As AI continues to be one of the hottest topics in 2023, people are constantly exploring ways to incorporate it into their projects and workloads. While the endless possibilities excite many, some worry that AI could replace their usefulness in the workforce.
For example, AI’s advantages to coding and software engineering have people wondering if AI will replace human software engineers. As such, you can find predictions on when and how AI could remove the need for humans in the software engineering industry.
However, plenty of insights and experts tell people to tap the breaks on those doomsday prophecies. Instead of becoming irrelevant in an AI-dependent world, many see the role of software engineers evolving into new areas of focus.
This view of the future provides us with reasons why AI will not replace software engineers. Here are six reasons why.
Software Engineers Can Become AI Engineers
Imran Qureshi (CTO & Chief Data Science Officer at b.well Connected Health) looked that the productivity boosts that the internet and the cloud gave software engineers and sees AI doing something similar.
He points out that:
Before the internet boom of 2002:
Engineers worked on backend and user applications
After the internet boom:
Web engineers (building applications) were in demand Mobile engineers were in demand in the 2010s
Before the rise of the cloud:
System engineers built and ran databases, app servers, etc.
After the rise of the cloud:
System engineers were out, and data engineers were in If we look at AI as a trend like the internet and the cloud, Qureshi sees engineers evolving with the times yet again.
“The demand in software engineering will shift from data engineers and web/mobile engineers to AI engineers, engineers that integrate AI functionality into products and platforms,” he said. “Junior engineers should learn these tools and explore AI engineers to compete in the market now.”
Software Engineers Can Add AI Expertise
A recent article from CNN about AI and software engineering layoffs highlighted several experts who seem to support the idea of software engineers and other professionals incorporating AI into their professional skill sets.
Dan Wang, a professor at Columbia Business School, said, “AI, as far as I see it, doesn’t necessarily replace humans, but rather enhances the work of humans.
“I think that the kind of competition that we all should be thinking more about is that human specialists will be replaced by human specialists who can take advantage of AI tools.”
Tech observer and startup founder Roger Lee pointed out that software engineers who incorporate AI into their skills already see a bigger payday.
• Senior software engineers specializing in artificial intelligence or machine learning are earning salaries that are 12% higher than others
• Senior software engineers specializing in AI or machine learning have seen their salaries increase by 4%
• A perfect example is the Principal Machine Learning Engineer role at Dropbox (Base salary $276,300 - $373,800)
• That is a notable increase compared to a senior software engineer's $171,895 average salary
Software Engineers Can Learn Specific AI Skills
Brainhub has made skill suggestions for software engineers who want to incorporate AI into their expertise.
They suggest exploring:
• Machine Learning (ML) and Data Science
• Neural Networks and Deep Learning
• Natural Language Processing (NLP)
• Data Engineering and Data Management
• Software Development Practices and Tools
• Ethical and Responsible AI
• Domain Knowledge and Problem-Solving
• Lifelong Learning and Adaptability
They say that software engineers don’t have to learn everything at once; they just need to take the initiative to evolve their roles.
“Software developers won’t have to know the intricate details of the latest machine learning algorithms or possess excellent command of the trendiest programming language to work on AI projects, but not being able to navigate the AI landscape and learn new skills at the speed of business won’t be equally optional.”
They also point out that human software engineers will continue to be necessary to:
• Solve complex problems
• Add creativity and innovation
• Explain context and show adaptability
• Provide ethical considerations
• Offer communication and collaboration
In other words, you could say that human engineers and AI need each other.
When you look at the value software engineers still bring to the table, it not only provides an argument against companies replacing them with AI – it also makes it sound like a bad idea.
Software Engineers Add Human-Specific Value
AI is the simulation of human intelligence. It’s programmed to think and learn like humans. It involves various subdomains, such as machine learning, natural language processing, and computer vision, which enable systems to perform complex tasks without explicit programming.
While AI has made significant advancements in certain areas, it has yet to attain the breadth and depth of knowledge and experience that software engineers possess. Software engineers are trained to design, develop, and maintain large-scale software systems, considering various factors such as performance, security, and scalability.
