A thought on jobs versus work in the oil patch

A thought on jobs versus work in the oil patch

Recently a LinkedIn colleague, let’s call him ‘Sloaner’, while expressing gratitude for birthday wishes, commented ‘now if I could only get a job’.

Many good and decent men in the oil & gas industry echo Sloaner’s sentiments. Men who wear the badge of honor ‘once a roughneck always a roughneck’ cannot find a job for love nor money in the patch.

Players in the energy industry who look out 10, 20 and 30 years from now realize that, while oil & gas will recover somewhat in the medium term, there will never again be jobs a plenty in patch. Exponential growth in technologies, particularly AI, robotics and alternative energies will ensure that.

As an example: the price performance of solar power and battery storage at scale continues to drop exponentially as depicted in this chart compiled by esteemed author, speaker and futurist Ramez Naam.


Saudi Arabian officials have gone on record with the understanding that in the not distant future, there will be a lot oil left in the ground and only a niche market (I.e. petrochemicals, derivatives, collector cars and Harleys) interested in it. In that context, their current policy of produce and sell all that they can, no matter what the price, makes some sense.

Robotics and AI are capturing the attention of the public square of the crowd for fear of losing jobs. Jobs will be lost, many jobs will be lost and that, while painful in the near term, is the good news.

Jobs are being replaced by work. Let’s look out just 10 years to ~2025. The chart above paints a bleak picture for oil being competitive, it gets worse fast as energy becomes less and less scarce.

Throughout recorded history, humanity’s economic model has been based around scarcity. Exponential growth in technology is changing that paradigm from scarcity to abundance.

Amongst many other technologies, hydroponics, aquaponics, vertical agriculture, solar energy, H2O recycling and 3d printing are all contributing to bringing abundance to what was once scarce. Just 8 years ago, the first iPhone sold for $600, now a smartphone can be purchased (without a plan) for $75. In 2025, if still around, a smartphone will be free to all.

This same exponential model applies to agricultural technology and energy going forward.

More visible, touchable and (feelable) change is coming to humanity in the next decade than has occurred in the last 4 decades at least. Disruption will be the norm however exponential growth in abundance will mean that more and more people will no longer will have use for a job. People will increasingly be able to work at the pursuit of their passions.

Work could look like: ‘Earthquake in Nepal, let’s grab some people and stuff and go help out. While there, may as well slip on the exoskeleton and climb to the top of Everest’, or…..

It will be a very different world in 2025. Jobs will still be around, maybe flipping burgers alongside a robot. Most of humanity will be pursuing their passions, sometimes known as work but not known as a job. Sometimes remunerated, sometimes not.

Increasingly, and by 2025 very noticeably, the pursuit of personal wealth will become so last century, the pursuit communal wealth will be far more enriching and rewarding. ~8 billion people connected and sharing in humanity’s knowledge, innovation and increasing abundance in 2025 means that there will be lots of work out there for anyone wants it. By then, jobs will no longer be an efficient way to put milk and bread on the table.

This new paradigm is already taking shape. Corporations, institutions, foundations and think tanks have begun looking for people interested in work, interesting challenging work, who are disinterested in a job but very interested in doing something meaningful for humanity using the exponential technology toolbox.

People are being offered an early look at the abundance of the future while doing some good to ensure that future is all that it can be for everyone.  ‘With family and loved ones are taken care of with modest comfort and dignity and in case of emergency, go out there, freelance, hook up with like-minded people and figure out how to create more abundance and communal wealth’.

Forward looking corporations thinking in these terms include oil & gas companies. Others are having to re-evaluate their 10, 20 and 30 year projections. Linear projections of the future are mostly wrong and fatal, exponential projections are the tools for survival in today’s business world and exponential technologies the toolbox for success.

Sloaner, dude. You will eventually find a job. Or you could take a real good hard look 10 years out, find that something that interests the hell out of you and then work your way back to today leaving a bit of a path to follow. With that kind of perspective, odds are that clarity and purpose will come when looking back out from 2015 for work.

A really good resource for helping in taking that longer view http://www.rameznaam.com.

Anyhow, just a thought from a seasoned roughneck.


A really good resource for help in taking that longer view:- www.rameznaam.com

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