my personal blog

Gen AI will increase demand for software engineers

Jun 14, 2024

I hear a lot of talk about the impact of AI on software engineers. I want to share a prediction. The number of software engineers will continue to increase for the next 20 years and the average salaries will also increase. Maybe it’s slightly obvious because of inflation? My main hypothesis is that the demand for software engineers will grow.

What do venture capitalists think?

I’m actually not sure what the venture capital consensus is. I know many of them are betting on no-code and AI software engineers. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they think that the number of traditional software engineers will decrease. It just means they think these new tools will be highly lucrative.

Generative AI is like an aircraft autopilot

In my mind generative AI for software engineering is analogous with autopilot systems on airplanes. The original autopilot, which was invented in 1912, was pretty rudimentary but has evolved incredibly over the years (source). Airplanes became safer and more reliable which made piloting more accessible and in turn grew the aviation industry. This increase led to a positive growth cycle and pilot compensation has soared (source).

Is this a fair analogy? Planes are in the physical world and people’s safety will always be a top priority, so pilots are always needed. Of course there is software out there that isn’t critical to safety, so could that be fully automated? I think not. Specifics matter. Someone will always need to tweak and debug the software. Just like with the move from assembly programming to more powerful programming languages to write software generative tools might lead to a new age in software design, but it will be another abstraction not a replacement.

Is everyone a programmer?

Yes software engineering will become even more accessible— like more people could be pilots. This has already happened. Not everyone was cut out to write assembly in vi or have the patience for multi-hour compile times. There will be more people writing code. There will be more tech companies. And, with more tech companies there will be more demand for top talent.

This is fantastic news for society. There is still so much code that needs to be written. Every company has an almost infinite backlog of things to do. So many shortcuts are taken in the name of product delivery (that no longer need to be taken—fingers crossed). Every government website could use a refresh. Many knowledge workers can use generative AI to write scripts to aid their day-to-day. Creating open source software will be more accessible.

Any one person can change the world

A single person will be able to create their vision like an author writes a book. Full creative control over a work will open up new possibilities. See Overcast one of podcasting’s most beloved apps. There’s something special about solo developers.

I think certainly how we do software engineering will change so a fair argument is that the demand for software engineers with the current skill-set will decrease. That I agree with. What will be the next technical skill-set? We could see a new programming language paradigm emerge because of its effectiveness to work in tandem with generative AI. Of course the general skills like good communication, problem solving and creativity will remain important.

The right question isn’t is it too late to become a software engineer. Now is a time just as good as any. Exciting even—because the future is so uncertain! The right question is will you enjoy the new age of software development.