Machine learning, one of the subdomains of AI, has gained considerable attention in recent years. It involves the development of algorithms and models that allow machines to learn from data and make predictions or decisions without being explicitly programmed. This capability has benefited areas such as image recognition, speech recognition, and natural language processing.
Therefore, AI systems need the expertise and guidance of human software engineers. These engineers are crucial in training and fine-tuning AI models, ensuring they perform accurately and reliably. They are responsible for collecting and preprocessing the data, selecting appropriate algorithms, and optimizing the model's performance.
Brainhub mentioned the importance of the ethical implications of AI. Humans must ensure that AI systems do not discriminate against certain individuals or groups and that the data used is handled responsibly. Humans can monitor and address the issues of bias, privacy, and transparency.
Then there’s that other human advantage – emotion.
Software engineering involves more than just writing lines of code. It requires effective collaboration, clear communication, and understanding of the user's needs. When working on a software project, a software engineer needs to not only understand the technical requirements but also consider the impact of their work on the end-users. They need to empathize with the users' needs and preferences to create a product that truly meets their expectations.
AI and Human Software Engineers Need Each other
As AI technologies continue to advance, we can expect more sophisticated tools and frameworks that augment the capabilities of software engineers. This collaboration will not only increase the productivity Imran Qureshi discussed, but it also creates new innovations and developments in the field of software engineering.
Consider these scenarios:
AI algorithms can analyze vast amounts of code and automatically detect potential bugs and vulnerabilities. Software engineers will interpret the results, prioritize issues, and make informed decisions on how to address them effectively.
AI-Powered Recommendation Systems
These systems rely on complex algorithms to analyze user preferences and provide personalized recommendations. Software engineers tailor the recommendation algorithms to ensure they align with business objectives and ethical considerations.
So, there are many paths for AI and software engineers to work together.
AI Acknowledges the Need For Human Software Engineers
We know what humans say about AI and software engineers, but what does AI say? Does ChatGPT think AI needs software engineers now and in the future? Or does it think it can handle it all itself?
Well, we asked ChatGPT…
Some human software engineers are worried that you and other AI will completely replace their needs in the workforce. Do you think you will replace software engineers, or do you think there is room for software engineers and AI to work together?
As an AI language model, I don't have personal opinions or beliefs, but I can provide an analysis of the situation.
The concern that AI will replace human software engineers is understandable, given the rapid advancements in AI technology. However, it is important to note that AI, including models like me, is not capable of completely replacing software engineers at this time.
AI has the potential to automate certain tasks and streamline parts of the software development process. For example, AI can be used to generate code snippets, assist in debugging, or automate repetitive tasks like testing. This can enhance the productivity and efficiency of software engineers, allowing them to focus on more complex and creative aspects of their work.
Furthermore, AI models like me rely on human software engineers to be developed, trained, and deployed effectively. Human expertise is crucial in understanding the context, constraints, and requirements of a software project. Software engineers possess critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and domain knowledge that are essential for designing robust and innovative solutions.
The future is likely to be a collaboration between software engineers and AI. AI can augment human capabilities by automating routine tasks, providing insights, and assisting in decision-making. Software engineers, on the other hand, can leverage their expertise to guide AI systems, ensure ethical considerations are addressed, and tackle complex challenges that require human judgment, creativity, and intuition.
It's worth noting that the integration of AI into the workforce will likely lead to the evolution of job roles and the need for upskilling and reskilling. Software engineers may need to adapt their skill sets to work effectively alongside AI technologies and take advantage of the new opportunities they present.
In summary, rather than replacing software engineers, AI is more likely to complement and enhance their work. The collaboration between human software engineers and AI technologies has the potential to drive innovation, improve productivity, and solve complex problems more efficiently.
So, humans with your expertise are still needed now and into the future as a new technology changes our world again. We’ll be there to continue to help you learn new skills and elevate your careers in software engineering and AI.
Would you like to learn ways to apply AI to your work?
You can sign up for special limited seat/limited-time opportunity to take our 8-Week “Apply AI” Course.