The Dangling Conversation

Simon & Garfunkel sang a song entitled “The Dangling Conversation.” I am going to improvise a verse:

“Yes, we speak of things that matter
With words that must be said
“Can analysis be worthwhile?”
“Is Cobol really dead?”

Well, not dead, dead, but I would say “Cobol” is definitely in “God’s Waiting Room.”
A large number of businesses steeped in “technical debt” are the users of Cobol. They have mounds of code (spaghetti code as we used to call it) built into legacy applications for the last 59 years. This of Cobol as if it was ‘coal.‘ It has been around forever, powers many engines and is the lifeblood of many in the insurance and banking industry. There are a few in the  industry who conduct their versions of “Cobol University” teaching people who long for yesterday the coding practices of Cobol because no one is taught Cobol in the universities or trade schools. So yes, Cobol is alive and well, and yes it is in “God’s waiting room.” Other languages tried to knock the king off the hill, and all have failed to achieve that distinction. Not many companies post ads for dedicated Cobol programmers anymore, which is why they train them in-house. The only career option for these people is other Cobol shops. Yes, there are a number of them out there in the Fortune 1000.  but the world is changing.  And the programmer is the first to see the storm coming before the clouds arrive.

Cobol is dead. Long live Cobol.

But wait! Are we not in the age of Artificial Intelligence (AI)? Are we not moving closer to a world where “computers” will program themselves with the assistance of specialized AI developers?

In the era of the fourth industrial revolution we come to see the maturing of AI. if you think hard about this, AI has followed a life cycle similar to humans. Birth, the terrible twos, childhood, adolescents and now it is coming of age as an adult. Like many of us, as we became adults, we were no longer desire to be thought of, like our days as a child. We have changed. So too with AI. We have to ask ourselves is AI a tool for programmers or is AI software itself? You will find many calling AI by a new name ‘Software 2.0’ giving rise to a new language to challenge Cobol and knock it off the hill. For the foreseeable future, we will see AI present itself to the market as a software language. We are keeping components of its past life alive for those just needing a tool.

We are seeing in the world of commerce and especially in the ‘fintech’ environments using human programmers to write new code using AI as software for higher level tasks, and AI even the AI tools will perform calculations and the lower level task of programming. AI is doing nothing more than following the traditional lines of the general trajectory of software development. What does this mean for programmers? AI will eventually eliminate some jobs, mostly the lower level programming jobs. And that is probably OK, given the shortage of programmers in the marketplace. As AI becomes more mature and is thought of as Software 2.0, we will see new and more exciting jobs being created in the marketplace. We will experience the role of the data scientist mature and become the strategist. AI will become the ‘partner’ to humans who today perform task such as pattern recognition, auditing, risk analysis, and in the world of accounting “ticking and footing.” Will AI replace your ‘virtual assistant’? Maybe, More than likely AI will become a ‘partner’ to your human assistant.

Software development is going to be written through human-machine interaction. As we begin to see this take hold in legacy shops around the globe is when we will see “God calling Cobol to its reward for a job well done.”

Now let’s face reality. There is a shortage of programmers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a decline in programmers up to 2026. The reduction in itself provides us with insights as to how fast AI will become the development tool of choice in our business environments. With the rise of security issues only suggests a more rapid development of AI as a language to address cybersecurity and especially privacy issues.

AI is bringing changes, especially to the IT coding departments. As more and more marketing and business analyst discover the benefits of AI, the demand will increase tremendously for the developers of Software 2.0.

I am optimistic that software developers are smarter than their bosses. They will learn the new language of AI because for them it is all about survival of the fittest.

Someday in the future someone will sing a song that says;

“Yes, we speak of things that matter
With words that must be said
“Can analysis be worthwhile?”
“Is AI really dead?”

And a NEW Dangling Conversation will begin.

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