AI will make coding skills more, not less, valuable—and it’s more important than ever for children to learn them

The year 2024 has continued to see the long-awaited rise of generative AI in many aspects of life. Every day, we see news of the latest tools and developments to help with our needs, from generating a grocery list to coding a program. AI promises a bright future, an exciting prospect that also carries fears of the technology replacing humans and eliminating jobs. While this future is further ahead than many will claim, two facts remain true: AI and its fast growth present more opportunities rather than dangers, and we must continue to teach our children how to code so they can take advantage of the freedom of creativity that AI provides.

Generative AI is driven using LLMs, or large-language models. It learns by combining the prompts and queries you enter with the information available from many sources, including the web. Generative AI can create base code with a simple prompt, but it still needs an engineer or programmer to check that code, understand what needs to be modified, and then apply it to the right context and use in a program. AI frees the programmer from debugging and instead allows for a focus on creativity. It lets us reinvent a better wheel—a wheel that more people can access and benefit from.

With that in mind, consider the benefits of learning how to code in our increasingly technological world. Instead of having to go through hours of courses to learn base code, we are free to be creative, to think critically, and to problem-solve. With easier access to generating starting code, our children face lower barriers in learning how to use code to solve the problems of today and tomorrow. They can more freely collaborate, communicate, and create. The power of learning how to code is in the intangible skills of breaking down a problem piece by piece and approaching it in different ways to find a solution. Coding is one of the best mediums to combine problem-solving and technology.

For example, take the case where you need to use generative AI to draft an email. You wouldn’t simply copy and paste what your prompt yields; you would read through it, evaluate the word choice and tone, and then make edits to ensure accuracy. You would integrate your personal voice and reformat the AI’s results for consistency and style. AI provides the starting point, but you are ultimately responsible for the final product. You use your critical thinking skills and creativity to apply the generated results in the way you want and need.

Teaching our children how to code ensures that they can focus on their best work by being creative, modifying, and problem-solving. They won’t have to spend hours starting from scratch repeatedly or redoing work that’s already been done.

Coding jobs will evolve as AI improves

This also leads to the idea that not all coding jobs will be eliminated, they will just evolve. Programming positions today require an intensive number of hours to learn and master the coding languages that a specific job requires (i.e. Python, C#, etc.). This requirement for highly specialized knowledge to be qualified for a job will go away as AI continues to improve. It will continue to be critical to learn how to code in the future, but the knowledge and training a programmer needs will shift to knowing how to leverage tools and AI-built programs, rather than the hundreds of hours needed to master a specific programming language.

While there is a long pathway ahead for a generative AI tool to be 100% accurate and free of errors, there will be a time in the future when AI becomes the everyday tool to support our lives. Also, for every disruptive tool or invention, there are new jobs to improve and maintain such creations. In the programming world, there will always be a need for those who understand the code that drives the technology that we use.

In February, when Google’s AI Gemini was prompted to generate an image of a U.S. senator from the 1800s, the results were incorrect and comical—users reported images ranging from a group of Asian men dressed in Western period attire to Native American women in their traditional garb. Google engineers with the proper programming skills had to fix the logic and data being used by the AI. How many other times have we already seen so-called advanced generative AI tools require fixes or elimination of false statements in the past year alone?

The rise of AI presents unparalleled opportunities to innovate and expand our technological capabilities. By integrating AI into our lives, we free ourselves from the constraints of specialized knowledge, allowing us to focus on creativity and problem-solving. To fully leverage AI’s benefits, we must continue to teach our children the invaluable skills of coding. In doing so, we prepare them to thrive in a future where technology and creativity go hand in hand. Embrace AI and let us inspire the next generation to innovate and create like never before.

Ed Kim is vice president of education and training at Code Ninjas, the world leader in kids’ coding education where students learn to combine creativity and technology in a game-building learning environment to prepare for their future.

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