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ChatGPT tells us AI could potentially become highly proficient in software engineering

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By Ben Ogle

Software developer is a highly skilled, highly sought after role in tech. What is the near term and long term likelihood that your next engineering team member won't be human?

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Since its rise to fame late last year, ChatGPT has been the subject of every conversation, headline, and social media post imaginable. Some are embracing it, while others are apprehensive of what it means for the future. Employees are concerned about their job security, teachers are worried about the cheating potential for students, and sci-fi enthusiasts are predicting the beginning of an AI apocalypse. So, what exactly is the truth about ChatGPT and similar AI technology?

I figured, there’s no better way to learn than to go straight to the source itself. I interviewed ChatGPT about ChatGPT and its potential impact. What is its potential? Does it think it can replace human software engineering jobs? Where does it see itself as superior? What about the ability to develop socially, and become more human-esque? Does ChatGPT think of itself the way we do?

The results were interesting and, surprisingly, very human-forward. It was almost honest about the future of its role with engineers, product managers.

Would AI be better at understanding the requirements AI has for software better than a human?

AI has the potential to excel at understanding the requirements that AI systems have for software development. This is because AI algorithms can analyze large amounts of data, extract patterns, and make predictions based on that data.

When it comes to developing software for AI systems, AI algorithms can effectively analyze the specific needs and constraints of the AI model being developed. They can process the data used to train the AI model, understand the input-output relationships, and identify the optimal software configurations or architectures.

AI algorithms can also leverage techniques like automated machine learning (AutoML) to automatically search for the best model architectures, hyperparameters, and preprocessing steps. This can help in optimizing the performance of the AI system being developed.

However, it's important to consider that AI algorithms depend on the data they are trained on. If the training data does not sufficiently represent the requirements and nuances of the AI system, the AI algorithm's understanding of those requirements may be limited or biased.

Human developers, on the other hand, can bring a deeper level of understanding and contextual knowledge to the table. They can actively engage with AI system designers, understand the broader goals and objectives of the AI system, and collaborate with domain experts to ensure that the software development aligns with the intended purpose.

Additionally, human developers can provide critical thinking, interpret the outputs and requirements of the AI system, and consider potential ethical implications or biases that may arise in the software development process. They can also incorporate feedback from users or stakeholders, iterate on the software, and adapt to evolving requirements more effectively.

In summary, while AI algorithms can excel at understanding the requirements of AI systems based on data analysis, human developers can bring a broader contextual understanding, critical thinking, and ethical considerations to the software development process. Collaboration between AI and human developers can leverage the strengths of both approaches and lead to better outcomes in understanding and meeting the requirements of AI systems.

Long term, with enough training data, is it possible AI could conceptually handle the complexity in development, then a product manager could take care of the ethical considerations?

In the long term, with advancements in AI technology and the availability of extensive training data, it is conceivable that AI could handle certain aspects of software development complexity. AI algorithms could potentially analyze vast amounts of data, learn from patterns, and generate code or design software solutions based on specified objectives.

In this scenario, the product manager's role could focus more on high-level decision-making, strategic planning, and ethical considerations. They would provide guidance on the desired outcomes, user requirements, business goals, and ethical considerations surrounding the software development process.

However, it's important to note that there are inherent challenges in capturing and representing complex human values, ethics, and contextual understanding in AI systems. Ethical considerations often involve subjective judgments, cultural nuances, and a deep understanding of the societal impact of software. Human product managers, with their empathy, ethical reasoning, and contextual understanding, may still be crucial in ensuring responsible and value-aligned software development.

The collaboration between AI and the product manager in this context would involve iterative feedback loops, where the product manager reviews and guides the output of the AI system, assesses the ethical implications, and makes necessary adjustments. The product manager's role would be to provide oversight, ensure transparency, and ensure that the AI-generated software aligns with the desired ethical standards and user needs.

While the potential for AI to handle complex software development tasks exists, complete replacement of human involvement, particularly in ethical considerations, remains a topic of ongoing discussion and debate. Striking the right balance between AI automation and human oversight is essential to ensure the development of ethical, reliable, and socially responsible software.

What if AI got better than humans in all of those attributes you mentioned earlier? Could it be a better software engineer?

If AI were to surpass humans in all the attributes associated with software engineering, such as problem-solving, creativity, critical thinking, domain expertise, collaboration, and understanding the business context, then it is conceivable that AI could potentially become highly proficient in software engineering tasks.

In such a scenario, AI could potentially outperform human software engineers in certain aspects of the work. AI algorithms could be capable of quickly analyzing vast amounts of data, identifying patterns, generating optimized code, and providing highly accurate solutions to complex problems.

However, it's important to note that even if AI becomes exceptionally skilled in software engineering, there are still unique qualities that humans possess which might remain valuable. These qualities include the ability to think creatively "outside the box," adapt to new and ambiguous situations, understand nuanced human requirements, and possess a deep understanding of social and emotional contexts.

Additionally, software engineering is not solely about technical proficiency. It also involves effective communication, teamwork, project management, and understanding the broader implications and ethical considerations of software development. These are areas where human judgment and experience may continue to play a crucial role.

Ultimately, the full replacement of human software engineers by AI would depend on a complex interplay of technological advancements, societal acceptance, and organizational dynamics. While it is difficult to predict the exact outcome, it is more likely that AI will continue to augment and enhance the work of software engineers rather than completely replace them.


While it did leave the door open to fully replacing software engineers, overall, ChatGPT spent a lot of time reassuring me that there will always be a place for humans in developing software. Humans are more than just the training data of our accumulated experiences – we have the ability to understand and develop goals, adapt to novel situations, and come up with creative solutions in a way that AI simply cannot.

With all the fear and speculation surrounding AI, we find ourselves forgetting its uses. Technologies like ChatGPT are less threats and more so will become incredibly useful resources to anyone developing products. It doesn’t want to replace humans, nor can it; rather, it wants to help us do better. But who knows, maybe it was designed to say that.

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