Will our work be replaced by machines? This question is omnipresent in our society and goes well beyond the world of the web. But in this article, let's limit ourselves to what concerns us here: will we, web developers, also be taken by storm by the advance of AI?
Indeed, the famous “No Code” has been taking place in our industry for quite some time. For the web, this is the case with many online platforms that allow us to create websites without a line of code, which is generated under the hood. In addition, AI allows these platforms to generate tailor-made sites according to the desires of their customers, who no longer even have to personalize them in detail. The approach is easy to learn and has been increasingly used in recent years by non-developers. It is not without problems and the result is still very far from being optimal (as you can read in our article dedicated to this question). But with the advance of technology, what's next for us ?
The replacement of human labor by machines is not new. We can go back to the 19th century during the industrial revolution. At that time also a myriad of machines began to populate the factories, putting thousands of people out of work. This was particularly the case for the textile industry. At the time, hundreds of workers rioted, protested the advance of technology in their workplaces and went so far as to smash their bosses' machines. Just like today, everyone was trying to defend their livelihood, without thinking about what it meant to the society. Today, who would be willing to spit on the technological advances that have built the modern world?
The truth is that technological breakthroughs are a great vector of growth and it would be selfish to think that we should stop them just to defend our personal status quo. Moreover, “new technologies” always rhymes with “new jobs”, which we cannot yet imagine but which we can adapt to when they arrive.
However, I will be clear with you: As a web developer myself, I'm feeling concerned. Just as the worried workers in the textile industry. And I don't have a magic answer or a crystal ball to give a verdict yet.
However, let's put things into perspective:
Firstly: “No Code” is not new. In 1997 Dreamweaver already offered a wysiwyg service and if the technology has advanced a lot in more than twenty years, it is still dedicated to a particular niche and is very far from replacing the complete work of a professional in the next years or decades. So it's more of a problem for, at least, the end of our careers (let's be selfish here).
Secondly: As mentioned above, advances in technology are (supposedly) meaning new jobs. Roles may change and be altered but tech professionals will still be in demand. Indeed, the world of the future is a world with even more technology.
Thirdly: Unlike mechanical machines like those in the textile industry, the web business is highly dependent on the creativity factor. Creativity is the very essence of human genius. If AI reaches this stage, a structural transformation of society will have to take place, which goes far beyond the scope of web businesses. (What will be left for humans? Other solutions such as universal income etc. are then to be expected - but I digress…)
In conclusion, the web business is not dying. Or if it dies, it is by opening up other possibilities in the sector to which we will have to adapt. And good news: the work of a developer is already a work of constant adaptation. So we should still get away with it ;)