Should I Use AI if Learning to Code?

If you’re learning to code in 2023, you probably wonder, “Should I be using AI tools like ChatGPT and Copilot?”

I say yes and no.

TLDR: Learn web fundamentals and how to leverage AI to increase productivity.

Yes, because…

Clearly, some amount of “AI” will exist in every developer tool from now on. Every job you apply for will expect you to use AI assistance. They’ll happily pay the $10 a month to increase your output. Understanding how to use those AI tools effectively will make you a more impactful developer.

AI tools can also be great as a learning resource. If a blog post explains something poorly, you can’t ask the article to rephrase it. On the other hand, you can keep asking ChatGPT until you get it. If you find a bit of code you don’t understand, ChatGPT can break it down for you line by line. It makes for an excellent assistant.

No, because…

You should still learn and become proficient in the fundamentals. You’ll be severely hindered if you always need to ask AI for the next line of code. Suppose you don’t understand the fundamentals of languages and frameworks. You’ll really struggle when you’re tossed into a large legacy codebase.

Many experts say that Large Language Models like ChatGPT and Bard will always hallucinate somewhat. That means there will always be some percentage of responses that are just plain wrong. This is especially true with code, where the syntax isn’t as forgiving as with the English language.

Let’s say you ask AI to generate some code for you. You’ll eventually run into trouble if you don’t understand the logic or how to debug the code. Even if the code seems to work, you need to be able to spot flaws and recognize when you’re given an inefficient function.

It’s the same reason we teach kids how to add and multiply, even though calculators have existed for decades. Calculators are a great tool, but you need to understand the underlying concepts.

Yes and no

So if you’re learning how to code in 2023, master the fundamentals of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, but also learn how to create incredible things with the help of LLMs like ChatGPT.