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Notes to the New Improved 1984

The subjects of the previous blog are complex and warrant further explanation. A friend of mine and I have had a lively discussion on several issues I brought up in that blog.  With his permission, I have decided to publish some of his comments with slight edits.

Let us start from this comment:

"You lumped Internet, Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Apple (FAGMA) into one lot. This is not entirely accurate. These companies have different business models and different degrees of abuse. You also did not include Twitter, Netflix, eBay, and a myriad of companies that probably are more intrusive than, say, Apple or Microsoft."

Here is my reasoning. I have used annual revenues of the FAGMA oligopoly and other companies to compare their relative sizes. FAGMA dominates their respective markets so much so that all other runners up simply do not compare. Twitter is tiny (2018 revenue of $3 billion); and Netflix (2018 revenue of $14 billion) only deals in movies, however bad this might be. eBay probably needs some more consideration, but their revenue was only $10 billion in 2018.

In contrast, Amazon’s revenue was $233 billion, Apple’s $266 billion, Google’s $90 billion, Microsoft's $110 billion, and Facebook’s $14 billion.  The runners' up 2018 revenues were: IBM $76 billion and Oracle $40 billion. Together, FAGMA had $713 billion of revenue in 2018. Twitter, and Ebay are in a different league. Only Facebook was similar to eBay in terms of revenue, but it terms of social harm they are almost infinitely more dangerous.  Comparing eBay with Facebook is like comparing a skin scratch with the virulent pancreatic cancer.

Interestingly, the big box store company, Walmart, had the 2018 revenue of $518 billion, almost as large as FAGMA.  But Walmart depends on China for their low prices and is loaded with physical infrastructure FAGMA seems to abhor.  The companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook have virtual monopolies in their respective domains of operations. Microsoft and Apple in turn virtually monopolize operating systems of personal computers, tablets, etc.

My friend's second comment was a dark insight I simply did not have:

"Truly, these [FAGMA] companies are benevolent in terms of their deal: They take your data and your privacy and give you dopamine. See below for the companies that will take your data even if encrypted and analyze the hell out of view; no dopamine and no cigar. Read on.

What you did not list are companies that you may have never heard of, but they are the ones that collect information about you and steer you to the wolves, such as Chitika, Exponential [their website was blocked by my Chrome filter, TWP], RythmeOne, and PulsePoint, etc. This is where the real stuff is, and very few people know about them or understand what they do.

Did you hear of Cogent, Level 3, Akamai, UUU? Well, these companies carry your packets to their destination. If you are sending unencrypted stuff, they know you and they know what you do. If you try to send encrypted stuff, they will data mine you, machine learn you, and extract every bit of information about your habits."

I had no idea!

My friend continued thus:

"Yes, it is Orwellian, but I think your portrayal may not capture the entire picture. Seeing the evolution of American media since the Gulf War in 1990, I believe that the Department of Truth is really a combination of Reuters, Associated Press, and a few other news networks that are in the business of “making” news instead of reporting them. Then, this is fed to the Internet warriors who will massage the data, bias it, and use to bully or make a point. We live like sheep in a beautiful meadow, surrounded by very smart wolves that have mastered the art of sucking us dry while keeping us alive and happy."

He has a good point!

"Now on to a few more technical points. The 5G technology aspires to increase bandwidth a 1000-fold and reduce power consumption 10-fold compared with 4G. Serious scientific advances will have to be made first.

The major ideas on the table are:

- More towers. This will reduce the distance between the tower and the end devices, which means that the signal does not have to travel as long as in 4G. Since the power consumed is proportional to the square of the distance that you are trying to reach, the hope here is that both the tower and the end device will need much less power than today.
- Innovation at the device level. There are techniques to lower the power consumed by the end device, like attaching processing to main memory instead of moving data around, and reducing leakage current. 
- Advanced signal processing to encode the information in fewer signals [and save 1/2 of power]."

Notice that halving distance between the towers = four times more towers that will be manufactured, deployed and powered.  If the power consumed increases as the square of the distance from the towers and the number of towers increases as the one over the square of the distance between them, this efficiency cancels.  We also have the quadratically growing overhead of the new towers, their power supply systems, and the network of new copper cables that feed them.

My friend continued: "Whether 5G will succeed or not remains to be seen. The Chinese are active and so are the USA/EU. Will 5G increase the total amount of power used? I think so, because half of the people on earth are still without WiFi devices, and then the number of devices per person will multiply (Fitbit, Pad, phone, laptop, [new sensors, TWP] etc.).

5G is not really the enemy that you have. The problem that you will have in terms of power consumption is power-inefficient GPU’s and outdated architectures that must exist for legacy applications. The focus is really not the wattage of 5G, which by definition will never exceed what you are putting already in installed networks, and in fact it will improve. Your problem is with clouds and clouds of servers that are spending considerable wattage to compute all manners of things, from shopping to online games to AI to research to what have you, and where the value/Watt is subject to debate. In other words, an old mainframe consumed watts, but we all agreed that it is a good thing to have this mainframe print the checks of the salaries of employees and the necessary bills to keep the firm going, we did not argue about the value/watt that we were getting. But the new workloads have no clear definition of true utility/cost, unless we agree that dopamine is a good thing to have, and then we need to look at the alternatives for generating it and pick the more efficient type.

This brings me to a point about why this state of affairs has taken hold.

The ideal that we were sold is a house with a car and healthy, well-fed family that does not have financial worries. Some call it the American dream. This dream appears to force humans into a lifetime of servitude where you are always worried: You need to save for a mortgage. Then you need to save for your kids' education. Then you need to save for retirement. It seems like you are an ass (forgive me) that has a carrot attached in front of him but cannot eat it, and you keep walking in life in the dream that one of those days you will finally reach the carrot and eat it. Apparently, we will die before reaching the carrot.

