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Will AI replace Java developers ?

 
Greenhorn
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Hi everyone, I am from Algeria(north africa), I have a bachelor degree in computer science, I am preparing for the OCP Java SE 11 certification, and I often wonder how long before artificial intelligence will replace Java developers ?
 
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If AI will ever replace Java developers, it will also replace developers in whatever language you can think of. Writing a program is mainly matter of writing algorithms, the formal language you use is most matter of taste, need, technical skills and so on. At the moment my guess is that powerful AI based system like GPT-4 will be a valuable aid to any programmers, think about them like a much more advanced "intellisense" you could use in your favourite IDE.
I think that while repetitive tasks like writing code will be ultimately replaced by AI assisted tools, I'm pretty sure that given actual deep-learning algorithms any software engineer is, let's say, safe. With software engineer I mean someone who is able to dissect a problem and formalize a program (in pseudo-code) to solve it.
 
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I don't see any changes for 1-2 years. Then I see the job morphing into an architect role. Managing the details of requirements and overseeing how they're implemented. AI may not always pick the best algorithm or choose the best language components for a commercial grade product.

I recently did a fair bit of work with ChatGPT  in writing some Java code. On one hand it was quite impressive as to what it could  come up with given a minimum set of directions. On the other hand it didn't ask ME  any questions in order to refine its concept of my requirements.
1. Initial  code didn't compile
2. Didn't choose best Collection object  for  the task
3. Didn't use best practices (e.g. try-with-resources)
4. The  size of the project  that it could deal with was  surprisingly small
5. No error handling
6. No modularization

These are expected to improve but at least for the near future some human has to keep an eye on the process.

Another experiment I did was to feed it some existing code and ask it to document it. The documentation was surprisingly good.
 
Carey Brown
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Carey Brown
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Another example. This bit of code I put together to help out on another thread. I just cut and pasted the code into ChatGPT and it generated the text in the opening comment block.
 
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ChatGPT has proven to be the first attempt to replace programmers that actually (kind of) works. And they've been trying for literally decades to get rid of programmers. As an example: https://www.amazon.com/Application-Development-Without-Programmers-Martin/dp/0130389439

A promoted solution in this case was a language system called Nomad (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nomad_software). I thought it went extinct decades ago, like many of its other 4GL siblings, and I note that nothing of recent date has been said. Search for "Nomad Software" these days and you'll get an entirely unrelated product from HashiCorp (the Vagrant people).

The problem with ChatGPT is that it's a learning-based system attempting to extrapolate new solutions from learned data. It's not capable of original thought. That does mean that any of the myriad people I've known who made a career essentially re-writing the same program over and over are definitely endangered, but good software development has always been considered as an art as much as a science, and at the moment ChatGPT is an object of ridicule over its inability to properly render fingers.

An interesting legal consideration: It is widely held that works produced by AI are not copyrightable. However, one of the chief means of protection used by software creators since the 1980s has been copyright. Attempts to make software patentable have been rejected.

I am much more interested in replacing those ultra-expensive CEOs with AI myself. They wouldn't be as egotistical and would probably treat workers better, considering that with all the data over the years that the ways commonly used by employers to obtain worker productivity usually accomplish more the opposite.

We could probably also upgrade the quality of political commentary by replacing the human windbags with AI. And for that matter, why not politicians? I've got NAND gates that have more intelligence than some of the current generation.
 
Claude Moore
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The problem with ChatGPT is that it's a learning-based system attempting to extrapolate new solutions from learned data. It's not capable of original thought


Well, all current AI applications aren't capable of original thought, nor show self consciousnesses. ChatGPT is really an impressive step forward building an AI system really able to sustain a conversation with an human, and to keep track of the context of the conversation itself. But it is still an NLP system, which statistically infers what word follows the other. There is still no intelligence here, at least in its broader meaning.
To really be able to replace devs, it should be able to formulate full (and original) solutions. We're far away from that. This said, well, I think that any of us knows personally some programmer which real job is to copy and paste code from Google or Stackoverflow without much thinking about it's really doing...
 
