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Why the Rise of AI Coding Means Diversity Is Critical for the Future of Tech Development

The great Artificial Intelligence revolution has begun and with the release of AI-powered coding tools on the rise, the role of a software engineer will never be the same again.

Some fear the developer’s role will become redundant, while others see a great opportunity to speed up the development process and get something else to do the repetitive and more mundane tasks.

However, as AI augments the demands of software developers, there will be a greater need for diversity. From the engineering teams utilizing the AI tools to create intelligent digital products, those responsible for creating the AI data models and algorithms and individuals generating the data that fuels them. 

So, what does this mean for developers?

Tools such as Code T5, DeepMind’s AlphaCode, GitHub Copilot X and OpenAI Codex can code extremely well in complex languages such as Python, C# and JavaScript. It’s almost inevitable these AI tools will embed themselves into the everyday lives of coders – performing impressive coding tasks, processing vast quantities of information, and churning out amazingly detailed and comprehensive lines of code. But there is a lack of flair and creativity.

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Creativity is not just something for designers, artists, and writers – it’s also a crucial aspect of the software engineer’s role, whether that’s creating engaging interactive user interfaces, maximizing the efficiency of a codebase or architecting solutions that combine technologies in new and innovative ways.

With AI able to drive efficiencies by picking up the more routine tasks, this will in turn reduce the cognitive load on developers, freeing up headspace for greater clarity of thought and making more time available to spend innovating, collaborating, and producing new ideas to shape the future.

AI will increase the demand for human creativity and oversight, rather than diminishing it and is currently at its best when it is under the supervision of humans. The role of the developer may also become more managerial as well creative, which may seem paradoxical.

But it is essential that the software engineering workforce bring together a broad range of experiences and perspectives to get the most out of the AI tools available to maximize creativity and innovation going forward.

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AI is what it eats… 

The usefulness and quality of what is returned by AI tools is only as good as the information it has being trained on. Diversity of thought within the content, data, and code the AI tools are consuming in the first place is vital to keeping creative ideas fresh, relevant to diverse audiences.

However, currently there is a lack of diversity in the software development world. In the UK technology sector, BAME people make up just 15.2% of the workforce and a mere 16% of IT professionals are women.

This brings to light the lack of diversity in software engineering and the rate that AI development is accelerating exponentially, this is a problem that must be solved, sooner rather than later.

Extending beyond the boundaries of race, gender, and sexuality, this need for diversity also translates to a greater need for specialisation. Demand for AI specialists who can think outside the box is rising, as new technology continues to innovate and develop, and the growing size of the market comes with the challenge of finding people equipped to use it and the demand for these positions is growing.

What does this mean for the future? 

It’s clear that AI will become a more influential part of our lives in the coming years. The possibilities for how AI can be used are almost endless. It can use algorithms for programmers to detect bugs in code, generate code using natural language descriptions and generate technical documentation.

Whilst ChatGPT can write a sonnet in the style of Shakespeare or a spine-tingling horror story, it can’t quite replicate human emotion and therefore its art will not reach the same heights of genius as human creativity.  So, designers, writers and software engineers can be confident their jobs are safe.

These tools will instigate the next evolution of the role of the software engineer, augmenting their work lives by automating the tedious development tasks and giving them the freedom to be more imaginative and productive.

But, for these tools to be truly beneficial and effective in the future of software engineering, diversity of thought and input at every level is crucial. Ask an AI tool the same question you will most likely get the same answer so we will need use these tools in combination and harmony with the views of others to remove bias, create unique digital products and experiences, and support the evolution of software engineering.

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