Software engineers have held a prominent position in the tech industry. As the sector has boomed, so too has the demand for software engineers and coders who command high salaries at some of the most exciting companies in the world.
And as fast as the tech industry has propelled forward, it seems like software engineers may be putting themselves out of business. Some suggest that software engineers will be a relic of the past as soon as 2030, others estimate it will be more like 2060, but both dates feel uncomfortably close.
The fear of obsolescence might be keeping up more than a few software engineers at night, thanks to the proliferation of automation.
Dan Auerbach writes that there are uncanny parallels between software engineers and telegraph operators of the 19th century. “By today’s standard, telegraph operators were technical lightweights…In contrast, contemporary software engineering generally involves a broad skill set that requires a deep understanding of complex systems and the ability to quickly master and re-master an accelerating parade of new software development frameworks.”
Though back in the 19th century, telegraph operators were well paid and considered to hold relatively technical positions. And if history has taught us anything, it has a habit of repeating itself. Rhea Moutafis suggests that there are three distinct reasons why software engineers will fade into obsolescence: automation, closed systems, and integrated systems.
As artificial intelligence gains momentum and machine learning automates tasks, software development will also become easier. With a little pointing and clicking, it seems as though anyone can become a website or software developer. Furthermore, with the increase in no-code platforms, which allow users to create application software in a graphical user interface instead of through traditional programming, the process has become a lot more accessible.
“When asked whether they’ll be replaced by a robot in the future, human workers often don’t think so,” Moutafis explains. “Their reason is clear: qualities like creativity, empathy, collaboration, or critical thinking are not what computers are good at. But often, that’s not what matters to get a job done.”
For now, the 10-year projected job growth for software development remains 22% through 2022. While simple systems, like smartphones and DIY websites become more accessible, it’s argued that more complex systems such as the development of business analytics packages and enterprise suites become even more critical. True innovation can’t be spurred by automation or AI but needs to be done by those who understand the technology behind it. But how long we’ll need these experts, only time will tell.