Will Robots write all the code in the future?

A peek into the future of tech….

The advancement in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence is changing the world around us in more ways than we realize and that transition has massively accelerated post-Covid. Being caught up in our day-to-day grind we often don’t notice how much the technology & its use cases have matured. However, if we take a step back it’s evident that Artificial Intelligence tech has evolved to what experts are calling a tipping point.

In my role as Chief of Tech & Skills, I have closely studied these technologies over the past year and have tried to peek into the future to identify the meta trends that will affect our industry and built a business strategy to prepare us and our customers for this future. A big area of research for me has been the impact of AI, ML on the automation of code.

Some of the big questions I have been exploring are :

  • What % of the current software development work will be purely done by machines by 2025?
  • What does it mean for our future hiring priorities?
  • How should we upskill our current developers & analysts to stay ahead of this curve?

But before we get to these questions, let’s try to understand what’s changed in the last few years and what’s this tipping point I referred to earlier. Some of the factors driving this are :

Next-gen Compute Power — Cloud adoption has matured in the last few years with capabilities increasing & computing costs dropping every year. With the advent of GPUs, we can now throw an unprecedented level of computing power at complex problems & solve them. The reduction in the cost has also democratized adoption with advanced AI/ML algorithms now accessible to everyone via large vendors like AWS, Google & also through many open source libraries.

Machines Learning themselves — In the last 10 years AI/ML started emerging in all kinds of industries. Open-source software and libraries helped mature these use cases and developers wrote algorithms for Supervised learning with models getting better every year. Some of the early mainstream use cases have been in Image recognition and Voice assistants like Alexa, Siri which we have all used. Now we have started to see the next wave of solutions with an emphasis on Unsupervised Learning or machines learning themselves which presents some fascinating and also some scary possibilities of where this may lead to.

This combination of next-gen hardware & applications is taking us ever closer to the tipping point where machines are almost as good if not better than humans at most things. This is also where the whole ethics debate starts about who will define the rules for this new world of machines (That’s another blog altogether)?

Could smarter machines lead to Global Prosperity?

There is always a debate about the massive shift expected in the workplace and jobs as machines get smarter and potentially take over many of the jobs done by humans at the moment. There are significant risks with respect to the ‘Future of Work’, but I am hugely optimistic about human’s ability to evolve and reskill for this new world.

Looking into the crystal ball here’s why I feel optimistic about smarter machines leading to global prosperity:

  • Performance improvements will enrich our lives: Systems, applications, devices that we use will get better, more sophisticated, self-serving, and smarter thus making our lives much easier and comfortable than today. We are already seeing tech permeating every aspect of our daily lives & we are only at the start of this megatrend. In the future we won’t need to look after gadgets & tech, they will look after us. Won’t that be amazing!
  • Better disaster preparedness with smarter forecasting: Smarter machines will forecast upcoming natural disasters like Cyclones, Tsunamis, earthquakes & even any future pandemics thus allowing us to be better prepared and save millions of lives. For eg. With all the learnings from Covid 19 & technology resources at the disposal of vaccine scientists, we might be able to finally crack the code on the so-called Universal Vaccine which will protect us from all viruses. In fact, advanced research is ongoing in labs across the West with the first vaccines expected in the next 3–4 years.
  • Automation will create new jobs — Automation of processes could lead to some job losses but it would also create many new high-end jobs. Overall there would be more jobs that will change or evolve rather than those that will vanish. Those willing to unlearn & relearn will thrive in the new economy while laggards might struggle.

Yes, there will be winners & losers like there are in every evolution. Those (individuals & corporations) who will prepare better in the next 5 years are more likely to be on the winning side. Many of the Fortune 500 companies today may not survive this sharp change, but those willing to innovate and evolve their business model will get stronger.

Technology Industry needs to prepare for this new future

A direct impact on the tech industry will be the advancement of Code bots & RPA (Robotic Process Automation). These bots can write generic software code in a fraction of time thus reducing dependencies on large teams & reduce time to market. While they are not yet suitable for every use case but the low code technology (the technology behind Code bots) is getting better every year.

Analysts & industry is still divided on the % of software development that will be automated by 2025 but it's fair to say it could be a significant chunk thus potentially disrupting the trillion $ IT services industry.

This means that the burgeoning tech services industry needs to start planning upskilling for hundreds and thousands of developers in the tech of the future, as bots may take over coding many traditional web and mobile languages. While there would still continue to be massive demand for developer skills in the future but they may have to evolve their skill set to co-exist with bots and focus on solving more complex problems.

The industry may also have to rethink the traditional offshore, nearshore, and onshore delivery models. This evolution will be needed as the cost equations may change massively with advanced code bots threatening offshore cost arbitrage. Developers and technology companies need to start preparing for this evolution and plan reskilling efforts now to move up the value chain or risk being left behind.

The race is on between humans and machines. Who will win is difficult to say but I would bet my last penny on humans sailing through as we are a smart species and have survived many disruptions over the past thousands of years. In fact, we have an opportunity to utilize the power of these amazing technologies to unleash an era of abundance, health & opportunities for all and I am confident we all will work towards achieving that.