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Farhad Manjoo, a New York Times journalist, recently delved into the sweeping changes taking place in the world of computer programming, primarily driven by advancements in artificial intelligence (AI). As reported by Manjoo, a new era is dawning where AI may render traditional computer programming obsolete while making coding an accessible skill across a wide array of fields.

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Key Takeaways

  • Advances in AI are transforming the field of computer programming.
  • New AI tools can handle complex programming tasks and even write their own code.
  • These changes might make programming a more accessible skill across various fields.
  • Experts warn that conventional programming as we know it might become obsolete.

AI Transforms Programming

Manjoo’s passion for programming began in the early 1980s with a Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Despite an early fascination, Manjoo eventually gravitated towards writing words rather than code. The reason was rooted in the seemingly backward nature of programming, where humans had to learn the precise languages of machines. Now, as AI continues to advance, devices are becoming more capable of understanding us instead of the other way around.

New AI tools, such as OpenAI Codex and Google’s DeepMind’s AlphaCode, are already changing the dynamics of the programming world. At the moment, these tools function primarily as assistants, helping to find bugs and offering suggestions for routine tasks, much like Gmail’s automated email responses. However, as AI becomes more sophisticated, it is reaching a point where it can rival novice programmers in its capabilities.

The End of Conventional Programming

According to Matt Welsh, a former engineer at Google and Apple, traditional programming as we know it is headed for extinction. Welsh, now running an AI startup, believes that most software will eventually be replaced by AI systems that are trained rather than programmed. He envisions a future where AI systems can generate “simple” programs instead of requiring human coders.

This view is shared by Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, who argues that AI could democratize programming, transforming it from a specialist skill to something everyone can do. In a recent speech, Huang declared, 

How AI is Redefining the Concept of Computer Programming

“We have closed the digital divide. Everyone is a programmer now — you just have to say something to the computer.”

The Future of Coding

Despite concerns about the looming obsolescence of traditional coding, many programmers welcome these AI-induced changes. A recent survey conducted by GitHub, the coder’s repository owned by Microsoft, revealed that a majority of programmers felt that GitHub’s AI coding assistant, Copilot, helped boost their productivity and job satisfaction.

Ultimately, Manjoo posits that the rise of AI might lead to the final layer of abstraction in programming, enabling anyone to instruct a computer the same way they would a fellow human. This evolution of programming could alleviate fears that children who don’t learn to code would be at a disadvantage in the future. As AI continues to develop, the very concept of coding might be as antiquated as the first personal computers.

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