Saturday, March 25, 2023

Is manual testing going to become more important when code is written by AI?

It's part concern over the future of my industry, part curiosity, and part interest in better software testing.

An art-nouveau image of a woman
AI generated this image based on the prompt "software testing"

As the image above shows, it's probably not the time to start panicking about AI taking over and making everyone redundant, but it is something to be thinking about.

If (and it might be a big "if") AI is going to be good at customer support and writing code, it seems there's still a big gap for humans in the software support, maintenance, and improvement process.

In that most software development involves spending time modifying existing code rather than writing it from scratch, I doubt you'll argue with me that adding features and fixing bugs is a major part of what a software developer does.

This still leaves a very important aspect that requires human knowledge of the problem space and code.

Won't we, at least for a long time, still need people to:

  • Understand how the reported issue translates into a modification to code.
  • Convert business requirements to something that can be turned into code.
  • Verify that the code proposed (or directly modified) by AI is correct and does what it should?

Having AI change code because of a possible exception is quite straight-forward.  Explaining a logic change in relation to existing code could be very hard without an understanding of the code.

And, of course, we don't want AI modifying code and also verifying that it has done so correctly because it can't do this reliably.

There's also a lot of code that isn't covered by automated tests and/or must be tested by humans/hand.

Testing code seems like a job that won't be threatened by AI any more than other software development-related jobs. It's another tool that testers can use. Sadly I know a lot of testers rely heavily on manual testing, and so will be less inclined to use this tool when they aren't using any of the others already available to them.


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