Robots are everywhere, and they eat old people’s medicine for fuel

Remember back when the Simpsons was funny? If you weren’t around in 1996, then you don’t. Supposing you were, remember the episode where Smithers goes on a gay cruise and Homer takes over as Mr. Burns’ assistant, then he punches Mr. Burns and Burns decides to take care of business for himself? Remember how funny it was to see someone so blinded by their own wealth and status that they had completely missed the world changing around them? He was disconnected and irrelevant, almost incapable of functioning in the modern world. Remember how that wasn’t funny at all because it was totally true and just happened for real?


Doug Morris is the Chairmen and CEO of Universal Music Group, the largest record company in the world. It’s safe to say that he has more than a persuasive voice when it comes to how music is distributed, and how artists are treated. According to an article in December’s WIRED magazine, Morris doesn’t know shit from shinola when it comes to the interborgz, and iPodz, and digical musics and such.

He seems to view the internet and digital distribution as something to be feared with ones eyes averted, much like a 17th century farmer faced with some sort of vengeful hoofed Goat-God. The interview reminds me of Ted Stevens when he told a room full of the most powerful people in the nation that the internet was a series of tubes. At first you’re all, “Awwwww, Grampa doesn’t understand the internet.” Then you’re all, “Holy Shit! “Grampa Tubes” is IN CHARGE of the internet!? OMGWTFINTERNET!?”

Joco had some thoughts about the story from a troubadour’s perspective. He also posted some choice quotes from the article which I will now repost (but you should still go read them on his site and buy some of his songs.)

“There’s no one in the record industry that’s a technologist,” Morris explains. “That’s a misconception writers make all the time, that the record industry missed this. They didn’t. They just didn’t know what to do. It’s like if you were suddenly asked to operate on your dog to remove his kidney. What would you do?”

Personally, I would hire a vet. But to Morris, even that wasn’t an option. “We didn’t know who to hire,” he says, becoming more agitated. “I wouldn’t be able to recognize a good technology person — anyone with a good bullshit story would have gotten past me.”

It’s not really fair to poke fun I suppose. Our kids will laugh when we’re 60 and we don’t know which button turns on the garbage disposal and which one vents plasma from the starboard nacelles.

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  1. I don’t know. I like to believe it’s possible to stay decently up to par with new technology if you try. At the very least, I’d rather delude myself than come to grips with my fear that one day I might be like this guy.

  2. @Jovin
    We’re sort of the first generation that has that opportunity. Even we didnt “grow up” with technology, but it’s been a part of daily life for nearly 15 years for most people 20-40 years old. Our kids are going to be the ones that will never know there was a world without an internet. Im interested to see how I am able to adapt in the future compared my my daughter who is only 8 months old. She wasnt even alive pre-internet. She wasnt alive pre-mp3, HD Video, or iPod for that matter.

  3. It’s freaks me the hell out really to think what I might not understand in time. I’m hoping, much like jovin6, that I won’t let myself become out of touch as I love and thrive on Tech too much to fall behind. I remember how weird it was in HS when we started using computers a lot.

    My 4 year old daughter is already addicted to the DVR, we get asked to skip live commercials all the time, knows how to work my iPhone to watch Manahmana and other bookmarks on you tube, can open IE and navigate the bookmarks to Nick Jr., and then close IE, and open then open Paint to draw. My parents, who are 60 and 58, can hardly even work the channel guide to their Verizon FiOS cable or Yahoo! web mail.

  4. @jeff
    Im hearing this “my 4 year old can program in basic” stuff more and more from friends these days. At first glance its scary (since the internet is a frightening place) but at the same time I think its extremely cool that “growing up geek” will be more of a normal activity than one reserved for nerds in basements.

    I started using Hotmail and AIM on friends’ computers when I was about 14. I didnt own a computer with internet access until I was 18. I can only imagine how things would be if I had the opportunity to start down that path 10 years sooner.

  5. “It’s not really fair to poke fun I suppose. Our kids will laugh with we’re 60 and we don’t know which button turns on the garbage disposal and which one vents plasma from the starbord nacelles.”

    Forgetting your point from the beginning of the article, we still shouldn’t be placed IN CHARGE of those things if we don’t know what they are, or anything about them.

  6. It’s just wierd for indivduals, such as Doug Morris, to be able to not know this stuff… and still be able to be CEO.

    As for me, I started my world on the ‘net since about 1994, when I was 7. I didn’t have email, but when I was 9 I had Yahoo Mail. ^^’ Then it went from there… *tears*

    But, it seems that the youngest people are learning to code. Yes, I’ve heard of 4 year olds coding stuff it seems… insane.

    Maybe they can replace Doug Morris as CEO of Universal?

  7. You’ve already dated yourself in future. Neither the garbage disposal nor control of the starboard nacell plasma would be interfaced by pressing buttons. You will only be required to intend for them to “do what you want” and the little computer interfaced to your brain will send the networked requests and authentication to the right online gadgetry. But surely the garbage disposal will have its own AI and will know when to dispose and will not require your override.

  8. I’m 58 and have had no trouble keeping up with technology. Morris is just plain lazy and stupid; a problem that seems to be endemic to the recording and motion picture industries. When will these bozos realize that file sharing is not and never has been the problem? The only thing the Internet has done is increase speed with which the public can find out that some movie or album is not worth the purchase price. Essentially what they are rallying against is their new inability to dupe the public with crappy products.

  9. It’s good that kids learn this stuff.

    To stay current on it, you kind of have to hang around with people who use it. That means young people, or people your own age who are not technophobic, or who are actively geeks themselves.

    Still, this stuff moves fast and there’s no way to really stay on top of it all. The kids are going to be the first to try whatever it is, because the whole world is new to them and exploring is what makes life fun. I guess if you maintain that attitude, you’ll never really get old.

