First AI Developer: My Thoughts

Another day, another AI tool that claims to replace developers.

You're probably tired of hearing about anything related to AI, and I don't blame you. AI fatigue is real.

But bear with me. I don't typically jump on the AI bandwagon unless there's a tool or news that genuinely interests me.

In this article, I discuss the "first AI developer" and AI's impact on developers.

The first AI developer?

On 12 March 2024, Cognition released Devin, the "first AI software engineer".

Devin is an AI agent that uses its shell, code editor, and web browser to solve engineering tasks. It can:

  • learn how to use new technologies
  • contribute to complex production repositories
  • train and fine-tune its own AI models
  • find and fix bugs
  • build and deploy apps end-to-end

They claim that Devin "has successfully passed practical engineering interviews from leading AI companies, and has even completed real jobs on Upwork".

The above information is extracted from their announcement tweet. All the sources are at the end of the post.

So, looking at their announcement, it's easy to get discouraged. It seems like this AI tool can do everything a human developer can, but better, faster, and cheaper.

But is that the truth?

From Copilot to Devin

Let's rewind to the time when GitHub Copilot was released for a bit of context.

3 years ago, on 02 July 2021, I wrote a post about it and addressed some fears regarding Artificial Intelligence (AI) replacing developers.

It was a mind-blowing tool at the time (it still is, but we're more used to AI tools now), and most developers feared getting replaced.

Back then, I was confident that AI would not replace developers. It's a great tool, but it doesn't have the capabilities this new tool, Devin, claims to have.

Things progressed at a mind-boggling pace in just 3 years. That means we're back at square one, and the dreaded question is on everyone's mind again - will AI replace us?

Will AI replace developers?

There is no one certain answer. Run away from whoever claims to know the answer.

But looking at the newly released Devin, you might be tempted to say, "Yes, AI will replace developers." I recommend you don't rush to conclusions, though.

First of all, demos are created to highlight a product's best features and functionalities while downplaying its limitations or potential issues. That's the main reason why I don't trust demos 100%.

Do you remember the "Google Gemini" demo? If so, you're probably aware that the demo was not entirely real (according to TechCrunch, don't sue me). That incident emphasises the importance of not taking demos at face value. What is presented in a demo doesn't reflect the reality of the product in 99% of the cases.

I admit that Devin looks impressive in the demo. However, it doesn't mean much until we can try it ourselves and see it in action. To me, at least.

Even if it works exactly like in the demo, it'll be another tool in our toolbox for solving problems. We're all attached to code for some reason but don't forget that we're problem solvers who solve problems through code. The code is just an instrument to achieve that goal.

The pursuit of replacing developers

The pursuit of replacing developers is not a new trend. Developers are expensive, so businesses have been trying to replace them for a long time.

It started with the COBOL programming language. Then came tools like Microsoft Excel, which allowed non-programmers to do complex calculations and data manipulations without writing a single line of code.

It continued with website builders, which enabled anyone to create websites without needing to know much programming or any at all. These tools have indeed enabled people to do things that were previously only possible with programming knowledge, but they didn't replace developers. Software development is a very complex area with many branches. Some branches are easier to automate, and some are more difficult, if not impossible.

So, the rise of AI tools is the latest iteration of this trend. While they can speed up development, they still require programming knowledge. If you've used LLMs and apps like ChatGPT, Copilot, and the like, you know the quality of code they produce. The more complex the task, the worse their output.

Of course, they're still impressive and do an excellent job for simple tasks and boilerplate code. And just because it doesn't fare well with complex tasks doesn't mean they'll never be able to do it. I'm simply talking about the present.

In conclusion, while these tools made certain aspects of development easier for developers and more accessible to non-programmers, they don't replace anyone. Developers bring a level of understanding, creativity, and problem-solving ability that cannot be replicated by a tool or platform. As technology continues to evolve, the developer's role may change, but it will not disappear.

Closing thoughts

The new "AI developer", Devin, doesn't look too scary to me right now. Or any other tools that claim to be "AI developers", for that matter. I certainly don't dismiss them, and I know these tools will get better with time, but they're not what they're portrayed to be, at least for now.

Instead of worrying whether AI will replace developers, I'd advise you to get familiar with all things AI. Move your focus from the things you can't control to the ones you can.

Learn about Artificial Intelligence, Large Language Models, and similar topics as much as possible. Also, don't be stubborn and reject using AI tools. You're only doing yourself a disservice. Get familiar with the existing AI tools and integrate them into your daily workflow because they can help you tremendously.

Embrace the future, as hard as it might be. You can't escape it.

P.S.: Yes, it's still worth learning to code. If you're learning to code, keep at it.


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