Startups Are Already Using GPT-4 to Spend Less on Human Coders

GPT-4 "saves a lot of time and a lot of money, obviously, because we haven't had to hire additional resources."
Screenshot from OpenAI Website 

Since GPT-4 was released last week, many users have noticed its advanced coding abilities. GPT-4, OpenAI’s latest version of the large language model that ChatGPT is built on, has been able to code games like Pong and make simple apps after being given prompts written in conversational English. Naturally, this has led to widespread fear from a number of computer science students and software developers who are afraid that their jobs will soon be rendered obsolete by AI


In fact, one of the most trending posts on the subreddit r/ProgrammerHumor, with nearly 40 thousand upvotes, is titled, “Truly the best time to be a cs [computer science] student.” The post displays a meme of Squidward looking worried and awake, with the OpenAI logo behind him, below the caption of “How I sleep as a cs student witnessing the accelerated development of technologies that will 100% replace me in the near future.” 

While AI may well replace a number of junior-level development positions, computer science researchers and developers tell Motherboard that GPT-4 will more likely enhance productivity and become a tool for developers, rather than a total substitute for them. 

David Joyner, the Executive Director of Online Education and Online Master of Computer Science at Georgia Tech, told Motherboard that GPT and similar models are to coding as calculators are to math. 

“I’ve used GPT for a lot of scripting tasks as well as writing tasks since it came out, and in every case, it’s saved me a lot of time, but I still had to apply my own expertise to complete the process,” Joyner said. “Little of my knowledge has been rendered obsolete; it just needs only to be targeted at a narrower slice of the problem.” 

The main effects of ChatGPT on product development, he says, will be an increase in efficiency and will make developing a real working product a lot less expensive. 


Joe Perkins, the founder of a startup that builds tools to help VCs called Landscape, wrote a Tweet that went viral following GPT-4’s release that said “Last night I used GPT-4 to write code for 5 micro services for a new product. A (very good) dev quoted £5k and 2 weeks. GPT-4 delivered the same in 3 hours, for $0.11 Genuinely mind boggling”.  

“Not only did it write the scripts, it also provided step by step instructions of how to set up and run on @Replit,” he added. “I didn’t understand some of the code, so I asked it to add comments to key parts of the code. Easy peasy”.

Perkins, who studied computer science at university, told Motherboard that he is technical enough to understand the code, but not technical enough to program the code efficiently, which is why GPT-4 was extremely helpful for him. He said that he is still working with the developer mentioned in the tweet, but that he told Perkins that GPT-4 helped save him two days of work, which saved Perkins money.

“I think we're probably still quite far off the point where an engineer at Google is going to be having their code written by OpenAI that they're deploying to something being used by billions of people,” Perkins said. “But at the same time, we're an early-stage startup, product scrappiness is quite important. We have limited resources. So the ability for me to just drop into GPT-4, pick up some of these tickets, pretty much get them all the way there to the point where I hand them off to the developer to integrate, saves a lot of time and a lot of money, obviously, because we haven't had to hire additional resources.” 


Perkins believes that GPT-4 is “going to be unbelievable for education,” as it helps write, test, and explain the code to users, allowing people with limited technical knowledge to learn and explore code easily. 

“Where I am most excited about GPT is its ability to provide individualized tutoring for these types of topics,” Joyner said. “It is true that some students might put the question in intending to just pull the answer out and use it as-is, but my hope is that far more students will see it as the resource it is to have the answer explained. We could see a golden age of informal, self-guided learning built on these technologies.”

Although coding was already more democratized than many other professions due to the ease with which people could teach themselves using online tutorials, Joyner explained, GPT-4 will help make it more accessible. 

Perkins explained that his friend who has no technical background but works with coders was able to make a chrome extension in 15 minutes that allowed users to translate highlighted text on a webpage into any language. 

“I spoke to him last night and he said, ‘I've got so many things I want to build now. I've always wanted to build, but never been able to pay a developer or never been able to take the time to learn to code myself,’” Perkins said. “Without a shadow of a doubt, it democratizes coding massively.” 

Amjad Masad, the CEO of Replit, an online platform for collaborative coding, told Motherboard previously that AI-powered coding is going to transform the skill, making it much easier to learn and sparking exponential growth in productivity. Like Perkins and Joyner, Masad sees GPT models serving as a tool for people who already have knowledge of coding. 

Ultimately, AI, as it is now, will not be replacing all software developers. But besides the effects it will have on how in-demand coders are or how much their services cost, it will have a considerable impact on the number of products being developed, the accessibility of software development. It will also push people to develop their skills in engaging with AI, including learning prompt engineering, which is how to efficiently use largely language models. 

“When we talk about Midjourney replacing painters or GPT-4 replacing novelists, we operate under an assumption that the goal of these endeavors is the product itself. But humans do not solely paint and write and compose because of what they can do with what they create; they do so because the art of creation itself is personally fulfilling,” Joyner said. “It is likely true that AI can be taught to do any human skill as well as or better than humans do, but replacing the product does not replace the sense of fulfillment that comes with the process.” 

“The principles underlying GPT and other AI technologies are public knowledge. This is why I feel that software engineering will be among the last skills to be broadly replaced by AI, even given its unique aptitude with coding; the skills themselves are what allow new individuals or organizations to enter and stake an independent claim in increasingly AI-dominated fields,” Joyner added.