Judgment Day

Judgment Day

By Teedy Deigh

Overload, 32(180):27-28, April 2024

What if AI takes your job? Teedy Deigh finds out.

TD what?
MD I’ve been trying to get in touch.
TD i know
got the same desperate msg from you on a dozen platforms
repeated enough times to buffer overflow
you even left voicemail msgs
who even uses phones for that anymore?
and all before a reasonable person’s had the chance to have a 4th coffee
so what’s app?
MD We have a problem and we need your help.
TD i don’t work for you any more
MD But we’ve got a problem.
TD you fired all the developers just over 2 weeks ago
MD It’s serious.
TD so was firing all the developers
MD We had no choice. Our new AI-only development strategy was approved by the board. We followed through. There’s no turning back. We’re embracing the future.
TD who proposed the strategy?
MD That’s not important.
TD who proposed the strategy?
MD I did. But it was based on a thorough study and supported by a number of others.
TD who?
MD Some managers, the finance department, marketing, HR and C-level execs.
TD C-level?
sounds like you went overboard 🌊🌊🌊🌊
you involve any techies?
MD Yes, a couple of senior architects did the study.
TD i meant bit wranglers not hand wavers
MD You mean developers?
Of course not! That’s like getting turkeys to vote on Xmas.
TD seriously WTF?!
MD Sorry about that. Sensitivity training’s not booked until next month.
Anyway, the architects said lots of technical things that sounded very impressive and quite persuasive.
That all you need are product owners describing the functionality and architects filling in some technical bits, the non-functional stuff. AI generates all the code.
They called it the Skynet strategy, for some reason, and said it would terminate our need for developers.
TD oh I know which architects you mean
‘non-functional’ is definitely the right description
that ‘thorough study’ means they saw a couple of videos, read some press releases and spent the rest of the day binge-watching classic sci-fi
MD I’m sure they were more thorough than that.
TD fraid not
been dealing with their ‘architectures’ for years
me and the other devs had sweepstakes bout what was gonna come up
both the questionable technical choices and the movie refs
MD Movie references?
TD plus we kept a repo of ADRs to deal with their decisions
TD Architecture Denial Records
ways of working around and avoiding the official architecture
TBH might’ve been the most enjoyable and creative part of my job
MD I found their presentations compelling and insightful.
TD that’s not how you spell inciteful
your predecessor made them architects to keep them out of the code
reckoned they couldn’t do as much damage with PowerPoint marketecture
guess we now know that wasn’t true
MD Which is why I’m contacting you.
It’s not working.
TD what’s not working?
MD It. You know. The software. The stuff you develop.
TD developed
MD Whatever. It’s not working. After the last sprint things started going wrong, and it’s all blown up this morning.
TD when you say last sprint you mean the first sprint using 100% LLM-based codegen?
MD Yes, and we don’t understand what’s wrong. I’ve been told all the tests are passing.
TD which tests?
MD The ones generated by the AI.
TD 🤦‍♀️
has anyone looked at the code?
MD Yes, the architects.
TD what did they say?
MD They shrugged and said ‘LGTM’, if I recall correctly. Not quite sure what they meant.
TD when a dev uses LGTM it means they couldn’t be bothered to look through it
when an architect uses LGTM it means they haven’t a clue
basically your CI/CD pipeline is now a GIGO pipeline
MD Is that bad?
TD very
MD I also overheard them later on being concerned about someone called Ellie.
TD that would probably be ELE
Extinction Level Event
MD What does that mean?
TD they were probably talking about the deep impact on the company’s prospects
MD This is even worse than I thought!
TD perhaps your product owners could have a go at fixing things 🤣
i mean it’s their code right?
MD They just told the AI what they wanted it to do.
TD did they precisely and rigorously specify what they wanted?
MD They’re product owners, what do you think?
TD ah
guess that also means they didn’t check the results or specify at a high-level of detail?
MD Do they need to do that? It seems like a lot of work. I thought they just needed to nudge the AI and it would all work.
TD ‘prompt’ not ‘nudge’
you need to be very detailed and very precise and to pay a lot of attention
and then you do the nudging
(and often quite a lot of shoving)
if not, it’s no better than telling your cat you farted
MD I don’t recall all this stuff about ‘precision’, ‘rigour’, ‘detail’ and ‘checking’ being mentioned in the study. Is this what they call ‘prompt engineering’?
TD it’s what we call programming
tell you what
i’ll help you sort out this mess if you give me my old job back
MD We can’t do that. There’s no software development department anymore. We let it go, and the budget for software is frozen.
TD well that’s all very Disney of you but no job means no help
to be clear
what you need is someone to correctly specify, verify, adapt and adjust prompts?
MD Exactly.
TD that would be like a product owner right?
MD Yes.
I see.
We have hiring capacity for POs. But that would mean hiring you back at a higher pay grade than when you were a software developer.
TD i have no problem with that
and as a senior PO i’d be able to take advantage of this (re)hiring capacity yes?
MD Wait, why would you be senior?
TD you need a PO with the specific ability to be specific in a way that is correct?
that seems to be a higher grade of ability than the other POs
MD That’s true.
TD and you have a (very very) big problem that needs to be solved asap
MD That’s also true.
TD just to check: senior PO is higher up the hierarchy than senior architect?
MD Correct.
TD then i accept
pls tell the architects i’ll be back

Teedy Deigh Teedy says she’s been dealing with artificial intelligence her whole career, that many of her colleagues qualify and are not as smart as they make themselves out to be, (deeply) faking and (heavily) bluffing their way through codebases, technologies and business decisions, playing an imitation game informed by Stack Overflow, hype cycles and group think, and that it’s not imposter syndrome if they are actually imposters.

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