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Web Development and AI: What Does the Future Hold?

Very few days go by where I am not working on some coding project, and I enjoy the challenge of solving problems and learning new things. So when ChatGPT and other services like it appeared on the scene, I was skeptical and hesitant. Can these machines now accurately provide coding solutions, and what does it mean if they can?

To the first point: yes, given the correct prompts, AI can indeed provide actionable code for specific needs. The code isn't always perfect, but it's pretty solid. The real trick, though, is providing AI with a prompt capable of yielding a successful result. Machines are notoriously literal; and so even the best planned queries can result in responses that are less than useful.

This is one reason why I discourage my students from using AI during the cohort. Writing an accurate query is hard work, and the time spent doing so should be spent writing better code. And without a solid coding foundation, it's highly doubtful that a student could implement whatever solution AI provided.

AI shows incredible promise, and I think in the long run it will probably encourage technology job growth rather than reduce it. But the current stage of AI reminds me of the early stages of the Web in the mid to late 1990s. Everyone thought the digital "convergence" was only a year or two away, but instead it was decades. So many techologies which we take for granted today were missing completely in the early days of the Web:

  • Secure transmission of web traffic
  • Database-driven web sites
  • Asynchronous connections, and API usage in general
  • Accessibility and internationalization
  • Internet-enabled mobile devices
  • Readily-accessible broadband connectivity
  • Modern web authoring frameworks

Here at the beginning of the Age of AI, we have to consider what technologies and discoveries await, and which will allow this new age to properly flourish. Whatever those technologies may be, we will need some time to acquire and integrate them. This process will likely enhance the technology job market, not reduce it. But this new age does mean that some parts of coding will likely become obsolete, or at least dramatically altered from what they are now.

This isn't a bad thing. But it does place the onus on each of us to cultivate those skills which will be needed in this new age, rather than cling to rapidly-aging models and paradigms.

As a non-expert, my gut feeling is that we are at least a decade away from seeing AI begin to take its long-term form. But we have the unique privilege of being able to affect and shape that process, and leave our fingerprints on the future in daramatic, exciting ways.

For those concerned about how AI might affect their jobs, my thinking is that in the short-term, nothing of the sort will happen. The technology isn't ready and we don't have infrastructure around any of this to truly integrate AI into today's workflows. In the long-term I do think AI will be able to relieve us of some of the drudgery that is an inescapable part of coding — and that's an outcome to be welcomed.

With any luck, AI frees us from the mundane and let's us do what humans have always been better at: innovating. And isn't this why many of us got into this field in the first place?

Author: Gary T Almes

I am the developer and owner of this web site. I've been working in the web development space for 35+ years and have experience in just about all phases of any development operation. I've owned my own web dev shop, been a senior level product and team manager, served as a senior developer, and I currently also teach MERN-stack web development in partnership with major universities. I'm available for occasional and regular development, management, or consulting needs.