Making a comeback.
Through decades of product and industry transformation and innovation we see the rise and fall of various products in various industries all the time. A recent transformation is books, up until 2017 physical book sales were booming but with the rise in popularity of audiobooks throughout 2018 the industry saw a fall in sales of just over 5% in the UK. There could be a few reasons for this but just to name a couple of reasons for the decline let’s look at the practicality of audiobooks. The majority of people have a smart phone which means you can listen to your favourite author(s) on the go, and, there has been a substantial financial and technological investment in audiobook mobile applications that make purchasing audiobook cheaper and easier than buying a physical book not to mention you can "carry" around hundreds of books at once. I’m sure there will always be a demand for physical books, personally, I feel physical books provide a fantastic opportunity to escape the world of technology.
An industry that is struggling with technology innovation and industry transformation is home furniture. For thousands of years people have been carving wood for home furnishing but up until the mid to late nineteen hundreds the indusrty has been under huge pressure from carpentry technology. Big brands like IKEA have built their empire on fast and affordable home furnishings (also meatballs). Their market growth has definitely been aided by the introduction of Computer Aided Design (CAD) this technology has allowed brands like IKEA to scale and meet consumer demands for fast and affordable home furniture, where as traditional carpentry is quite slow and expensive. Just like books there will always be a demand for the traditional method of carving and building furniture by hand, due to the uniqueness and personalisation of the furniture.
These two industries share a technology commonality through industry transformation. Books to audiobooks VS hand built furniture to machine built furniture.
How is this related to computer software development? Let’s take a look. In the nineties’ and early two thousands if you wanted a website built for your business you had to design and develop the website yourself or through a contractor, and, it probably took weeks maybe months to do and would cost thousands! These days it’s a lot faster and cheaper to build a website, you can build a website for under 100 dollars and within one day from companies similar to Wordpress. With that said, there is still a real demand for custom built websites.
Fast forward a little to our present day, artificial intelligence or Ai for short is the new thing around town and a buzz word (although Ai has been around for decades). Without a doubt Ai will continue transform many industries, two of these industries that are under pressure to transform and innovate are finance and insurance. In finance, Ai has enabled financial traders to automate their tasks and in insurance Ai has provided a faster method to process claims.
Ai development at the moment is time consuming, expensive to develop and it’s human resource heavy very similar to carpentry. To develop Ai software you need data, time and experience VS building a chair you need wood (data), time and experience, very similar process. If we fast forward a decade or two into an era where Ai software is being developed by an Ai you could provide the Ai a product design and list of features for the Ai to build, the Ai would proceed to develop your product and let’s say 1 hour later it’s done. Not very personal but you got want you wanted, brilliant! This could be a fantastic way to start a company or to prove a proof of concept, just like Wordpress is for website development.
Even today we are starting the Ai automation journey with the introduction of auto machine learning and auto image annotation, just to name a few. One day, in a sales product pitch a sales person might be asked, "was this Ai software built by an Ai or was the Ai software built by a human engineer?" The value of the human engineer can be compared to the value of a human carpenter, as the quality of the product each person builds cannot be compared to a machine built product.
Will we see a decline in the demand and need for human software developers? If so, will they be able to make a comeback? Wordpress was created in 2003 - so it took from around 1989 (when www was created) - 15 years to bring automation on to websites for the masses........how long for AI?