What Will AI Do to Your Job? Take a Look at What It’s Already Doing to Coders

From The Wall Street Journal:

Want to know if artificial intelligence is going to eliminate millions of jobs? The first place to look is the industry that birthed the technology.

AI seems set to do to computer programming—and possibly other kinds of so-called knowledge work—what automation has done to other jobs, from the factory floor and the warehouse, to the checkout aisle and the call center. In those industries, the end result of widespread automation has been the elimination of countless roles—and their replacement with ones that require either relatively little skill and knowledge, or a great deal more, with workers at either end of this spectrum being rewarded accordingly.

In other words, software is eating the software industry.

Economists call this “skills-biased technological change.” It’s what happens when technology makes skilled workers more productive, while taking over the complex and difficult parts of more repetitive jobs, making workers who do them easier to train and more interchangeable.

Now, AI is automating knowledge work, and the implications for the half of the U.S. workforce who are employed in such jobs are profound. It’s true that these white-collar jobs have been evolving for decades as technology has improved, but the elimination of middle-skilled jobs seems set to accelerate as AI is institutionalized in the workplace. This new technology has the potential to reshuffle the deck of winners and losers in America’s increasingly economically polarized economy.

Coding was early to the generative AI boom that has captured the world’s attention since the release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in November. While generative AI is typically thought of as a tool for creating text, images and even video that look as though humans created them, it’s also being used by programmers to generate code, and to automatically test it. Microsoft made GitHub Copilot—a programming tool that uses technology from OpenAI—widely available in June 2022, five months before OpenAI made public its ChatGPT bot.

Tech layoffs over the past year, driven by macroeconomic trends, happen to have come just as genuinely useful AI for coding has arrived. For many young coders, the timing is unfortunate. Data from workforce-analytics company Revelio Labs indicate that companies have tended to fire their newest employees, and that in 2023, software engineers represent the largest share of people laid off by tech companies. The few tech job openings that remain, meanwhile, are being snapped up by still-in-demand, more-experienced software engineers.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal