For decades, the Sherpas addressed their mountaineering employers as “sahibs,” which means “master,” a word dating from the British Empire. They stopped using this word in the 1970s, as part of a movement to attain greater respect from their employers; but anthropologist Sherry Ortner, who studied the Sherpas, decided to keep using the term “sahib” to mark the enduring ethnic and class distinction between Sherpas and their employers. As she writes, the word “sahib”

places the sahibs in the same frame as the Sherpas, a single category of people being subjected to ethnographic scrutiny. And… though I do not accept the implication of superiority embodied in the term (which is of course why the Sherpas stopped using it), I do not think it is possible to avoid the (ongoing) fact of sahibs’ power over the Sherpas on expeditions; my continuing, somewhat ironic, use of the term signals this continuing fact.

The sharing economy needs just such a term, to place those who benefit from the cheap affective labor of the sherpas “in the same frame” and subjected to the same scrutiny as the sharing sherpas themselves. Recognizing the two classes of the sharing economy—sherpas and sahibs—means recognizing the built-in inequality, the continuing complicity of consumers in the exploitation of precarious workers, that is the real engine of the so-called “sharing economy.”

Anthony Kalamar, “Share Like a Sherpa: Class Inequality in the ‘Sharing’ Economy”