Let’s talk about energy, as though you might need an additional boost to go along with the refueling aspect of the Rule Five Friday totty. The young lady pictured here has no connection to the story and to our knowledge is not connected with the energy industry in any way; her appearance here is purely gratuitous.
But who does have a connection to the energy industry in the U.S. today? Harold Hamm does, and Forbes has his story. Excerpt:
Two Scotches in, with seats on the floor of Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy CHK -2.7% Arena, Harold Hamm is feeling good. And why not? His hometown Thunder is spending the evening whupping the Philadelphia 76ers. Earlier Hamm announced big bonuses for Continental Resources CLR +0.04% employees, courtesy of record oil production. And a judge’s ruling, revealed that morning, in Hamm’s divorce case suggested the energy tycoon would keep the Continental shares he already owned when he married soon-to-be-ex Sue Ann Hamm 26 years ago. With that chunk of stock, encompassing about $16 billion out of his $16.9 billion fortune, Hamm owns 70% of Continental.
As every wildcatter knows, such is life in the oil patch when you’re on a hot streak. And Hamm’s on perhaps the most epic one in domestic energy history, perhaps save for John D. Rockefeller’s. No one, aside from kings, dictators and post-Soviet kleptocrats, personally owns more black gold–Continental has proved reserves of 1 billion barrels, mostly locked underneath North Dakota. Hamm took the company public in 2007–and shares are up 600% since, as the revolution in horizontal drilling has given America a cheap energy booster shot, fueling factories, keeping a lid on gas prices and adding millions of jobs.
Of course, there are many more barrels locked up under public lands, where our supposed employees in the Imperial City refuse to allow drilling. But that’s another story.
Hamm seems a character straight out of an Ayn Rand novel; driven, innovative, passionate about his line of work. He started in the industry at the age of 16, pumping gas in a service station; now he controls more oil than anyone outside of the Middle East. A pioneer of horizontal drilling, he now has realized a net worth of $16.9 billion- and he’s earned every penny of it.
Why is a man like this not held up as a national hero? A man to be admired and emulated? Because he had a single-minded drive to success? Because he succeeded on his own merits, realized the rewards of hard work and enormous risks?
The Forbes article concludes:
Hubris–almost inevitable when you own 70% of a company–is also a concern. America’s richest oil baron has been catching flak recently for what appears to be self-dealing, including a $340 million purchase by Continental of another North Dakota oil company he co-owned and a five-year, $100 million contract Continental signed with a pipeline firm owned by Hamm and his family. (Hamm says both deals passed muster with the board and will boost Continental’s performance.)
But such headaches will prove ephemeral if Hamm wins his bet and delivers on his promise of unlimited oil and gas. Such results would surely make Hamm one of the 20 richest people in the world. And just as surely reshape America in the process.
And he will probably be reviled for greed, instead of admired as a uniquely American success story. Why?
Who is John Galt?
Hamm’s work has the potential to completely reshape the American economy for the better. He has created thousands, maybe tens of thousands of jobs directly and indirectly. He has made energy in the form of everything from gasoline to heating oil more abundant and therefore cheaper. He’s a man worthy of admiration.
Well, it was bound to happen: Florida Man Demands Right to Marry Computer. Excerpt:
Chris Sevier, a man from Florida, believes he should be allowed to wed his Macbook.
Mr Sevier argues that if gays should be allowed to marry, then so should other sexual minorities.
Mr Sevier states he has fallen in love with a pornography laden computer.
This appears to be not a passing holiday romance, but a lifelong commitment.
If gays have the right to “marry their object of sexual desire, even if they lack corresponding sexual parts, then I should have the right to marry my preferred sexual object”, he said.
I’ve made my stance on social issues (including marriage) very plain in the past, and will do so again here: I don’t give a damn what people do, as long as they leave me alone. With that said, I am of the considered opinion – considered again after reading about the nutbar Chris Sevier – that marriage, to avoid becoming a complete farce, should be limited to consenting human adults.
No matter how societal attitudes towards marriage have changed, it is still universally seen as a statement of deep commitment, entered into freely and willingly (at least in Western countries) by consenting, competent adults. It’s not, as Mr. Sevier so fatuously complains, just an attachment “to their object of sexual desire.”
So is it “intolerant” to think that it’s appropriate to keep it within the species?
On the other end of the tolerance spectrum we have our “allies,” the Saudis; in the Kingdom the founder of a “Saudi Liberals” web site has been sentenced to 10 years in jail, a thousand lashes and fined one million riyals. Why? Read for yourself:
His website included articles that were critical of senior religious figures such as Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti, according to Human Rights Watch.