An alternative is coming up with the new generation in the USA. They are tech savvy, connected, but also conscious about the environment and are turning their back on the material quests. Perhaps because they grew up in relative opulence they don’t seem to be keen on following the carrot.

My daughter chose to go live in Cairo, and I just visited her. My materialistic brain was shocked by her lean lifestyle. It was cold, but she said, "I have no heater; I just wear layers of cloth and put several blankets." Her fridge contains just enough to feed herself. She is into the new models of sharing (Uber, Airbnb, etc.).

The lesson I am learning is to rediscover that happiness is about the human relations and connections. Which is something that the material culture of the USA has proactively destroyed worldwide (I was once listening to the radio when a self-proclaimed expert was advising a caller to put her mother in a retirement home and “get on with her life,” something many eastern cultures would consider a crime.) Her stance brought back memories from early childhood, when you would see the family get together on a weekly basis at the house of my grandmother, and people ate, mingled and laughed. They were not rich but they looked happy. The only technology allowed back then was either a transistor radio (portable radio) or a TV.

Finally, we have religion. It is used to control the masses and promise them an even bigger carrot in a mythical place where they can live forever. Religion is dangerous because it dulls the mind from having to worry about the future. After all, since a supernatural, loving being created us, he surely will not destroy the beautiful earth that he created for us. And even if he does, there is a big carrot waiting for the asses after they die. And thus spoke Zarathustra, you have [b]illions of asses chasing their carrots worldwide."


  1. Looks like we will hit a new production record for the Haynesville shortly.

    EIA is estimating MAR2019 Haynesville production* will be 10.26 BCF/d. The all time record was 10.56 BCF/D in AUG2011.

    We've been averaging about 0.18 BCF/d/month increase (in excess of 2 BCF/d/year increase). So by May (June at the latest), we should break the old record.

    If you look at the shape of the repeak, it is almost eerie how similar it looks to the old one. Kind of shows (like US crude) that peaking is not a death sentence. Production can rise again.

    And the H did this production increase with rig count in the 50s and gas prices ~$3. That's a quarter the rigs and half the price incentive from the earlier runup. Given the low rig count, it actually shows it getting easier to make new gas, not harder. That's kind of the opposite of sweet spot running out or at least shows that technology (broadly defined to all practical efforts) has outpaced exhaustion of prime acreage.

    Doing the kind of growth we're doing in the H with a quarter the rig count is the opposite of the Red Queen story. More like the frackers are giving the old lady a spanking.

    *Total withdrawals, wet gas, Haynesville region versus stratum (i.e. includes conventional and shallow gas)

    N.B. There are some other plays like Fayetteville, Barnett that have not had the nice rebound. But you can look to the Bakken (oil or gas) as an example of repeaking after people said it was all washed up also. And that is a pretty old play. Even the Eagle Ford is making a slow comeback. The Niobrara and Anadarko are both at new records and barely hiccuped during the downturn. And of course Appalachia (gas) and Permian (gas and oil) have been powering along strongly for years and are also at records. (click to right side for specific play curves)

    1. OK, dear Besselfunctionlvr, in the context of this blog, the new natural gas from Haynesville et al. might be used to feed more peaking gas-fired power stations so that people can watch even more porn in ever-higher resolution and store even more junk on the cloud, on top of them dumping their physical junk in the air-conditioned storage places.

      Then the gas will run out.

      Watching porn accounts for some 15 to 70% of all web traffic. Here are some stunning statistics:

      The US is already #1 in porn voyeurism, accounting for 40% of the global traffic, but with the new electric power from gas, we can strive to increase our porn advantage.

      I hope that you get my point. Now is not the time to boast about more gas or more of anything else, but to think hard how to use less of everything, and eliminate much of the self-destructive US culture of drugs, porn, and mega churches. More consumption of stuff apparently does not translate into happier consumers. Otherwise, why do we use ¼ of global drugs with less than 5% of population?

      Can you, please, write about something else than about *more* (of gas and oil)?

      Here are a few facts about illicit drug use in the US

  2. Not interested in the woe is me tech/morals discussion. Just want to talk oil and gas.

    But it's your dojo so I will (try) to stop commenting.

  3. Please continue to comment, but ask yourself this question:

    Why do we need *more* gas and oil today? Could it be that producing *less* for *longer* and achieving a *higher* ultimate recovery might actually be better?

    The UK went through this experiment under the good old Margaret Thatcher. They produced and exported lots of gas when it was worth nothing, and then petered out and started importing gas at $10/mcf.

    So why must we proceed like lunatics in the Permian? Would it be that the speculators with too much cash on their dirty hands are forcing this zombie-like sprint? We probably talk to the same people in Texas, so ask them. I have talked with my friends in Midland. No one can accuse them of being social progressives, but some are quite disgusted.

    By the way, I am just working on our definitive paper on the Bakken. We will publish it soon and I will let you know. Let me put it this way, our detailed conclusions will differ from the statistical analyses of the EIA.

  4. It's important to differentiate between what one wants to happen versus what one estimates will happen. In other words, not to let hopes affect forecasts.

  5. I am not sure that I understand you comment.

    For example, a thorough analysis of 14,600 wells, well-by-well, that includes physical mechanisms of production and refracturing is hope? And an approximate, fragmentary, and wishful in terms of future drilling, statistical analysis is a forecast?

    Or, we hope that America will be become sane, but we forecast the opposite?

    Or, we hope that sober people with professional backgrounds would be making strategic decisions about the O&G industry, but we forecast that speculators drunk on their money and destruction they bring about will continue to call shots?

    Which one is it? Or are you avoiding answering the really important questions?


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