As The Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Annual Conference approaches I’m always reminded of the irony that is our industry.

While walking through the show floor or heading towards the press room two things become evident. First, every other person you see is on a cell phone, blackberry, or laptop. Whether it’s communicating with someone else, checking flights, solidifying plans for later in the evening something is on a piece of technology that needs to be handled at that moment.

And why not? Advancements in technology have made it incredibly simple to do just about anything. Let’s face it, there will be at least 10 attendees at SPE in New Orleans, La., who will use Twitter or Facebook in real time to say they just saw “So and So” at the conference or to update everyone that at 5 p.m. they’re going to go to Bourbon Street. In the new millennium, life is about adopting the latest new gadgets.

I remember when music came on record albums that spun on a record player with a very sensitive needle. My dad had to stress over and over the importance of being gentle with the player because the needle would scratch the record. AND if the record was scratched one would hear a phrase over and over and over and over... that was barely 20 years ago! Nowadays CDs are almost obsolete. Why record a whole CD when you can buy the one song you like on the Internet?

But that’s modern day society. We’ll go spend US $500+ on a game system without concern for the bugs it may have. Hence the term “recalls.”

With this kind of technological drive you would think people in our industry would jump at the chance to adopt the latest technology all on display at SPE. Amazingly enough the urge to get the latest and greatest out there is not as big when it comes to the E&P industry. That’s the second thing that is obvious at the conference.

Companies will wait for several case studies and statistics before adopting a new technology that will help them in the long run, losing millions of dollars in the process while waiting on proof. The fact that several men and women have put their knowledge, money, and life on the line to get this technology out there to make things better in the oilpatch isn’t enough.

They’ll take chances on buying a $500 Wii system for their 4-year old who may end up breaking the system than have faith in someone who’s been developing a technology for years and years before making it commercial.

Where does the instinct and drive go? Now, I’m not saying to spend unwisely. Research must be done. One should never cross the street without looking both ways or hit the gas the moment a light turns green in case someone runs the red light. But how often do we see a technology that would be revolutionary and useful, wait for more research to be done and keep up with it? More than half of the time the excitement over something new fades quickly and things continue to be done the same as before — without any improvement whatsoever.

So at this year’s SPE take a chance. Go visit the booth of a company you’ve never heard before or a technology you never inquired about before. Who knows what breakthrough you may stumble on that may take your company from record player to MP3 player!