Mind you this is country that does not permit women to vote, drive, or leave their homes without a male relative as an escort. Raif Badawi, the webmaster in question, originally also faced charges of apostasy – a crime that carries the death penalty in the Kingdom.
Civilized people do not conduct the business of state in this manner; but then, civilization has always been in short supply in this part of the world, at least for the last thousand years or so.
Is Skynet Inevitable? Excerpt:
In the latest Spike Jonze movie, Her, an operating system called Samantha evolves into an enchanting, self-directed intelligence with a will of her own. Samantha makes choices that do not harm humanity, though they do leave viewers feeling a bit sadder.
In his terrific new book, Our Final Invention, documentarian James Barrat argues that visions of an essentially benign artificial general intelligence (AGI) like Samantha amount to silly pipe dreams. Barrat believes artificial intelligence is coming, but he thinks it will be more like Skynet.
In the Terminator movies, Skynet is an automated defense system that becomes self-aware, decides that human beings are a danger to it, and seeks to destroy us with nuclear weapons and terminator robots. Barrat doesn’t just think that Skynet is likely. He thinks it’s practically inevitable.
Is it really inevitable?
At present we are in the midst of mankind’s third great cultural revolution. The Agricultural Revolution made it possible for people to produce more than they consumed; it made possible trade, a division of labor, the birth of villages, towns, cities.
Later, the Industrial Revolution gave us mass production, factories, consumer goods; it gave us railroads, automobiles, aircraft, travel, and leisure time. It gave us the first modern standard of living.
Now, we find ourselves in the Information Revolution, and it will be as world-changing as the first two – it already has been, even now, in its infancy. Who is to know what the next hundred years will bring?
Barrat concludes with no grand proposals for regulating or banning the development of artificial intelligence. Rather he offers his book as “a heartfelt invitation to join the most important conversation humanity can have.” His thoughtful case about the dangers of ASI gives even the most cheerful technological optimist much to think about.
Much to think about – but predictions are notoriously hard to make, especially when they’re about the future. AI may prove difficult to produce, and fickle when it’s realized – or it may be as predictable and reliable as the rising sun, and as gentle as the morning rain. We can’t know, and won’t – until it happens.
Vladimir Putin continues to kick up his heels in Eastern Europe, and the United States’ reaction continues to be feckless and ineffectual. First of today’s commentaries on that subject comes from the Wall Street Journal‘s James Taranto: Russian Republican? Excerpt:
“Accusing Russia of failing to live up to its commitments, President Barack Obama warned Moscow on Thursday that the United States has another round of economic sanctions ‘teed up’–even as he acknowledged those penalties may do little to influence Vladimir Putin’s handling of the crisis in Ukraine,” the Associated Press reports from Tokyo.
“Teed up”? What was it that somebody said about Putin playing chess while Obama plays golf?
Obama’s comments in Tokyo call to mind a story in Sunday’s New York Times by Peter Baker, which carried the curious headline “In Cold War Echo, Obama Strategy Writes Off Putin”:
Mr. Obama has concluded that even if there is a resolution to the current standoff over Crimea and eastern Ukraine, he will never have a constructive relationship with Mr. Putin, aides said. As a result, Mr. Obama will spend his final two and a half years in office trying to minimize the disruption Mr. Putin can cause, preserve whatever marginal cooperation can be saved and otherwise ignore the master of the Kremlin in favor of other foreign policy areas where progress remains possible.
Only a short generation ago we thought the Cold War was over. Mr. Putin, who we should bear in mind is a former KGB Colonel, seems determined to either re-ignite that Cold War or to establish a new Russian Empire – either that or a new Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, as Mr. Taranto pithily points out, the laughably inexperienced President Obama continues to play golf while Putin is playing chess – and, if you’ll forgive the mixed metaphor, Putin is playing for all the marbles.
More on that point, this time from Reason.com: Russia Threatens Invasion Unless Ukraine Stops Stopping Separatists. Excerpt:
Russia launched new military exercises along the Ukrainian border as part of yesterday’s threat that Kremlin forces would invade Ukraine if the nation continues its “anti-terrorist operation” against pro-Russian separatists.
Showing that Russia means business, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu today mobilized artillery, tanks, and fighter jets. Without a hint of irony, he justified the move by condemning the Ukrainian government’s action against the insurgents who are suspected of being Russian-backed. “The forces are clearly unequal. If this military machine is not stopped today, it will lead to a large number of dead and wounded.”
Let’s face it – if Ukraine and Russia come to blows, it won’t end well for Ukraine. The Russian Army is only a pale shadow of the WW2 Red Army colossus, but it’s more than enough to roll up the Ukrainian forces like the cheapest of carpets. And aside from some ineffectual sanctions, what will the U.S. and western Europe do?
That’s right. Nothing.
Interesting times, True Believers. Interesting times.