35 years ago, when the author joined the industry, the tools of the trade were coloured pencils, ten point dividers, hand drawn maps and contours, with computers just coming onto the horizon. The fax hadn’t been invented, neither had the CD, the laptop computer or multi-terabyte hard drives. The method of communication was mainly via telephone or telex and the internet didn’t exist in the public domain. Computers were accessed quite remotely via a deck of cards, punched by a typing pool of coders, with most jobs running or failing overnight.

The pace of digital change over the last 35 years has been accelerating at a frightening rate. Faxes have come and nearly gone, so has the CD, and the main frame. It looks like the Desktop and laptop computers are in decline too. What will the next 35 years bring? How will we ensure that the oil and gas industry can continue to keep up with this accelerating pace of change?

This paper offers some thoughts on what might be coming next. More importantly, it offers approaches that might help the industry prepare and embrace the ever increasing pace of digital change, allowing the opportunities it provides to be incorporated in an industry where extraction technology changes relatively slowly and major investments last for decades. The paper discusses approaches to managing digital obsolescence and ‘future proofing’ to help anticipate and adapt to new digital technologies. The next generation coming into the industry will expect it to be operated in a digitally enabled way, otherwise they will go and work elsewhere. The paper proposes that there is no choice but to embrace the oncoming wave of digital experience and intelligence.

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