Will A.I. make software engineers obsolete?

Today I read some articles about the impact A.I. will have to our job prospects that really made me worry. I know that a lot of programming jobs are forecasted to be unfilled the next years and that the profession of the developer is one that is projected to grow a lot, but still I worry if in the long run, say the next 20 - 30 years, software engineers will resist better than the other professionals to the rise of Artificial Intelligence. I would like so much to hear your opinions and the opinions of more seasoned developers like @QuincyLarson, @P1xt or people that have been researching A.I. like @tropicalchancer.

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No A.I will never make software engineers obselete. Someone has to make the AI. Someone has to make sure it keeps working. And A.I will never be able to replace developers. Computers are great at running tasks, working in dangerous areas, and a lot of awesome other things. Computer however, are not the brain. No matter how cool they are, they will never reach the level of the human brain. Computers are not creative, expressive, emotional, innovative, etc. And while they may look like they can do those things, it is all because people set them up a certain way to handle those situations. Humans made computer, computers did not make humans. While I am greatly interested in the future of A.I., I know that it’s future is in the hand of humans… and will always be.


That’s a great question @nickolaos77.

First, I think it’s important to make the distinction between “narrow AI” and “general AI”.

Narrow AI is machine learning, and that’s what is currently spreading to a myriad industries and taking away jobs. It’s what beat the best chess player in the world, the best jeopardy player, and the best 바둑 (Go) player more recently. It’s also what powers your Netflix suggestions and the facebook newsfeed.

General AI is what people normally think of when they hear Artificial Intelligence. That’s Skynet and all that. It’s when AI becomes more intelligent than humans and has consciousness. Although people debate whether AI needs to have consciousness. We don’t even have much of an idea as to what consciousness is, how we have it, or where exactly it comes from, so whether we can recreate it is a huge question mark.

Machine learning is going to increasingly force us to rethink our current situation in a way humans never had to do before. For example, autonomous cars are currently driving around in Cali and most likely other places. Truck driver is the most common job in America. That’s just one of many job categories being augmented by machine learning-driven technology. It’s why Universal Basic Income, once considered preposterous, is being whispered about (and even piloted in Canada right now).

Oxford university just released a study a few weeks ago that said 47% of current jobs will be gone within 25 years. Of course, it’s impossible to truly predict things like this, but the general trend is quite clear. So to answer your question, I don’t ever like to speak in absolutes with regards to technology (imagine trying to convince someone 300 years ago that we’re going to have the internet), but I think software engineering has a higher “skills-stability” than many others.


@tropicalchancer and @IsaacAbrahamson gave solid answers relating to the state of AI, which I agree with.

To expand in relation to your question, it is very very unlikely that anyone can reliably assist you in forecasting the labor market over the next 20 - 30 years. We’ll probably still need lawyers, doctors and nurses. We’ve (the United States) been facing a surplus of lawyers over the past decade or so which has impacted careers and job placement prospects in that field.

Given the rate of technological change, international shifts in workforces and changing demand there is no way to say for sure what’s going to be “in demand” next.

To be honest, from my experience, the more you hear people talking about the world “needing software engineers” the more people will choose to fill those roles.

Best general advice I could give is never stop learning and never stop trying to improve yourself. When I studied engineering (not software though) our professors told us that my generation needs to be prepared to have several careers. The days of staying in one field your whole life are likely numbered for many.

You’re not going wrong by studying software engineering. You’re learning skills that are commutable to many different industries.


Software developers are the main drivers of AI.

I think it’s safe to say that software development will be the last field to be automated. It may happen in our lifetime, but by then we will be living in a utopia where no one has to work unless they want to.