Tech CEOs clash over future of coding jobs

Compiled by | Lin Ming, Nuclear Cola

Netizen Review: First, let’s fire all of Baidu’s programmers.

  1. Robin Li: The job title “Programmer” will no longer exist in the future

In an interview on CCTV’s “Dialogue” · New Year’s Talk on March 9, Baidu founder, chairman, and CEO Robin Li stated, “Basically, there will no longer be a job called ‘programmer’ because everyone who can talk will have the ability of a programmer. The programming languages of the future will remain only two: English and Chinese, the two languages currently leading in artificial intelligence technology.”

Some netizens agreed with Robin Li’s point of view, saying it is a trend of the future, and the future development must be intelligent. “In the future, the difficulty of programming, the difficulty of writing code, will definitely continue to decrease.” “The appearance of big models has already lowered the threshold for programmers, and the threshold will definitely become lower and lower,” “The profession of programmer will evolve to a higher level.”

Others shared different opinions: “Low-end programmers will disappear, and creative programmers will flourish,” “Learning to program is still a basic requirement, and no amount of creativity can compensate if one can’t understand programs.” Some netizens even joked, “First, let’s fire all Baidu’s programmers.” A more pessimistic netizen commented, “Do programmers still need AI to phase them out? Once you turn 35, you can’t find a job.”

On March 10, Zhou Hongyi tweeted in refutation: “Will big models replace programmers? Isn’t programming necessary in the future? I believe that the enthusiasm for programming will not subside within the next ten years.”

In the interview, Robin Li also discussed the speed of artificial intelligence development and suggested, “I feel that the development of artificial intelligence is slower than I imagined. AI has been proposed for nearly 70 years now, and every ten years or so, everyone says that we’re finally about to achieve general artificial intelligence. But in reality, the situation is more complex than imagined.”

  1. Stability AI CEO: human programmers will completely disappear within the next five years

Just like Robin Li, other technology experts share similar views.

Fixie co-founder and CEO, and former head engineer of Google Chrome’s mobile team, Matt Welsh, stated, “The programming job may no longer exist in three to five years, and even the discipline of programming may end.” Known for establishing a start-up company to prove his theory, Welsh believes that due to technologies like ChatGPT and Copilot, programming is at a turning point from a human job to a robot job. In his opinion, programmers need to evolve into AI program “teachers”—or product managers, or code reviewers, roles that are less affected by robots.

Stability AI founder and CEO, Emad Mostaque, predicted in a technology podcast episode: “Within five years, human programmers will completely disappear.” Stability AI is the developer behind the world’s most popular open-source image generator, Stable Diffusion, and their projects run across a wide spectrum, like protein folding structure prediction, DNA analysis and chemical reaction modelling, language modelling and even audio-visual data processing.

Highlighting the grim future for human programmers, Mostaque points to ample evidence supporting his point of view. According to GitHub’s statistical data, “41% of all current code is generated by AI.” Mostaque further added that what’s more interesting is that “our project surpassed Bitcoin and Ethereum on GitHub in just three months, quickly setting off a new trend,” demonstrating AI’s stronger public acceptance compared to cryptocurrencies.

Looking ahead to the near future, Mostaque anticipates breakthrough changes in the way humans obtain information and communicate. He predicts that by the end of 2024, everyone will have installed ChatGPT on their phones, running it offline without depending on the internet. And with AI models residing entirely on mobile, “our conversational interaction experience will undergo a fundamental change.”

  1. Where will programmers head in the future?

Even though tech giants have differing perspectives on the future development of the programming profession, they all agree that the AI wave will bring about major changes.

Welsh predicts that when programmers start to be phased out, only two roles will persist: product managers and code reviewers.

According to Welsh, the role of a product manager won’t change dramatically. “Human product managers will still be able to write English descriptions telling what the software should do, i.e., the Product Requirement Document (PRD). It’s just that instead of handing over the PRD to the engineering team and waiting for about six weeks for them to deliver, you just need to give the PRD to the AI, and it will spit out code in a few seconds.”

Those proficient in programming will take up the role of reviewing and reading AI-generated code to ensure it operates as expected. For current programmers and those about to enter the field, they will now need to become teachers to AI, not programmers themselves. Welsh emphasized, “It’s about teaching AI to write code, not doing it yourself.”

Tencent Tech Lead, Ru Bingcheng, believes that engineers need to focus on business understanding, requirement breakdown, architectural design, and making design trade-offs, and based on this foundation, learn to cooperate with AI through prompts, so as to achieve the “engineer + LLM” equals effect greater than 2. That’s synergy. To better coexist with AI in the future, programmers need to reinforce their abilities in the following three aspects:

  • Understanding, analyzing, and breaking down requirements.
  • Designing and analyzing architecture, making trade-offs in design, and promoting documentation and standardization of design
  • Understanding the essence of the problem, rather than merely learning its application (better to teach a man to fish than to give him fish).

References:

https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/fF7kqaAGfucYi-UI_GlKyw

https://decrypt.co/147191/no-human-programmers-five-years-ai-stability-ceo

https://thenewstack.io/coding-sucks-anyway-matt-welsh-on-the-end-of-programming/

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