You probably don’t need to learn how to code anymore

ChatGPT has made it much harder to convince friends they should pick up programming

Yakko Majuri

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I recently got a chance to look over a friend’s ChatGPT Plus account and see some of his prompts. I’d used ChatGPT a bit but struggled to get too much value out of it, but people around me kept telling me this revolutionized how they work, write, and learn.

Seeing his prompts gave me a great sense of how people are using the tool, as well as ways in which I could benefit from it. But one thing in particular struck me — I saw the following conversation:

“Give me 15 random numbers”, he said.

ChatGPT replied: “Sure, here you go: 87, 42, 15, 63, 99, 27, 55, 71, 12, 34, 66, 19, 82, 47, 58”

“Without the commas”

“87 42 15 63 99 27 55 71 12 34 66 19 82 47 58”

This was quite the light-bulb moment for me. This was a conversation using the GPT-4 model, which currently has limited usage per account. I’m unsure why 3.5 wasn’t picked in the first place as I’m sure it can do a fine job generating numbers, but it was wild to see the quota used to remove commas from the output.

Time is our most valuable resource, so I do understand getting the bot to remove the commas for you rather than you manually doing it. We can also imagine how much work it would be to do so if you’d asked for a hundred numbers, or a thousand.

But the interesting part to me was that when I see the prompt above, I don’t think manual comma removal using the keyboard and the backspace key. I immediately think: “paste this in the browser’s dev console wrapped in brackets and call .join(" ")”.

It was then that I realized how much I used basic programming skills on a day-to-day to get through tedious tasks a bit more quickly.

Another prompt by my friend included some uppercase text and said “convert this to lowercase”. Here, my mind goes to .toLowerCase(). Again on the dev console. For the random numbers, I’d have done Math.round(Math.random() * 100) in a loop.

And that was my big realization: beyond a lot of other things that ChatGPT and other LLMs (large language…

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Yakko Majuri

Programmer, writer, traveler, hitchhiker, climber, photographer. i.e. lost. (P.S. amateur at most of the above) // memoirsandrambles.substack.com