Sabots are heavy clog-like shoes -- sometimes made of wood -- and their name is the etymological root of the word "sabotage,"which originally meant "to walk noisily." (Unsurprising, because wooden shoes would be the opposite of stealthy.)
From the early 20th century, the meaning of the word gradually shifted to mean the "malicious damaging or destruction of an employer's property by workers," and thus was born the definition of sabotage as we know it now. An urban legend that apparently sprang up in tandem with the rise of the word's use is the story that "sabotage" came from angry peasant workers throwing their clogs into the gears of the Industrial Age machinery that was supplanting them,thus sabotaging it.
The sabotage origin story is a myth but the concern is real: when technology changes how jobs are done, people lose their old jobs. And that concern has been especially acute around ChatGPT, helped along by an abundance of articles detailing which jobs are most at risk, and companies like IBM announcing their plans to pause hiring for 7800 jobs as they assess how human-driven roles can be changed into AI-driven workflows. As McKinsey Consulting wrote in its report "Jobs lost, jobs gained: Workforce transitions in a time of automation":
As many as 375 million workers—or roughly 14 percent of the global workforce—may need to switch occupational categories as digitization, automation, and advances in artificial intelligence disrupt the world of work.
How big is that challenge? In terms of magnitude, it’s akin to coping with the large-scale shift from agricultural work to manufacturing that occurred in the early 20th century in North America and Europe, and more recently in China.
The question for workplace strategists, especially those who own workforce management is clear: How do you prevent your workforce from throwing their clogs in the ChatGPT gears, figuratively speaking?
The answer for workplace strategists may be simple. Focus on the jobs ChatGPT will be creating. The freelancing platform provider Upwork recently released a study it conducted among 1400 business leaders and among the findings, it reported:
Companies will hire more as a result of the rise of generative AI, with 49% of business leaders saying they will hire more freelancers and 49% saying they will hire more full-time employees. 64% of C-suite respondents say they will hire more professionals of all types due to generative AI, the strongest level of agreement among those surveyed.
The survey doesn't detail what kinds of jobs these will be or what skills will be required. But the results could be taken as an indication that perhaps ChatGPT will be like the Industrial Revolution in how it creates whole new categories of jobs.
This raises a longer-term question for workplace strategies: How do you prepare the workforce you have now for what is coming in terms of job opportunities? Can some of that hiring be internal, with re-skilling? With a little foresight and some human consideration, there may be no need for malicious mischief among the workforce as another technological change transforms the way we labor daily.