Will ChatGPT and AI Replace Software Developers? No, and here’s why.

Apr 13 / Eloise Watts
There’s been a lot of talk recently about whether Software Developers will be replaced by ChatGPT, so today, we’re setting the record straight: No.

ChatGPT has become a household name in recent months, but there’s still lots of confusion about what this new technology actually is. So, if you’re not 100% sure what ChatGPT is and how it works, we’ve got you covered. We wrote a complete guide and breakdown to ChatGPT, so if you want a little refresher, have a read!

Great, so now that’s covered. Let’s get straight to it. Why can’t ChatGPT replace Software Developers? Because…

Machines have to be told what to do.

One of the main reasons why Software Developers cannot be replaced by machines, including ChatGPT, is because machines have to be told exactly what the problem is, what that means, and how to fix it. They can’t think independently; they aren’t creative; they can’t come up with ideas to solve problems. This is a major part of software development, and the first reason why machines can’t replace Software Developers.

Think about it this way - if companies replaced all Software Engineers with ChatGPT, or another AI bot, nothing would work. Who would program the AI bots? Who would give them the code or instructions to solve the problems? Easy - no one. There would be no one with the technical knowledge to tell the machine what to do and how, so it wouldn’t work. Rather than saving the company money, it would take them longer to do anything, and they’d have to employ outside help to sort the machines! Bad for the company. Humans are much better Software Developers.
A screenshot of Joe giving ChatGPT very specific, technical instructions in order for ChatGPT to send a React code block

If all Software Developers were replaced with ChatGPT, who would have the specialist knowledge to give ChatGPT these instructions? It would be very tricky.

ChatGPT isn't always right, y'know!

Did you know that ChatGPT isn’t always right? Yes, it knows a LOT. But it doesn’t know everything. It often makes mistakes, that in organisations, can’t happen. For example, if the ChatGPT got a simple maths question wrong, but applied that into the code, then the whole output is going to be wrong! Software Developers, don’t start shaking in your boots just yet. We still need you to check the code and answers, especially when personal data in businesses is involved.

And what about if the application is hugely complex, and someone can’t just check the answer. Could you really trust ChatGPT to write it? No. Or at least you shouldn’t. Software Developers are still needed to create complex applications, to avoid huge errors that could be made by ChatGPT, and to make the applications as efficient as possible. Although ChatGPT can help Software Engineers with boilerplate code (basic, repeated sections of code), we still need Software Developers for everything else. For example, when Joe tried to use ChatGPT to write some code, ChatGPT not only made mistakes, but also had to be given incredibly technical instructions in order to achieve some of the tasks - not ideal if all Software Developers were replaced. Here’s what happened:
A screenshot where Joe has to correct ChatGPT's suggestion
ChatGPT was very apologetic though!
And what about new information? Did you know that ChatGPT’s informational database ends at 2021? This means that ChatGPT doesn’t know of any new technologies or best practices founded after 2021. Now that’s a problem. A major part of software development is keeping up and implementing the most up to date software and best practices, you don’t want to be using outdated platforms. If ChatGPT is using outdated software, what’s the point in using it?

AI has no creativity

This is a biggy. Software Developers use creativity in so much of their work, and it’s a crucial skill that AI hasn’t yet mastered, and probably won’t ever master. Another major reason why ChatGPT and AI won’t replace Software Engineers and Developers. Yes, ChatGPT can write snippets of simple code, which saves coders time so that they can move onto the next step. But, it’s up to the programmer to put all these snippets together! A human Software Developer is needed to create the application, make sure it all makes sense, and come up with ideas of how to make it even more efficient, or to solve other problems on a higher scale that ChatGPT or AI hasn’t considered.

But also, organisations are always looking for ways to stand out. They need new ideas, apps and products for this. ChatGPT and other AI bots aren’t creative, they can’t generate new ideas. This is because they are models trained on existing concepts and ideas. Companies still need Software Developers to think of and implement these brand new concepts. If all Software Developers were replaced by ChatGPT and other AI bots, there would be nothing new. Every company would be running the same code, the same ideas. Because that’s what ChatGPT knows. There would be no one to adapt and improve these practices and concepts.

Who would fix it without Software Engineers?

Yes, ChatGPT and AI are changing the workforce and tech industry, we can’t ignore that. But, with more and more companies implementing AI and ChatGPT, who’s going to maintain them? That’s right, Software Developers.

ChatGPT can’t adapt and implement itself into organisations and applications, a human has to do that! The same goes for fixing and adapting these AI technologies. A Software Developer will still be needed to work out how AI and ChatGPT can be implemented into their organisation, and how it can improve their work. Wherever there’s new technology, there will always be a Software Engineer, or AI Engineer perhaps.

What about Critical Thinking?

“Is that really the best way of doing it?”, “Are you sure we can’t do it a safer way?”, “What are the consequences of this?”. All questions Software Engineers ask themselves and their team on a regular basis. But again, ChatGPT isn’t capable of this. As a Software Developer you need to be able to make judgements about your projects: what do you need to include; how will it work within the company; what’s influencing this project; and is it accessible for all. Without critical thinking, Software Developers may not find the best solution for the problem and projects won’t be the best they can be. ChatGPT can’t critically think, so if all Software Developers were replaced by it, ChatGPT wouldn’t consider everything that goes into building an application and what the impact is. This would lead to many problems.

But also, what about security? Think about how much information you give to applications. Do you really want an AI bot, ChatGPT for example, being responsible for all that information without being able to critically think? Without working out if that’s the best and safest option? I certainly wouldn’t. For example, when working with ChatGPT Joe noticed that the code ChatGPT had written didn’t take potential security concerns into consideration. That’s critical thinking. Without Software Developers doing this, or at least reviewing ChatGPT’s code, people would never know that it may be dangerous, or that there’s a much more secure way of doing it. That’s a problem, and just shows why we can’t replace Software Developers, we need their human brains!
A screenshot of a conversation between Joe and ChatGPT, where it didn't pick up on a safety issue with it's suggestion
ChatGPT failed to mention the security risks with its suggestion. We still need Software Developers to use critical thinking to avoid things like this!

It wasn't made to replace. It was made to complement.

Contrary to many people’s beliefs, ChatGPT wasn’t made to replace human workers, including Software Developers. It was made to complement and aid us. So no, ChatGPT can’t do everything that Software Developers can, and no it can’t replace us. But it can help us debug code snippets, and it can write boilerplate code so that Software Developers can write the more complex functions, or plan to put it all together. This saves so much time, and means that Software Developers can spend more time tackling the bigger problems that take longer to solve. Helpful.

So after all that, the bottom line is: Developers, your jobs are safe. The rise of AI can be scary, and we completely understand that a lot of people are worried about whether their careers are future-proof. But today, we’re here to say that Software Developers, Engineers, Programmers, you’re all good: software development is future-proof.

Not a developer, but want to future-proof your career? Hi, we’re Command Shift. We teach people to code from the comfort of their own home. In just 6 months, we’ll take you from complete beginner to Junior Software Engineer. You can enrol on our course at any time, and head to our course page for more information. Or, if you’d prefer to email or call then feel free. We’re happy to help