Sunday, December 17, 2023

Artisanal Code by Software Artists

The problem with schools are that they are run by people who WERE good at things. - Alex Lindsay
I'm in AI now. Aren't we all? If you're not, you should start using LLMs quickly, because someone who knows AI is going to be hired to the job you are slogging at. As part of my self-education processed in AI, I worked to developed a Python engine that could play cribbage. I wanted to put the engine into a re-enforced learning system.
DALL·E - robot painting a sign in the style of Pixar.png
I tried the traditional way of writing Python, using Google and StackOverflow to search for the answers to my coding questions. Then the tipping point came for me when I hit a wall. I could not find examples in Google or StackOverflow of using OpenAI Gymnasium to do my simple problem. There were plenty of code examples for Gymnasium of landing spacecraft and controlling Atari games. There were no examples of my fairly simple problem. What if, what if, instead of using traditional tools to learn how to program AI, I used AI to learn how to program AI? What if I used ChatGPT and Github Co-Pilot? HOLY COW!
These tools wrote code. These tools wrote code that did what I wanted. These tools wrote code that solved the problem. Did the tools write good code? I honestly don't know. Did they write code that a seasons Python developer would approve of? I honestly don't know. What I do know is that they wrote code that solved the problem I had and I thought, "coder" as a job has a limited shelf-life.
In the late 90's I worked at a sign shop and about half the signs we made were hand-painted and the other half came off the vinyl printer. I wanted to learn to use the computer, not how to hand-paint signs. I watched a documentary this year called "Sign Painters" which is all about the art of hand-painted signs. The documentary is good, and in the documentary there are a lot of sign painters who are in the fifties and older talking about the "lost" art of sign painting. These days, the vast majority of signs are "printed" onto vinyl in a combination of ink and automatic cutting. The sign-making job is about peeling and sticking the vinyl onto the display material. Is a hand-painted sign better than a printed sign? If the sign artist is good, then 100% of the time the hand-painted sign is better. If the sign-artist is average, than maybe not. This pointless mediocre skillset is where the "coding" aspect of software development is going.
Will a highly experienced artisanal software developer, who crafts code typing letter-by-letter on the keyboard produce a better results the "printing" out code from LLM? Yeah, probably. Are the majority of people working today as "software developers" that person? No, absolutely not.
In the next decade the non-union job of laying down code each day is going to be replaced by a machine and I predict the title of "Software Artist" will replace the title "Software Developer" for the artisanal work that they do. Heck, I'm going to upload my employment profile right now...