Cartoon of an anxious worker with a stress cloud over his head as he clutches his face in his hands.
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Pluralsight study: Don’t let ‘AI anxiety’ thwart developers’ productivity

18 Oct 2023

AI anxiety is particularly prevalent among developers working on high-conflict teams, as well as among minorities, said Pluralsight.

According to new research published today (18 October) by Pluralsight, a significant number of software developers want to upskill in AI but face barriers. The US company, which provides online education courses and resources for tech teams, carried out a survey of more than 3,000 people who work in IT. Its aim was to find out how developers are coping with AI and its influence on coding.

Of those respondents, 74pc said they planned to upskill in AI-assisted coding, but socioeconomic factors were hindering some – particularly developers from minority backgrounds. Women and LGBTQ+ developers reported a significantly lower intent to upskill, while people from racial minorities reported a significantly higher intent to upskill. It should be noted that an overwhelming majority of survey respondents identified as heterosexual, white and male. The report recommended that tech industry stakeholders ensure that AI-assisted coding is easily accessible for everyone no matter their background in order to prevent skills gaps.

The study found that equal access to things like AI upskilling programmes and learning resources meant developers felt more positive in their jobs. They functioned better in teams and felt more productive. Teams that discussed AI and its pros and cons in a transparent way were also more likely to thrive and less likely to experience ‘AI anxiety’.

Just under half of those surveyed (45pc) said they experienced anxiety about AI. This anxiety included the fear that human developers might become obsolete due to tech advances. This trepidation around AI was more prevalent in teams that had higher levels of conflict or cultures where talent must be proven through aggressive competition. Therefore, companies that frame upskilling as a positive thing rather than a pressure or a chore are more likely to encourage staff to feel better about their own capacity to adapt to an evolving development landscape.

“AI is quickly entrenching itself in software development, revolutionising the way code is written and software is built,” said Dr Cat Hicks, VP of research insights at Pluralsight. “However, the human needs of developers matter profoundly in how this new technology is adopted and whether its implementation is successful. While there is marked uncertainty and anxiety among developers, our research underscores that core skills of lifelong learning and collaboration remain central to building software, and the future of AI-assisted coding relies on prioritising a human-first approach.”

To help companies upskill their teams, Pluralsight has released a generative AI toolkit for developers to “seize on this tidal wave of change” and tackle any fears staff may have about using AI-assisted tools for coding head on.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea worked as a Careers reporter until 2024, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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