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Behind Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s push to get AI tools in developers’ hands

On the other hand, coding today is a highly skilled, well-paid job, and there’s some concern that AI could effectively automate it. Nadella argues that skilled programmers will remain in demand, but that their jobs will change and even more jobs will become available. Nadella has said he envisions 1 billion developers creating on its platforms, many of them with little to no previous experience with coding.   

Anytime you have something as disruptive as this, you have to think about the displacement and causes. And that means it’s all about upskilling and reskilling, and in an interesting way, it’s more akin to what happened when word processors and spreadsheets started showing up. Obviously, if you were a typist, it really drastically changed. But at the same time, it enabled a billion people to be able to type into word processors and create and share documents.

I don’t think professional developers are going to be any less valuable than they are today. It’s just that we’re going to have many, many gradations of developers. Each time you’re prompting a Bing chat or ChatGPT, you’re essentially programming. The conversation itself is steering a model.

I think there will be many, many new jobs, there will be many, many new types of knowledge work, or frontline work, where the drudgery is removed.

I think the mobile era was fantastic. It made ubiquitous consumption of services. It didn’t translate into ubiquitous creation of services.

The last time there was a broad spread of productivity in the United States and beyond because of information technology was the [advent of the] PC. In fact, even the critics of information technology and productivity, like Robert Gordon of Northwestern, acknowledged that the PC, when it first showed up at work, did actually translate to broad productivity stats changes.

So that’s where I think this is, where these tools, like Copilot, being used by a [beginner] software engineer in Detroit, in order to be able to write [code].… I think we’ll have a real change in the productivity of the auto industry. Same thing in retail, same thing in frontline work and knowledge work.

The barrier to entry is very low. Because it’s natural language, domain experts can build apps or workflows. That, I think, is what’s the most exciting thing about this. This is not about just a consumption-led thing. This is not about elite creation. This is about democratized creation. I’m very, very hopeful that we’ll start seeing the productivity gains much more broadly.

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