Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: Y Combinator founder Paul Graham last week took to Twitter to lament those who use AI or other excuses for not learning to code. “A generation ago some people were saying there was no point in learning to program because all the programming jobs would be outsourced to India,” Graham wrote. “Now they’re saying you don’t need to because AI will do it all. If you don’t want to learn to program, you can always find a reason.”
BloomTech Coding Bootcamp CEO Austen Allred this week doubled-down on Graham’s tweet, offering his own history of excuses people have made for not learning to code… Allred’s tweet reads:
“Don’t learn to code. Soon GUIs will do it all for you.” — 1985 “Don’t learn to code. Soon that will all be done offshore for pennies.” — 2003 “Don’t learn to code. Soon nocode tools will do it all for you.” — 2015 “Don’t learn to code. Soon AI will do it all for you.” — 2023 Among the many retweeting Allred’s cautionary message was Code.org, the tech-backed nonprofit that aims to make computer science a high school graduation requirement by 2030, whose CEO also replied to Graham with a reassuring tweet suggesting people’s days of being able to avoid learning to code will soon be over. “Now that 27 states require that every school must teach computer science, and 7 states require a CS course to graduate high school,” explained Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi, “the argument is basically behind us. Computer science won.”
On a related note, this month in Communications of the ACM, a CS professor shared their own contrary opinion about the possibility of a professional programmer using AI assistants to do a better job.
“It doesn’t work.”
I would love to have an assistant who keeps me in check, alerting me to pitfalls and correcting me when I err. A effective pair-programmer. But that is not what I get. Instead, I have the equivalent of a cocky graduate student, smart and widely read, also polite and quick to apologize, but thoroughly, invariably, sloppy and unreliable. I have little use for such supposed help…
Fascinating as they are, AI assistants are not works of logic; they are works of words. Large language models: smooth talkers (like the ones who got all the dates in high school). They have become incredibly good at producing text that looks right. For many applications that is enough. Not for programming.
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