Welcome to this awesomely amazing edition of BizarroDevs. For this month, we've got some stories that not-too-long-ago would've felt like they were pulled out of a futuristic sci-fi movie. As the saying goes though, the future is now! And it seems to be rapidly evolving in the direction of an AI takeover - not necessarily in a scary, dystopian way, but in a way where it is going to become an increasingly growing presence in our day-to-day lives. Without further ado, this month's focus stories are:
- 🤖 Who is "Ms." Tang Yu? Meet the new CEO of China's NetDragon Websoft.
- 💻 Inside the world of coders who've automated their jobs and get paid to do virtually nothing.
- 💾 Software engineering as it exists today will be as outdated as a floppy disk.
📰 From the Newsroom
Can an AI powered humanoid robot run a $10 billion dollar company? 🤖
That is exactly the question that Chinese gaming giant NetDragon Websoft is going to attempt to answer - not in a simulation, but in reality. Although "Ms." Tang Yu might be the first ever AI robot CEO, it's only a matter of time before "she" will inevitably be joined by others.
- In making the decision, Dr. Dejian Liu, Chairman of NetDragon, explained that the company's goal was to develop into a metaverse-based working community. He stated: "We believe AI is the future of corporate management, and our appointment of Ms. Tang Yu represents our commitment to truly embrace the use of AI to transform the way we operate our business, and ultimately drive our future strategic growth."
- The company's official press release further added that selecting an AI robot to lead an almost $10 billion USD operation was done because they believe it will significantly improve operational efficiency to levels that a human could not achieve. They want to demonstrate that the use of AI can revolutionize what we think of as corporate management in the way it exists today.
- Designed to resemble a female human, it's expected that the AI humanoid will increase execution speed, optimize workflow processes, and overall improve the quality of work. "She" will also ensure a fair and efficient workplace for all employees.
As interesting and groundbreaking as this is, it is truly a glimpse of where we are collectively headed. Twenty years ago a story like this would have seemed farfetched and out of reach. Twenty years from now, it will be completely normal and not the least bit newsworthy.
Is it ethical to automate your job and still receive a paycheck? 💻
While using AI is a very high-level form of automation, there are much less intricate levels of automation that can be achieved through intelligent code design. What happens, though, when companies hire programmers to do a job and those programmers figure out how to write scripts that do the job for them, on autopilot? It's a question that sits at the intersection of ethics, technology, fair pay, intellectual property, and the future of work.
- In 2016, an anonymous confession was posted on Reddit: “From around six years ago up until now, I have done nothing at work. I am not joking. For 40 hours each week, I go to work, play League of Legends in my office, browse Reddit, and do whatever I feel like. In the past six years, I have maybe done 50 hours of real work.” Although the post has since been deleted, the author originally wrote that he had completely automated his responsibilities within eight months of having started his position. About six years in, someone higher up caught wind of what he had been doing, and he was let go.
- Not too long after the above, another similar post appeared on Stack Exchange, by a user named Etherable. This person described their job as being “glorified data entry” and quickly figured out how to put the whole thing on autopilot using a program they wrote. To avoid arousing suspicion, Etherable even went so far as to intentionally insert a few mistakes into the reports that the program produced, in order to "make it look like it’s been generated by a human." The job was full-time, with benefits, and allowed Etherable to work from home.
- The article goes on to mention many more examples of coders who had automated all - or significant portions of - their jobs and the aftermath that ensued. Throughout these tales of automation, a discussion is naturally weaved in, that asks the reader to consider what all this means on an ethical level. How does it relate to the future of automation in work, and who should be able to claim ownership over the intellectual creations of coders while they work for an employer?
What do you think? Technically, the coders themselves are coming up with these scripts and creating these programs, but they are also doing it as part of the day-to-day duties of their job, while being compensated for it. It's challenging to give a clear-cut answer. What is clear however, is that this is a heated debate that is going to continue well into the future.
Is programming really on its death bed? 💾
CEO and Co-Founder of Fixie.ai, Matt Welsh, who's also held leadership positions at both Google and Apple, thinks that we are on the cusp of a serious programming makeover. He argues that in the very near future, traditional programming and learning various coding languages will be virtually obsolete. Instead, he believes that sophisticated AI will do the bulk of coding work that software engineers do now.
