I know, I’m pretty late to the party when it comes to giving my hot take about ChatGPT and the future of software developers.
We’ve read about ChatGPT ad-nauseam and a good chunk of that reading has been about how ChatGPT is going to take our jobs eventually. No need to repeat that argument here.
However for the average developer all this talk about a new shiny toy menacing our jobs was nothing more than a distant rambling noise in the horizon. A lot of us actually took this AI tool capabilities for a spin and asked a bunch of silly questions to test the waters and see how capable it really is. I’m sure it’s been very helpful for redacting emails, resumes and whatnot but for me the moment it clicked was a few days ago when I was stuck trying to write some unit tests for side project I’ve been trying to get off the ground.
As it often happens, us developers love to have pet projects to tackle on our spare time — usually never seeing the light of day. I was working on one of them over the weekend and was getting frustrated after spending a decent amount of time trying to get this unit test just right for a fairly complex TypeScript class. I was about to give up when I came up with the idea to ask ChatGPT to write the unit test for me, giving it only a few specifics and a vague gist of what I was trying to accomplish… and it was then that I was blown away.
Not only ChatGPT produced code that worked right off the bat, it looked and felt like it was part of my project all along. It was genuinely plug-and-play.
I’m not going to blow this out of proportion though. I’ve seen where this is going and even though some have been very pessimistic about the outlook for future developers in the sense that ChatGPT is going to be the end of it, I don’t necessarily think that’s the case.
We already have some AI-powered development tools in the way of GitHub Copilot and the truth is that for the foreseeable future you will still need humans to lead the architecture and engineering behind big projects and I have no doubts that all these AI tools will help save some time but are in no way or shape ready to take the lead or replace good old human developers. Not saying it’s never going to happen, is just not quite there yet and might not be for a long time.
Also, another important aspect to take into account is the fact that ChatGPT only produces responses to what you ask for — meaning that if you don’t know what you’re doing and ask garbage questions, you will get garbage in response. You need to know where you are going to get the right answers from it.
So, going back to my original question: Yes. Developers and ChatGPT can coexist. I would go as far as saying that not only can we coexist, it’s a powerful tool to have under one’s belt if used correctly. It’s not going to do our jobs but can make it a whole lot easier.