Why are web developers in a spin over GPT?
About 90% of my blog content is born from conversations I have with colleagues, customers and industry professionals.
This one is no different and came from a recent chat I was having with our head of web development, as we discussed the arrival of GPT on the technology scene, over a coffee.
First of all, what is GPT?
You will see it written like GPT3 or GPT4. The number denotes the generation of the technology, much like Windows 11 or Android 13.
So, you can see we really are only at the start of the journey with this specific technology. GPT1 originally launched in 2018
GPT stands for “Generative Pre-trained Transformer.” It’s a type of machine learning model that’s been trained on a massive amount of text data and is able to generate human-like text based on that training.
Think of it like a really smart robot that’s been fed billions of sentences and paragraphs from books, articles, and websites. By analysing all that text, the robot has learned how to predict what words and phrases should come next in a given sentence or paragraph. So if you give it a few words to start with, it can generate a whole bunch of text that sounds like it was written by a human.
This can be really useful for things like chatbots, language translation, and even creative writing! But it’s important to note that GPT is not perfect – sometimes it generates text that doesn’t make sense, or that’s biased in some way. So it’s still important to have humans review and edit the text that’s generated by these models.
These last three paragraphs, noted in italics, were generated by GPT itself when asked the question “please explain GPT in simple terms.”
As you can see, it generates some good content BUT even by its own admission, it doesn’t always get things right and suggests whatever it does, should be checked by a human.
So, why are web developers in a spin about GPT?
Well, in short, they feel threatened by the technology and are worried about their jobs and the long-term prospects of web development as a worthwhile career. Especially when companies are demonstrating how GPT can generate a basic website by inputting some basic data.
Should they be worried?
After all, the content it delivers is pretty good, right? You’ve seen it for yourself at the start of this article but it is only a machine and I get the feeling we’ve been here before.
A bit of technology history.
Let’s just take a look back at some of the technological developments that have happened over the last 40-plus years.
- Personal Computers – 1974
- The Internet
- Mobile Technology
- Online Shopping
- Social Media
- GPT4 – 2023
That’s quite a list and quite an advancement in 49 years, although this list doesn’t do justice to just how astonishing some of these things are, considering the time frame.
Technology progressed rapidly throughout the 100 years of the 20 Century.
Starting with the early stages of flight, and progressing through the development of the car, radio technology and TV. The century closed with space flight, computers, mobile phones, and the Internet, all things that we now take for granted.
In 1962 science fiction writer, Arthur C Clarke, published his book “Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry into the Limits of the Possible”. In it, he wrote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, probably the most widely used quote from the book.
But what did he mean?
Take your smartphone, for example. Imagine if you were able to meet with one of your ancestors, say one of your great, great, great grandparents that you’d never known.
Now imagine showing them your smartphone – what do you think they would make of it if the only way they knew how to communicate in their lifetime was the written word?
My guess is that they would have no understanding of what it was or how it worked and either consider it to be magical or possibly something evil.
Throughout history, the introduction of new technologies has been viewed with suspicion, especially when we don’t know enough about them.
Now, I’m not saying that people didn’t lose their jobs because of the introduction of technology over time. Yes, of course, it happens but that’s just progress and has been happening since the first industrial revolution started in 1765.
Consider the transport system, for instance, the canal was superseded by rail and the rail by road. As illustrated in this image that I took when I was walking from Liverpool to Leeds, along the canal in 2014.
You can see clearly where the Leeds and Liverpool canal, the Southport to Manchester rail line and the Gathurst Viaduct, which carries the M6 motorway over them both, all meet. Having been built one on top of the other as transport systems developed in the UK.
With each wave of new and groundbreaking technologies old technology is phased out and new technology takes the baton and keeps running. It’s how things develop.
We are now in the 21st Century and the fourth industrial revolution, industry 4.0, the digital age.
When I was a boy growing up in the sixties and seventies, the technology portrayed in the comics I read, and the TV shows I watched, were things of science fiction in a far-off distant future. We are now there!
Think about some of those technologies I mentioned earlier and the things the human race has achieved over the last 49 years.
Think about how they have integrated into our daily lives, changing the way we live and work forever.
Following the brief history lesson…
Let’s get back to GPT and why many web developers are fearing for their jobs.
Let’s think about how far web development has come in the last 30 years, from the first rudimentary sites, to what we have today.
Despite the fact that all kinds of do-it-yourself, drag-and-drop and quick-build platforms have been introduced to try and corner the market for a quick cheap fix. The fact is, there are no quick, cheap fixes when it comes to web development.
If you want a decent website that is regularly maintained, performs well and converts sales or leads, you have to work with a good web developer, which is going to cost you money.
You wouldn’t let Fred’s Garage service your brand-new car, would you?
So, why is it then that we should consider that just about anyone can build and maintain a successful website?
I have no doubt that some business owners have PTSD from dealing with web developers or digital agencies, having spent £ thousands getting their shiny new websites up and running. Only to find that once the website has been handed over, they either get hit with hidden costs to maintain it or, worse still, they don’t get any follow-up and are left high and dry with no support at all.
Sure a machine can answer questions and give answers, and give a reasonably good account of itself and of course, it will improve with time. Just as a child improves their language by learning to speak and spell, the machines will also learn to give better answers.
However, there is one thing that machines can’t offer (yet) and that is to listen with an empathetic ear and offer a reasoned and appropriate response to issues that a business owner may be facing. We are only on the cusp of what the potential of GPT is and where it can take us, should we fear for our jobs or lives, no, I don’t think we should.
From personal experience working in the technology industry for the last 30 years, I see GPT as something that can enhance our output and increase our productivity. Just like the personal computer, the internet and mobile technology have done for us but we now just take them for granted.