Q: How do you anticipate GenAI will impact software development trends in 2024?
Brendan: GenAI is going to change how people work, especially in software where GenAI code builds things that do work. In 2024, there are a lot of ramifications for that, including basic questions of how we measure developer productivity. How do we determine what we want from developers in this new world? We’re not chiseling stone and not machining with CNC. We’re closer to clay modeling.
When it comes to the CTO role, I’m also very excited about the productivity and creativity boost that we’re on the cusp of. As these tools become more integrated across workflows through the SDLC, we’re going to see the effects at a massive scale. We’re only at the beginning, and I expect that there will be multiple waves of change to come.
Q: What will be the impact on software?
Brendan: I think it will allow software to become more malleable. The SDLC will become more fluid. GenAI is great for writing tests, which are very structured. It can also introduce you to new technologies. There are so many little things it can help with.
Evolving tools promise to bring a lot of power and allow us to move further up a layer of abstraction. As we do, we become even more removed from the mechanics of software even as it becomes more adaptive and fluid. GenAI is probably the first software development tool that is not deterministic in that it gives you different answers every time.
There’s a new sense of randomness. They’re sometimes correct but sometimes wrong, which is a new source of inherent uncertainty. This uncertainty impacts every aspect of software and is bubbling up through the organization as these tools are adopted. Right now, we’re struggling to understand what challenges this will bring particularly with regard to regulation.
Q: How do you currently integrate gen AI into your general and coding workflows?
Brendan: I ask GenAI lots of questions. It can even help with little syntax things and give you the unit of functionality that you need. It’s inexpensive to convert one chunk into other chunks. You can sit back and keep telling it to do things in different ways.
Q: Have you experienced instances where generative AI failed to meet expectations in a project?
Brendan: I’ve tried it on tasks in projects that are just too complicated. Sometimes, it’s too hard to explain what you’re doing to the AI. You’re better off writing the code yourself. I wouldn’t say that there’s a certain project that GenAI isn’t good for. The question, really, is what you’re asking this thing to do.
Q: What do you think is going to happen to developer roles?
Brendan: A lot of people don’t know what to do with this generative AI stuff. Business leaders want productivity improvements. Developers want to do their best work. But nobody wants to use the wrong tool and get in trouble for it. That’s the essence of the challenge — getting used to the tools in the first place.
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