AI will undermine offshore & WFH programers first

A postscript, continuing from AI might effect the world of software engineering and programming. I’m supposing the power of AI real and it can replace the people we now call programmers. What next?

Spoiler alert: This post if going to upset a lot of people, who like working from home or work as offshore.

Where will the first job losses come? – let me suggest the Indian IT industry has the most to loose from AI.

In past technology cycles the first jobs to go are usually the low end jobs. The jobs which are more easily replaced are the jobs which require less skill and knowledge. Initially new technology is far from perfect so it is applied narrowly to the simpler bits of work. For example, the co-pilot feature now appearing in programmers tools which can write part, but not all, of the function.

These are often the low wage jobs (that is not always true, sometimes low wage jobs survive because the cost means they aren’t worth replacing.) So, assuming AI programming starts at the low end and works its way up market who has the most to fear? The low wage coders, who are the low wage coders? – overwhelmingly the offshore, and often outsourced, jobs.

So, expect to see India’s tech sector hit before the USA and Europe, more generally, anyone who competes on price.

For similar reasons expect to see Stackoverflow and engineers who cut-and-paste code to be hit early.

Next, recall from my last post I said that Business Analysts and others who are tasked with understanding what is needed will benefit even as programming jobs are hit (assuming AI is true). That extends to programmers, again, many programmers actually spend a lot of their time working with customers, users – and even BAs – to understand what is needed. Such programmers, like BAs, will be safer than those who code-to-order.

Such roles are less transactional in nature. The problem, the solution, and even the role itself is vaguely defined. Understanding what is needed often requires understanding to turn a vague request into something much more specific. It requires empathy, it requires background information, it requires trust and a willingness to explore together.

Let me suggest that those things are still better done in person. Doing them online is possible but in general a much greater degree of communication and understanding is needed. Nuance can be important. For that reason I believe they are better done face-to-face, in the same location, time zone and even culture. Even if some work can be done remotely having a bond which comes from physical interaction can help.

Human’s will still have a role to play in working through vagueness. That is best done face-to-face so there is a premium for working in the office. If it isn’t vague then an AI can do it.

Again, offshore programmers will loose out here. Onsite engineers will be valued more. But also, engineers who work from home will loose out, especially those who work from home every day.

It is true, you can code from anywhere: the office, a coffee shop, your house. But acquiring deep understanding, empathy and trust requires you to be there. Right now is the worst time to stay at home.