Bachir Affane
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Thank you for you answers folks. This blog is awesome  ❤
 
Marshal
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Tim Holloway wrote:Attempts to make software patentable have been rejected.



I don't think that's quite accurate. When I was working on the Y2K problem at my company, there was this guy going around with his patent, so I heard. The particular issue was, if your database contains 2-digit years and you want to convert them to 4-digit years, how do you do that? You can't just stick 19 on the front, nor can you just stick 20 on the front. You need to consider your business needs: what's a reasonable conversion based on what your dates actually mean? The obvious answer is to pick a 100-year window, from 19xx to 20xx - 1 for some satisfactory value of xx, and use that. This is what Java does, by the way, and has done ever since version 1 in 1995.

But this guy had patented that algorithm. Apparently you can patent algorithms in the US, but not things like MS Word. And he was going around asking companies for (I think) a $20,000 one-time fee to license that patent.

Now you could say no and challenge that patent in court for several reasons. But lawyers are expensive and patent lawyers are the most expensive lawyers, so it was cheaper to pay the guy to go away.
 
Claude Moore
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Bachir Affane wrote:Thank you for you answers folks. This blog is awesome  ❤


You are welcome !
 
Tim Holloway
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Paul Clapham wrote:
I don't think that's quite accurate. When I was working on the Y2K problem at my company, there was this guy going around with his patent, so I heard. The particular issue was, if your database contains 2-digit years and you want to convert them to 4-digit years, how do you do that? You can't just stick 19 on the front, nor can you just stick 20 on the front. You need to consider your business needs: what's a reasonable conversion based on what your dates actually mean? The obvious answer is to pick a 100-year window, from 19xx to 20xx - 1 for some satisfactory value of xx, and use that. This is what Java does, by the way, and has done ever since version 1 in 1995.



Apparently, narrow algorithms are patentable. Mathematical equations, expressions of natural law, and automation of manual processes is not.

I would love to have the patent number for this Y2K algorithm, however, since a patent must also cover something "non-obvious" and everyone I know did something like "add 1900 if date > 50, else add 2000". Because it was the obvious thing to do.
 
Paul Clapham
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Tim Holloway wrote:I would love to have the patent number for this Y2K algorithm, however, since a patent must also cover something "non-obvious" and everyone I know did something like "add 1900 if date > 50, else add 2000". Because it was the obvious thing to do.



Sure, it was obvious. (And there was "prior art" too.) But "obvious" might be interpreted differently by a patent judge -- maybe it would have to be obvious to the cashier at your local convenience store.
 
Tim Holloway
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I'd say that one would be pretty obvious. Cashiers are not required to be mathematical experts, but if someone's DOB was 5/55/27, I doubt many people would assume 2027.

If it got patented, then someone more likely didn't do due diligence because I can't see a challenge to a patent like that failing. At best, that's a patent troll ploy and patent trolling only works when no one is willing to fight back. And you're doing it in a Texas court, of course.
 
Paul Clapham
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Tim Holloway wrote:patent trolling only works when no one is willing to fight back



I had no personal connection with this. So I may have many details wrong. But I certainly got the impression that people weren't interested in fighting back.
 
Tim Holloway
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Paul Clapham wrote:

Tim Holloway wrote:patent trolling only works when no one is willing to fight back



I had no personal connection with this. So I may have many details wrong. But I certainly got the impression that people weren't interested in fighting back.



Most of them don't. Occasionally, someone does. One of the bigger patent trolls found that out the hard way.

Starting around 2013 patent trolling became less lucrative. Some states passed laws restricting troll-suits. Some companies fought back. So apparently the Golden Age of trolling has passed.
 
Greenhorn
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Look forward to the legal cases claiming code was lifted from another sources, without user of ChatGPT even being aware.
 
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