It doesn’t have to be AI that does it. Forrest Brazeal writes:
No, the real trend to watch here is not that the cloud providers are making it easier for non-technical people to code (although they are), but that they are straight-up reducing the number of people required to deliver technical solutions.
I’ve been saying for awhile now that we’re getting close to a crisis point in the IT world. The mid-tier IT worker is in imminent danger of being automated out of existence, and just like with the vanished factory jobs of the last 30 years, nobody wants to admit it’s happening until it’s too late.
The IT automation apocalypse will move slowly (by tech standards), so it is flying under the radar. Unlike with the collapse of American manufacturing, we won’t get breathless feature articles and political posturing. A shuttered factory and 700 unemployed workers are concrete, easily visible; a decaying Rust Belt town makes an arresting photo spread. But how do you build a narrative around midlevel IT engineers let go in twos and threes from jobs that even they probably can’t quite describe?
Moreover, the first people to feel the pain will not be the highly-paid, conference-trotting Very Important Programmers in job-rich tech hubs. They will be anonymous Windows administrators and point-and-click DBAs and “senior application developers” who munge JSON in C#. Normal people making comfortable money, fifty to eighty thousand dollars a year in ordinary places like Omaha and Memphis and Santa Fe.
This will be the new outsourcing. Consider stuff like email, mailing lists, and simple websites. These are a hell of a lot easier to run these days than they were even 10 years ago. The marginal effort of say Google to run even a large organisation’s email is very small, perhaps not even an extra job a lot of the time.
These are good and skilled white collar jobs that will likely evaporate. And far sooner than robot lawyers take over.
Maybe babysitting predictive modes will be the new back end dev task. Maybe. Students are certainly flocking to machine learning courses.
CS departments need to think hard about this trend and what we can do for our students.