Will Telecommunicators Be Replaced by Machines?

Estimated reading time: 5 minute(s)

By: Paul Guest

The pace of adoption of Next Generation 9-1-1 technology is speeding up. In fact, there are organizations dedicated to increasing the pace of adoption, such as the NG911 NOW Coalition. The NG911 NOW’s mission is to promote an accelerated implementation of NG911 throughout the United States, with a goal to have voice, video, text and data for 9-1-1 available nationwide by the end of 2020.

2020 is also the year robots will presumably replace over five million jobs.

The media continuously reports on the impact of the digital world and the World Economic Forum predicts a “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” characterized by unprecedented “developments in genetics, artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing, and biotechnology.”

So does that mean that Ms. or Mr. Roboto will soon be donning a headset and taking 9-1-1 calls?

The answer is no.

Leading computer scientists working in artificial intelligence, robotics and other digital fields all agree that machines excel at frequent, high volume tasks. They also agree that humans generally excel in dealing with novel situations much better than machines. Every 9-1-1 call is novel and unique. So while technology will certainly reshape jobs in the future, the very nature of handling emergency calls will require the human touch far into the foreseeable future.

I’m hopeful the adoption of new technology will ease the burden on our unsung heroes, versus add to it. I’m also hopeful that OMB and Congress rethink their decision and reclassify Telecommunicator as a “Protective Service Occupation.” It’s the logical, and human thing to do.

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