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How AI is Changing Web Development

October 9 2017

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What is AI?

Artificial Intelligence used to be a theme for science fiction. However AI is real and has become a major part of society. From automated checkouts and call centers to self-driving cars and robot doctors. Machines have come a long way from doing the rote industrial labour of factory workers and horse-drawn carriages.

Artificial intelligence is specifically the science of getting computers to act without being explicitly programmed, in other words to act on the basis of reasoning rather than commands. For example, self-driving cars aren’t programmed with a particular route and then made to follow it to the letter. That would be very complicated and also dangerous, as the car would not be able to respond to changes in traffic. Rather the car takes in information about the roads, forms a plan to negotiate them and proceeds, changing plans when required.

The astonishing thing about AI is that human programmers are no longer fully in charge. Of course programmers can create fail-safes that ensure AI computers never deviate too far from acceptable behaviours, but they can’t necessarily know what it will do next. AI opens the possibility of automating not just rote manual jobs but also administrative jobs that require cognition and judgement, and even creative jobs.

Automating Web Design and Development

There are already DIY website builders that can allow you to create a high-quality website, such as Squarespace, with only some design and development knowledge required. But there are also new systems such as The Gridwhich are based on AI, which “adapts to your message” analyzing your content and data to tailor the layouts, fonts, graphics and colours of your website.

More and more AI is coming to takeover online design and marketing tasks, from data analysis and search engine optimization, to targeted advertising and customer relationship management.

Are We Out of a Job?

So should we, as web developers and designers be worried? Are the machines gonna take our jobs? Probably not. There are still analogue cashiers and call center employees, and there will still be a need for human drivers and doctors well into the future. Most complex jobs need at least some human input, because while AI might have failsafes, things can still go wrong.

Also, arguably design jobs require something of a creative flair that AI hasn’t yet mastered. Design and marketing aren’t just calculations about data, they require what you could call inspiration or genius, a grasp of emotion and reciprocal understanding. Most people still like interacting with other people, rather than machines.

Finally, humans can still work with AI to create something greater than the sum of its parts. There is a trend of automated jobs leading to further jobs through invention and need. As new technology arises, people discover new needs and opportunities for entrepreneurship. So I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over the rise of the robot web developers.