by Dr. Clare Maher
iEnergy® Editor in Chief, Halliburton Landmark
A THREAT IN DISGUISE OR AN OPPORTUNITY?
Machine learning is a discipline of artificial intelligence (AI), a topic that can provoke a very emotive response. This response has its roots embedded in the fear that someday we will lose control. Granted, it is an extreme viewpoint, and most people would not take such a strong stance on the subject. However, even amongst those who hold a more reserved point of view, there is a sense of uncertainty and unease regarding AI.
So, why does the prospect of developing and leveraging AI evoke such feelings? From an evolutionary standpoint, to be in control of our environment equates to a greater chance of survival. AI has the capability to make decisions on our behalf and, in doing so, challenges our sense of control, triggering a sense of fear. Fear typically manifests itself in reluctance and denial. It also has a tendency to distort the overall picture, and we become blinkered to the potential opportunities that exist. It is, therefore, not surprising that some people react to AI in the way that they do.
The irony is that AI has been a part of our daily lives for years. It already plays an important role in medicine, speech and image recognition, driving, etc. The exploration and production (E&P) industry has also been using machine learning for decades. The challenge is how the industry can leverage such techniques to take on today’s challenges.
EMBRACING ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN THE E&P INDUSTRY
Machine learning offers a world of opportunities for the upstream oil and gas industry, by enabling the automation of highly repetitive and menial tasks. Provided there is sufficient data to train the ‘machines,’ they can match, if not outperform, humans in some tasks. Any gaps that exist between the performance of humans and machines are closing rapidly.
Skeptics are quick to point out that AI could displace humans in the workplace. Optimists, on the other hand, champion the view that rather than replacing humans, AI will work alongside us. Freeing humans to concentrate on high-value decision making would result in more efficient and effective operations, a higher level of accuracy, more informed decisions and, ultimately, reduced costs.
A recent webinar, “Machine Learning – Impact in Upstream Oil & Gas for Advancements in Workflow Automation,” by Welton Souza (Regional Technical Sales Consultant), outlined the foundations of machine learning and the advantages of its use in the E&P industry. Some industry initiatives were discussed as examples of how this technology can be applied across a range of disciplines, and the benefits of doing so. The webinar serves as a great introduction to machine learning and its practical application to address today's E&P challenges. It is available to watch on-demand today.
While relinquishing control is an intimidating prospect, if done well, the time and cost savings associated with leveraging AI could be significant. Far from removing humans from the workplace, it is an opportunity to improve the level of staff engagement in a more meaningful way. This can be achieved by delegating the time-consuming and menial tasks to our AI “colleagues”. Instead of being blinded by fear, we need to embrace the possibilities that AI affords us—now and in the future.