The launch of ChatGPT, Bard, and other AI tools has taken over social feeds and bylines. It’s got a lot of people wondering how our lives will change when the potentially revolutionary technology develops. We’re seeing the prediction that AI will replace human jobs entirely. But hey, at least it can help you write your resume to find another one, right?

There’s a feeling that our backs are against the wall. The technology is impressive for sure, but can AI really replace human jobs? The crystal ball isn’t crystal clear.If we’re going to look at what technology looks like in the future, we should look at its past as well.

In the early 1900s during the Industrial Revolution in France, machines were introduced into factories that were driven by human labor which proved to be a thorn in their side. For fear of being replaced, workers in French factories began taking off their wooden shoes and throwing them in the machines to stop them from working. They did this because they believed if they could disrupt the machines they could keep the work that they were doing. They resented the fact that machines were taking away their jobs and forcing them to find work elsewhere. This is the origin of the term sabotage. In French, the word sabot means wooden shoe. And while their efforts to disrupt the machines and reclaim their work, never took hold, the term lived on to signify their protest.

With AI we can’t fly off the handle and jam up the machines with our footwear. Even if we could the technology would advance beyond our ability to stop its progress. AI is going to change things. It may make certain actions humans take easier. It might change job descriptions. It might even eliminate positions. But it won’t stop the need for human contribution with a push of a button.

Media theorist Marshall McLuhan famously said that technology extends our senses. "The wheel extends our feet, the phone extends our voice, television extends our eyes and ears, the computer extends our brain, and electronic media, in general, extend our central nervous system." It aids us in reaching new levels if we use it to uncover innovation. It allows us to see things we’ve never been able to see before and do things we didn’t conceive of before its existence.

The way to ensure that your job doesn’t become irrelevant isn’t to disrupt the machine. It’s to switch up the channel and take advantage of the new opportunities it affords us. It’s an opportunity to extend our senses to new areas. The innovators always come out on top.The French workers eventually stopped throwing their wooden shoes into the machines and found other ways to contribute. It forced them to look at their processes and innovate. It eventually created new responsibilities and new ways to make a living.

Maybe they stopped to consider the wooden shoes they used to stop the machines and decided to start making sneakers.


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