The Future of Software Development in the Age of AI
Properly managed and wisely built, the AI products of the future will make the world a better place–but developers will still have a huge role to play.
For Developers, The Times They Are AI-Changing
Working in technology has always meant working with change. Today, AI is driving that change. AI-enabled tools are already in widespread use, making developers and those working in tech, better and more productive. And this is just the beginning. AI is poised to transform how we build software at a level that echoes some of the biggest paradigm shifts in computer engineering–from vacuum tubes to silicon, from punch cards to tape, from mainframes to PCs. These tectonic shifts changed the way people fundamentally interacted with technology, and as a consequence, redefined what it meant to be a developer. And it’s happening again.
Why AI Is Potentially the Biggest Opportunity for Developers Yet
Smarter, better tools mean more software. It means more people can write software. It means more new types of software and more platforms and infrastructure to run that software on. And with all these new opportunities, it means more new risks.
Lower Barriers to Entry and Advancement
AI is helping bring software development to the masses. It is doing things that once required resources and education, and bringing them within reach of everyone who can use a computer. It’s turning non-programmers into prompt engineers who can write simple applications with nothing more than some hand-drawn sketches and a few paragraphs of text. It’s elevating front-line engineers into engineering leads and architects, delegating tedious and routine grunt work to intelligent agents.
At last count, there were somewhere between 25 and 27 million developers worldwide. AI may add a zero to the end of that number, perhaps sooner than any of us think. A field with more developers means more applications and more software. And we expect that devs who quickly learn the tooling and processes of an AI-enabled future will be most successful.
New Ways to Interact means New Platforms and New Frontiers to Explore
In the last 20 years, the world saw one major change in how people interfaced with technology, and that was touch. Smartphones and other mobile touch devices fundamentally redefined our relationship with technology–the how, where, and when of our interactions with software. AI, and large language models in particular, is fostering the next major change in human-computer interaction–driving interaction away from clicks and taps, and toward natural human language.
The rough drafts of this future are already with us. Intelligent voice assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa are now being joined by wearable AI transcription tools and mobile AI agents. These new products will become new platforms. These platforms will run new kinds of applications. And these applications will need new types of designers and developers.
New Platforms Also Need New Infrastructure
These new products and new platforms come with additional demands on the infrastructure required to run them. In some cases, conventional infrastructure will have to significantly evolve to provide adequate support. In many cases, new AI products will demand entirely new tooling to monitor and manage properly. The future will belong to ambitious devs who carve out the new infrastructure for AI.
Unintended Consequences Need More Problem-Solvers
In theory, as devs solved problems with new innovations, they would move on to new projects. In practice, unintended consequences would appear along the way...and so would more new developers taking on those nascent challenges. We can see a clear example of ‘more innovation, more problems’ in the evolution of coding in the last 50 years. C offered a faster alternative to robust-but-clunky assembly, but caused devs to tear out their hair over memory leaks. Then Java debuted in 1995 with automatic garbage collection and Write-Once-Run-Anywhere functionality. By 2005, there were ~4 million Java devs. By 2022, there were 10 million. We anticipate incredible upside for devs that tackle the most important problem spaces in AI, whether we’re talking about managing compute resources, scalability, or even compliance with a still-nascent regulatory landscape.
Essentially, we anticipate the Jevons paradox will repeat itself: As efficiencies and challenges grow, so will increased demand for solutions.
Wanted: AI Pioneers to Build a Better World
At Heavybit we are excited by all the changes, challenges, and opportunities presented by AI. We have been investing in AI for the same reasons we invested in all of our portfolio companies: As advocates for developers, we want to help move the practice of software development forward.
We continue to be on the lookout for founders who, like us, believe better software can pave a path to a better world, and who aspire to improve the practice of software development. We are excited to have so many of them joining us at our DevGuild AI Summit on Oct 19th. For those of you who can’t or weren’t able to attend, if you share this vision, please don’t hesitate to reach out.