web development today is giving me a heckin’ concern, a big heckin’ concern…
With web development becoming more and more commoditized, automation is just around the corner and junior level careers will be on the chopping block.
One of the recurring themes on this blog is that the world is changing very quickly and automation is making millions of workers obsolete. But say you happen to be one of the people doing the automating. What safer job could there be? You’re like the job Grim Reaper whose work may be disputed for many valid reasons, but ultimately seen as necessary, so you might think of yourself as immune to the march of progress. But what if I were to tell you that you might not be? What if I posited that we may be knocking the very first rungs off the career ladder for techies and turning the industry into a kind of tournament system starting with web development and extending into robotics over the course of the next decade or so? Crazy, right? But as I’ve spent more and more time over the past year or so more removed from writing the actual code than doing more code reviews, design, research, and prototyping, there’s something that stood out for me, and that something gave me some rather uneasy thoughts, which I hope are an overreaction.
While many posts on personal blogs and articles on Medium very accurately groan about the unwieldy complexity of setting up a website today, once you remove all the fluff, you’ll find that much of web development today is often taking existing open source libraries, customizing their appearance, making a few tweaks to their basic functions, and stitching them together into a full product that does either some basic CRUD (user-driven create, edit, update, delete) functionality, or ETL (extract, transform, and load data from another database or API) processes. Many of these resulting apps will be some sort of content management system, many will be glorified search engines, and a whole lot of them in the enterprise world will be a combination of both. The real innovations will be found in algorithmic tweaks to an industry-specific process, but just assembling the basic UI seems to be a matter of following a basic tutorial unless you really want to make it hard on yourself and do it all from scratch until you reach for Bootstrap and decorate it a bit.
This is unprecedented in computer science right now because we’re just so used to reinventing the wheel, convinced we can do it better, cleaner, and a lot prettier than the last person who did it. There was no vast open source realm to show us that we may have already been bested by someone whose solution to the exact same problem isn’t just as good as ours, but makes no sense to try and improve upon without spotting something obvious. After a few decades of trying to figure out how to do everything, we’re closer than ever to fixed recipes for basic apps. Even when we want to add AI capability to our existing products, we can just ping an API for Google’s Tensor Flow or Microsoft’s Project Oxford and have it do the hard work for us. Innovation is now moving away from UI/UX to big data migrations, robotics, and swarm mechanics. My hope is that this is where junior and mid-level will follow, to start the competition for common tooling in those worlds, and because it’s a cold day in Hell when two companies’ big data needs are identical and need no special algorithms, and each robot design brings its own challenges, this is where we won’t code and design ourselves out of a job…