Startup Opinion

Developing without coding: Our robot chickens are coming home to roost

Joan Westenberg /

Joan Westenberg

Joan Westenberg. Source: Supplied.

No-code builders and drag and drop development tools are becoming more and more popular.

They’re powerful, they’re accessible and they are a glimpse at the future. They’re the MVP – a simple idea for a platform which can build platforms.

The limitless possibilities to remove friction and auto-generate paradigm shifts are thrilling to say the least, and I can see the appeal. Democratising technology is a good thing, and it piques my creative curiosity.

Code that can code itself is the kind of evolution that feels inevitable, and it almost feels like karma.

The movement to completely erase humans, a movement crafted by ourselves, with full cognisance of the wider societal impact and implications of our work, and a massive disconnect where we fail to see the personal destruction we bring on ourselves.

How many of us in tech have been perfectly willing to use technology to cut the legs out from under everyone’s chair?

We did it to musicians with Spotify and with Napster and with a hundred other platforms that devalued their work, destroyed their livelihoods and laughed at the concept of scarcity. We did it to chefs. We did it to writers. We did it to filmmakers. We did it to babysitters.

We even did it to dog walkers.

We’ve taken every opportunity to remove human points of contact, remove human autonomy and insert enough technology between the organic matter to make it scalable.

And we’ve done it with so little thought for the lives and work we’ve damaged.

How many developers and engineers have lost sleep over the end of the album release?

How many lose sleep over the poor valuation of a life’s work, if that work is just words on a page?

While I live and breathe tech, perhaps more than many people, I can’t help but feel a sense of loss. We’ve created a desert, and called it scalable. One day, we’ll do the same to ourselves.

There are no jobs which aren’t replaceable. There are no jobs out of the reach of technology. There are no jobs that we can’t apply code to and make obsolete, but whether it’s through hubris or willful ignorance, technologists ourselves don’t seem concerned about our own jobs and livelihoods.

We talk about rockstar developers, and visionary entrepreneurs, as though we are beyond the reproach of syntax, but in truth, we are only laying the groundwork for the great leap forward, where our own contributions won’t matter.

I don’t think we can turn the clock back. What we’ve done to everyone else, it’s unavoidable that we’ll do to ourselves.

My only suggestion is that we take the opportunity to consider what comes next for all of us. When our great vision of the future is complete, and none of us are needed, what kind of world do we want to put down our tools and live in?

It’s going to be too late to build it if we wait until we’re living it.

There are arguments for a universal basic income that could replace the need to work when we’ve replaced the opportunity for it.

These are arguments that tech should be examining and helping to weigh. I think they make sense, and I hope others do too. If you don’t value the concept, there has to be something else instead, and I encourage all of us to look for it.

Technology’s chickens are coming home to roost, and we need to be ready.

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Joan Westenberg

With a thriving global audience, Joan writes about startup entrepreneurship, transgender activism and innovation. She is a mentor for Microsoft for Startups and the number one Medium blogger in the Asia Pacific Area, with an audience of 120,000.

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