflows and costs. I predict many developers will fight to the end only to ultimately make the switch.

Ignoring the writing on the wall won’t change adoption rates or that low-code has the potential to cut 90 percent of developers out of the development process. IMHO, we are heading for a disruption, and I’m trying to get ahead of it. Rather than fighting it, you can accept that the future is coming — sooner than you’d like. Once you accept it, get ahead of it and become an ambassador for modern automation and generation approaches. Learn a low-code tool. Learn static generation. Learn cross-platform development. That is what we as developers do — learn new stuff.

Don’t fight low-code — lead low-code. Do it today. It will lead you in the right direction.

If your organization is starting to explore low code and other modern approaches, take a look at my project INTUITION.DEV, a fully open source tool, currently with only two maintainers. Unlike other low-code tools, this one is aimed at professional developers and uses a standard language: Pug. We started first with a static code generator and then added a WebAdmin that lets you edit — and then kept adding features and refactoring. We hope to make open source low code approach popular with professional developers.
NOTE: I have an upcoming webinar to show INTUITION.DEV, please join the message board on the website(www.INTUITION.DEV) so that you can RSVP.

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