The End of Front-End Development?

Roger Stringer

Roger Stringer / March 21, 2023

4 min read

Josh W Comeau:

Over the past few months, I've spoken with lots of early-career devs who are getting more and more anxious about AI. They've seen the increasingly-impressive demos from tools like GPT-4, and they worry that by the time they're fluent in HTML/CSS/JS, there won't be any jobs left for them.

This sentiment is all over Twitter right now:

I couldn't disagree more. I don't think web developer jobs are going anywhere. And I'm getting pretty sick of the FUD? being spread online.

[...]

I've heard from a few folks who have said that ChatGPT has been really helpful when it comes to learning technical skills. If you're confused by something in a tutorial, you can ask the AI to explain it to you!

This is a really interesting use case to me. Essentially, ChatGPT is like a pair programmer, someone who can help you make sense of things you don't understand. You can ask it specific questions and get specific answers.

But I do think you need to be careful. There's a right way and a wrong way to use tools like this to help you learn.

The wrong way would be to treat it like GPS navigation. When I have to drive somewhere, I pop the address into my GPS, and follow its instructions indiscriminately. I do generally wind up where I need to go, but it requires 0 mental effort on my part. As a result, my sense of direction has totally atrophied. I can't go anywhere now without a synthesized voice telling me what to do. 😬

Instead of treating it like a GPS, I'd suggest treating it like you're a member of a jury, and the LLM is the defendant, taking the stand.

You'll listen to what they have to say, but you won't accept it as fact. You'll be skeptical, and think critically about every word.

Instead of blindly copy/pasting the code that ChatGPT generates, go through it line-by-line, and make sure you understand. Ask it for clarification. And double-check things that seem suspicious with an authoritative source (eg. the official documentation). Keep in mind that LLMs are 100% confident, but not 100% accurate.

[...]

The reason I wanted to write this blog post was specifically to address folks who are in the process of learning web development and who are feeling anxious and despondent, like there's no point spending all of this time/energy building these skills when the whole field is about to be made obsolete.

I can't promise that things will stay exactly the same. I do suspect that AI will have an impact on how we work. I started tinkering with HTML/CSS/JS back in 2007, and things have changed so much since then. Developers have always had to be adaptable, to evolve alongside technology.

But so far, nothing I've seen suggests that our jobs are at risk. I've tried to imagine what it would look like, if non-developers were able to build entire web applications without understanding web technologies, and I come up with so many reasons why it wouldn't work, even if future iterations of GPT don't hallucinate as much.

I could be wrong. I don't have a crystal ball 🔮. For all I know, the sun might explode tomorrow. But I truly don't believe that we're on the cusp of web developers being made obsolete. And I worry that many would-be developers are taking their foot off the gas for no reason.

I don't want you to look back in 5 years, if software developers are even more in-demand, and regret that you stopped pursuing your dreams. ❤️

Go read the rest of Josh's post, his advice echoes what I've been saying to several people over the past few months, ChatGPT has it's uses in dev, but don't worry about it replacing you, work with it instead.