- Matt begins his post by giving some personal anecdotes of his more than 30 years of experience in web development. He talks about what Computer Science classes were like in the 1980s and 90s. This serves as a segue to set up the crux of his entire post. He observes that despite all of the massive changes that have taken place in the field of Computer Science in the past 30 years, there is one thing that has fundamentally remained unchanged: "Computer Science is taught as a discipline with data structures, algorithms, and programming at its core."
- He then continues by saying: "I am going to be amazed if in 30 years, or even 10 years, we are still approaching CS in this way."
- The post then transitions into discussing modern applications of AI tools like CoPilot, and the extremely rapid advancements in capability of various AI software between iterations. Matt states: "The difference in quality and complexity between DALL-E v1 and DALL-E v2 — announced only 15 months later — is staggering. If I have learned anything over the last few years working in AI, it is that it is very easy to underestimate the power of increasingly large AI models. Things that seemed like science fiction only a few months ago are rapidly becoming reality."
Given his extensive, multi-decade experience in web development, including both on-the-ground and in leadership positions, Matt's opinion on this cannot be ignored. I think the most interesting thing to ponder on is how quickly are we going to reach the point when "programming is dead," and on a practical level, how will that affect the jobs and lives of millions of programmers around the world?
⛓️ Ten Must See Links of the Month
- AI is not only being promoted to CEO positions, it has now entered the political arena as well. The Synthetic Party of Denmark is being led by an AI-powered chatbot named Leader Lars.
- If you're not in 3D, are you even there? Google's been busy working on a 3D version of video chatting that makes the standard Zoom call seem boring in comparison. It's called Project Starline, and Google has already rolled out a beta version in several corporate office locations.
- If you were impressed by DALL-E 2, the AI-powered image generator, then Google's Imagen is going to blow your mind. It's a similar concept to DALL-E 2, but instead of generating merely still images, Imagen is able to generate video clips of whatever you tell it to. Unlike DALL-E 2 though, it's not yet available for public use.
- Scientists have recently used microbots made from algae cells that were covered with antibiotic nanoparticles to clear out pneumonia microbes in the lungs of mice. The mice treated with the algae bots were all cured, whereas the mice in the control group all died within three days.
- A UK-based clothing company named Vollebak has invented a prototype "invisibility cloak" that makes the wearer completely invisible to any sort of infrared vision. Maybe not that exciting for the average person, but apart from its potential military use, it's a pre-cursor for creating actual invisibility cloaks.
- Ever wanted to live on the ocean? A Panama-based company named Ocean Builders has revealed that they are building a fleet of "revolutionary living pods" that will allow you to, quite literally, live "on the ocean" - or maybe right above it if we're being technical.
- Podcasting is all the rage these days. It seems like everyone and their mama wants to be the next Joe Rogan. If you've recently been giving it some thought yourself and you're still in the beginning stages, check out the four best website builders for podcasts.
- Although a good segment of BizarroDevs readers are web developers, we know that not all of you are. However, if you've been toying around with the idea of possibly learning how to code, then you should definitely check out these ten resources - many of them are free!
- Taking jibes at people for "doing their own research" by using "Doctor Google" might no longer be a valid high ground to stand from, thanks to Consensus. Consensus is a search engine that uses AI to instantly extract, aggregate, and distill findings directly from scientific research. Read more about how it works here.
🎤 It’s How They Said It
"Seek success, but prepare for vegetables.” - Inspirobot (an AI-powered inspirational quote generator)
🧮 The numbers game
- Under 6 hours is how long it took for a Google developed AI software to create computer chips that would take humans months to do. Talk about efficiency!
- 15.7 trillion is the amount in USD that experts predict will be contributed to the global economy by AI technologies, by the year 2030.
- 71 is how many times per day, on average, millennials unlocked their smartphones in 2021. This is compared to generation Z, who unlocked theirs an average of 82 times per day.
⚒️ Tools and Resources
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Have a great month,