As GitHub chief executive Thomas Dohmke told Chanticleer last month, the idea is not to replace the software developer, but help them become more focused and productive, by keeping developers in what he calls the “flow state” where creativity is highest and distractions are lowest.
The developer is not replaced, Dohmke argues, but rather freed up to focus on their highest-valued tasks.
‘A second brain’
“We truly believe that you will have a Copilot for everything. Whether you’re a car mechanic or a doctor, you can kind of already imagine how that would run. The power of this really is that it is kind of like a second brain that you get as a human.”
This is, of course, the glass-half-full view of how AI could change the workforce. The tech handles the repetitive, formulaic tasks, helping their human masters (and the economy more broadly) become more productive.
But it’s not hard to imagine a less benign outcome, where increased use of AI helps employers shed staff in areas that are more process driven, as vast chunks of the white-collar sectors such as financial services are, for example.
As Gates himself told The Australian Financial Review on Monday: “It is always a question of what happens if you make things less expensive.”
Of course, Microsoft has rightly identified that there is an awful lot of money to be made in making things less expensive for its customers through what it likes to call the democratisation of AI.
That’s basically a fancy way of saying Microsoft wants to make its existing products more valuable by opening up OpenAI’s technology to as wide a group of customers as possible.
As Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella explained at Davos last week – and again in Monday night’s blog post announcing the OpenAI investment – he sees AI emerging not just as a set of cool products, but as a platform that can spur a new wave of innovation as the technology gets better and penetration grows.
Under Nadella, Microsoft has brilliantly deployed a layer-cake strategy of building platforms on top of platforms, and an AI platform powered by OpenAI should connect with and strengthen the group’s Azure cloud business, its Microsoft 365 business and productivity platform, its search and advertising platform and over time, its consumer platform.
Microsoft will report its December quarter earnings on Tuesday night, kicking off a US tech reporting season that is likely to be marked by a sharp drop in profits. The software giant announced the sacking of 10,000 staff last week, part of a wave of layoffs across tech firms.