Replit CEO Amjad Masad on Future of Coding and Taste in AI

Founders' Corner

Replit CEO Amjad Masad on the Future of Coding and Why ‘Taste’ Matters in AI

Last month, we invited Replit CEO and co-founder Amjad Masad to speak with fellow Reach founders about the company-building journey and the AI landscape.

Our Part 1 recap of that conversation looked at how Amjad helped build the Replit company culture and his thoughts on what competitive advantages may look like in an AI-driven world. This Part 2 explores his take on how AI will shape the future of education and programming.

On the importance and power of learning to code

Amjad: Coding is going to be super important. Two or three years ago, learning a bit of coding wasn’t enough to make something useful. But now, learning just a little bit of coding — the basic syntax, and then learning how to use ChatGPT or Ghostwriter — that’s enough to build an MVP. The return on investment for learning a bit of code is really big, and that is drawing a lot of people into coding who otherwise wouldn’t be doing so.

A lot of people who previously would have needed a technical co-founder to start a company, who are product managers and designers for instance, are now capable of building the MVP themselves, and going out to raise a round.

On how the coding profession will change

For advanced programmers, over the next two years, we’re going to see the emergence of coding agents. The idea is to be able to use an IDE such as Replit, and command not just one or two, but maybe 10, 20, 100 agents to do certain tasks and features for you. There are some now that are not that good, but they’re on their way. In a year or two, I think we’re going to get into 2X, 3X and eventually 10X productivity improvements for engineering teams.

Your function then may focus more on reviewing and merging code. You may decide how much compute power and agents to devote to specific tasks. You’ll become more high-level as an engineer, thinking more about the big picture, almost like what an engineering manager would do. In other words, every engineer would be somewhat of an engineering manager.

In this world, being able to think systematically is going to be super important. One of the distinctions between senior engineers and junior engineers is that junior engineers are very task oriented, whereas senior engineers are thinking about the map of the different tasks needed to accomplish a goal. Being able to break down a big problem or feature into small components will be a lot more important, and thinking more about the architecture involved in solving big problems.

This is something that may come intuitively for good teachers, as a large part of their job involves mapping out different dependencies of skills and learning capabilities and guiding their students along.

On the role of human teachers as AI tutors get better

Will AI teachers replace humans? This isn’t so much a technology question as it is about human nature. There are a lot of things that are already automated that people go to humans for. Take coffee, for instance. There are all these coffee shops with hipster baristas in places like Brooklyn, and that’s like a fun experience right? But there’s also plenty of coffee made entirely by little robots that I think are just as good.

People are social creatures and generally interested in other people. My son has some teachers that he likes better than others, and I don’t think human teachers will ever go away. Now, perhaps the utility of people teaching might decrease, and there may be instances where the rational decision is to always use AI as the teacher. But I don’t think people always make rational decisions in this regard.

On the importance of taste and user design

User experiences and design will be super important in this age of AI. One of the things that made Midjourney better than other AI image generators like DALL-E is that its founder (David Holz) applied his own taste. Midjourney always looked fantasy-like, perhaps a little weird, but different than the others that looked robotic. Midjourney was really about taste.

I think taste is going to be super important in this age of AI. Because, as a developer, you’re not just a programmer, you’re also creating a character. If you know how to create good experiences with some soul and style, you will have a leg up over a lot of the competition.