Hi 👋. I'm Wade, a Lead Engineer working for MakerX. I've been in and around the tech industry for a while. How long, you ask? Well, long enough for my grey locks to flourish.
Lately, like me, you may have been thinking about how AI developments might impact your job. Perhaps in your thoughts, you've jumped to the worst outcome, which is our human nature to do so. Given that the prospect of losing a job can be anxiety-inducing.
But what if I told you that my job and the skills that comprise it are in the direct line of fire for AI disruption, yet I'm not overly concerned? So what is it? What puts my mind at ease and allows me not to be so concerned? Well, stick around because I'm about to explain why.
Yawn, a bit of history
Although the thought of talking about history might surface long-buried nightmares of having to remember key dates in history class back at school, I assure you the truth is that history is a very underutilised and fantastic tool. It's been unfairly given a bad name, in my opinion. But why is this so?
It's unlikely that any given present-day event is unique to the point that a historical reference with strong correlations cannot be found. And for advancements in technology that either destroyed or supplemented industries. Well, human history is ripe with them.
With the rise of computers and software in the 1980s and then the Internet in the 1990s, some people surely thought their job might be replaced by one. But if we look back at the disruption affordable and accessible computers and the Internet caused, we know overwhelmingly that these advancements supplemented greatly more than they replaced. And that's great news for us who may have been worried.
For AI and the advancements that come with it, I personally believe we will again overwhelmingly see job supplementation rather than a replacement. Will there be job losses? I think an answer based on reality must genuinely be a yes. But history also tells us that it will most certainly be a gradual process and very unlikely to produce a situation where there is a significant and/or sharp disruption. I predict that AI will supplement people's current jobs by providing incremental efficiencies and granting them access to the basic skills of any white-collar profession.
Because of this, on the one hand, I think we'll see a small amount of job contraction, as a person can now do more in the same amount of time. Combined with the ability to build a broader skill set more efficiently by utilising AI to unlock learning in our non-primary profession(s). The big 'but' here is that we'll also see a new industry with great job opportunities flourish. The same way my profession of building software did with the rapid and sudden onset of accessible computers.
Contraction and A broader skill set?
What exactly do I mean by that? I expect in a few years' time, the ability to write basic software code will be in the hands of everyone. Do you want a program that pings a parent, sibling, and/or friend a random fact about California spot prawns every day until they admit you're better at handstands? Just ask the AI for help. But what does that mean to me, a software engineer? Truthfully, pure excitement. Because people will finally understand what I do and why I love it so much. No more witnessing eyes slowly glaze over in the death squeeze of boredom when I tell people what I do to make a living.
Will everyone then be able to build software as a professional? No, absolutely not. And like any industry, if you focus on one thing amongst the broader skill set, you don't understand what it is to be able to do that profession at a high level!!! To hammer this point home, just because I can ask AI to create an image for me does not mean I'm now a Graphic designer. Or if I ask AI to write a short script for a TikTok video, I cannot claim that I'm now a professional writer. If somebody or a company claims such things, I'd be looking for the hidden motive, as it doesn't make logical sense to me.
Honestly, it's humans' ability to adapt to a changing environment so quickly that will keep us safe from the clutches of AI. I think there's still plenty of time for society to slowly adapt to advances yet to come.
However, the ability to access the entry-level skills of my profession is where things start to get exciting. I expect people to soon start making their own helper programs for home and work. Because with the help of AI, this ability has been unlocked for them. In an instant, AI has allowed them to broaden their skill set and start them down the path of learning what it is to be a software engineer.
With the ability for people to cross-skill more easily and the efficiencies that AI will bring, I think we will see ourselves doing more, but more importantly, we'll see ourselves doing things that were once out of our reach.
In software, Dogfooding describes a person or company that thoroughly tests its products by first using it themselves. And I think I have a great example of dogfooding my opinions of broadening one's skill set in action.
See my blog post, The Making of the QRX Promo Video; you won't be disappointed. If you are, feel free to share how horrible it is with everyone you know.
It's a wrap
Whether you are for or against AI and the next generation of tools it brings, they're here now, they're here to stay, and they're going to multiply. But I'm advocating that none of us need to be afraid, as I predicted that they will bring vastly more good into our lives than upsetting disruption.
You may feel overwhelmed at the rate they've appeared, but I assure you they've been in the pipeline for some time. You can attribute their sudden appearance to two main factors. Unlike all the previous generations of this tech, LLMs are the first to wow people with their intelligent output and usefulness outside of specific contexts. And it's this wow factor that has drawn the attention of investors, which is why we've seen so many AI products brought to market so quickly, thanks to investment and the Internet.
So what can we do? Well, the same as we've always done. Embrace the tools that make our lives easier :)