If AI will replace "grunt work", where are beginners supposed to, well, begin?

Senior software developers and engineers don’t just pop out of the ground, right? If AI replaces beginner work, where is there room for beginners?

For what it’s worth, I am a beginner. I have zero experience in the field and am still in college. My “projects” consist of things no employer would care about. But if AI takes over these kind of tasks and projects, how would I learn to build the large scale, enterprise-level projects employers do care about? You’re supposed to start small, right? But I also read about people half my age (I’m 30, so “half my age” would be teenagers) beginning their coding journey straight away with having AI create things for them. So, am I doing it wrong? Should I learn prompt engineering instead of programming/coding?

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I fundamentally don’t think AI is in any position to replace junior dev’s yet. And I doubt it will be any time soon.

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AI is not that good right now so theres a good chance that these things its creating are not that good, or broken. Right now, anything AI spits out needs to be double checked to make sure its actually doing what its asked

I wouldnt dich programming, but AI isnt going away so it can definitely help you in the future if you have experience with prompt engineering

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This relies on a fundamental misunderstanding that I see a lot. Entry level developers are not doing “grunt work”. I know that in many industries, there are apprentice-like roles where someone primarily is there to learn and lend an extra set of hands to the experts. Coding is not one of them.

Software teams will often try to find a handful of low complexity tasks to give someone who is brand new to the team as a way of getting them familiar with the codebase while they are onboarding. The codebases you will work on, starting from your first day, are usually going to be large and complex and full of quirky antipatterns, so even relatively simple changes might require some technical reading comprehension. And those little 1 day tasks are going to disappear quickly. Junior developers are expected to be able to apply critical thinking and creative problem solving that automation tools cannot. The difference between tasks given to junior developers and those given to senior developers is the scope of responsibility. A brand new dev is expected to be able to write good code before they get hired. They will be given both research and implementation tasks that can be completed with good coding skills, google, and some conversations with colleagues. They won’t be required to make decisions with far-reaching impact, design complex features, or use broad contextual knowledge.

In addition to “Why won’t we be replaced with automation?”, this is also the answer to the frequently-asked “Why can’t I get hired at minimum wage with minimum skills and learn on the job?”

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Hi

sorry to see you so disheartened, you don’t have to be.

Watch the channel “Internet of bugs” by a senior engineer shining light on current AI, often showing how its creators are straight out lying about what their products are capable of.

To cheer you more up watch a few videos about system design and know that you will find your place in that complex machinery before your eyes. There are a lot of roles and specializations in creating to operating software. AI will help, but not replace them anytime soon.

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Seconding this, he’s very good.

And OP, just to reiterate other points, “junior” means you need supervision, that’s (I would say) the main distinction between a junior and someone with experience. It’s not that there’s some tier of work that only juniors do. Plus AI isn’t very good at actually carrying out tasks. Maybe it will get there, but maybe it’s just another “we’ll have fusion in the next ten years”

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Thank you, @KayeStar, for asking this question, as I was wondering the same thing. This really encourages me and gives me confidence and motivation to buckle down and learn. No one likes studying redundant stuff and it can be daunting for beginning coders in general - let alone with the rumors that AI will replace everything and when you don’t know enough about coding to tell what is true and what isn’t. Many thanks!
Nicolas, 17

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It does seem to be currently more difficult to get a job than it was ~4 years ago. But that’s not down to AI taking jobs: there’s fragile economies, there’s a dip back to mean from the huge spike a few years ago, there’s possibly a glut in certain technical areas (not every job is a JS frontend job), etc. Automation takes jobs, but AI isn’t really very good at automation (ATM! But there’s convincing evidence we’re hitting a plateau in current AI tech)

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