What Will Happen to Code?

08 September 2019

Pieter Levels in “No Code”:

In the future writing actual code will be like using a pro DSLR camera, and no code will be like using a smartphone camera. Some pros will keep doing work with DSLRs (and need them), but most basic apps will be built with no code.


I think we'll see coding go in two directions:

  1. towards simplicity with no code, for 95-99% of apps
  2. towards complexity with custom high-level engineered code, for the 1-5% of apps

The engineers working on (2) will be high paid, in the millions/year, because custom code.

This is my theory as well. I'm pretty confident that in 20, maybe 40 years, nobody will write actual code for most use cases. We will still have craftsmen, that will build low-level libraries, OSes and computing bricks, then integrated by platforms that everybody will use. Gluing, mixing and combining APIs, UIs, sensors and any other tool will be as simple as piping commands in a shell for a developer today.

Nowadays' coding is too dangerous, brittle, slow and painful to continue like that forever. It's still baffle me that forgetting brackets around a if statement can produce an extremely serious vulnerability issue, that can potentially impact everyone on earth.

As long as we write code like we did 50 years ago, this will continue to be true. We will continue to make the same mistakes, we will continue to create bugs just by calling an API or rendering a few graphical elements on a screen. It's no wonder that the average quality of softwares is so low right now: considering the number of layers you have to take into account, the pace of the industry, the requirements and the variety of environments, it's already impressive that humanity was able to go this far with such a primitive tooling — it's a giant effort and a long struggle to be able to create something of quality in the software virtual world.

Surprisingly, and maybe hopefully, programmers are probably the only one that are actually eagerly trying to create the next-generation of tools that will replace them.

It's been a long time that I've formed this opinion in my head, and these are the reasons that I choose to not focus entirely on programming for the last years, but instead on the products at a higher level.

Software engineers will probably become like blacksmiths (or similar professions): a few are highly valued for the quality of their work, and the dedication to their craft, but the other 99% have vanished or been replaced by low-wage jobs.