  10. @Asswipe J.
    Good point. I probably shouldnt be the one flushing the plasma anyway.

    Maybe a koala bear could replace him? Should be a step in the right direction.

    @Dr. Leviathan
    I will be as obsolete as robots that you can’t have sex with. I should just give up now.

    I like to think I will maintain that perspective into old age. You have to stop caring at some point to stop evolving with the world around you. I dont see myself or many from my generation getting that complacent. Here’s hoping.

  11. I was born in 1979, I programmed BASIC on a Commodore Pet when I was 6, maybe not 4, but I think I understand what Mr Morris is saying. He’s being honest; their industry didn’t have any idea what they could do on the internets and they were scared to hire. Honestly, who knew Bill Gates would be a millionaire

    I know plenty of people in the work place who don’t know anything about the technology and yet make decisions regarding it. It truly annoys me but its reality.

    I had a discussion with a co-worker and he mentioned “technology white-noise”. I instantly think Laser Disc or 8 Track, who was to say MP3 had a future (if it still does). My opinion it was a poorly played game of chess in their eyes.

  12. I’m sorry, NO Epic Fail.

    Anyone that is so _willfully_ignorant_ does not deserve to run ANY company for ANY reason.

    I DO run a business and the fact is that you hire people that know what you don’t and pay attention to RESULTS (you know, whether things work or not). If you do manage to hire a fraud, it becomes apparent pretty quickly & you fire them and hire another.

    For that matter there are these people that will do the selection process for you, they are called employment agencies.

  13. The comic is a funny poke at this buffoon. But why the white man comment? If he were black would you mention it? Does being white make you evil? This is part of a growing trend (like those Washington Mutual commercials) of media that takes shots at old white men. Keep it up and maybe in 20 years instead of all getting along we can just turns whites into the new despised minority.

  14. @John
    What we are experiencing now (this tech-renaissance) should take care of this divide between those who understand technology and those who make decisions about it. Your average Joe know how to install printer drivers, and configure Wifi, etc. The gap should become much smaller.

    Hah! Thats perfect. Exactly my point. There is NO defense for this. If you had asked me if a 65 year old CEO had a chance of understanding how Napster worked I would have said, “Hell no.” But I certainly would have expected him to have consultants that could put it in language he could comprehend so he could understand the gravity of the situation. I could have explained it to him and I was 18 at the time. As a business owner you SHOULDNT try and do everything yourself. You should see the big picture and put good people in strategic positions under you. Thanks for bring that up.

    You’re reading a little too much into it. I dont feel bad for making fun of a rich white guy. I looked his myspace and theres this geriatric white guy in an expensive suit hobknobbing with hip hop stars and actors like he’s cool. Thats funny to me. They like him because they get paid and he is somehow responsible. Can they relate on any level at all? Doubtful. I see where you are going with the rich white fat cat stereotype being played out, but some stereotypes are true and ripe for exploitation. Is this country run by wealthy white men? Absolutely. From business to government they are in the overwhelming majority. Not really being defensive, but the idea that my comic was somehow racially motivated or even racially insensitive is far from the truth. Silly comic about silly people. There’s an underlying message that relfects my personal beliefs regarding power and stupidity, not race.

  15. @Norman
    The point you have there is not only were his quotes ridiculously ignorant, they were also false. Of course the music industry has a technology component. Its the people that are responsible for how we HEAR MUSIC. That just further illustrates how completely oblivious this man is with regards to his own job.

  16. @Joel

    Glad you liked it. I just had to make one since I couldn’t find one on the tubes running from Google’s interwebs nets and such.

  17. Go ahead, heap on the scorn! I’m a 69 year old guy who builds his own gaming rigs, subscribes to Maximum PC and (gasp) is pretty damn proficient on the Net. The only thing I find that with years following the industry there are numbers of “new” things I don’t get excited about.

    For a major leader in a tech-immersed industry to know so little about it is pathetic!

  18. Okay, so let’s grant them that they don’t know if they’re buying into Beta vs. VHS. They had the luxury of the Napster kid doing all the hard work for them. Early on, the recording industry had the option of buying him out, and making Napster theirs, thus having the successful technology fall into their laps. Some, but not all of the big record companies wanted to do this.

    Alas, they showed their true colors when they decided not to evolve, choosing the sue your customers business model instead. Someone else did all the innovation, did the market testing, found a successful product, and they said “no thanks.”

  19. Age is no excuse for ignorance, and unwillingness to change. My dad started in an operations room manually moving tapes, now he does programing on the mainframe level. He’s 50. It is just an unwillingness to bring yourself into a new realm, to deal with unfamiliar problems. GET OVER IT.

  20. I just want to say that I really hope that the “chess-playing automaton” bit is a nod to Ambrose Bierce.

    *hopes hopes hopes*

  21. What’s with all of these posts that start and end with […] and just quote the entry itself?

    Is it some kind of spam, or a search engine doing it for caching purposes? Either way, it’s pretty lame. If it’s some kind of caching/searching thing, there needs to be a standard so that (at most) only one of these stupid things is created. Half of the comments are these senseless posts.

    Anyone know what’s up with it?

  22. In terms of the whole ‘hope I don’t get dumb before I get old’ fear people are expressing, I think it’s fair to say anyone with that concern who’s got the wherewithal to find their way to this article and make a comment has nothing to worry about.

    Some people are simply scared of change and/or technology, and personally I’m not one of them. I rent a room out in my house to a guy several years younger than me (I’m in my early forties) and he’s almost literally scared of computers and won’t go near them. Quite a few younger people are scared of computers, in contrast to those programming javascript six seconds after birth. The man’s even a bit leery of the new tumble dryer because it’s got more than one button. I guarantee you there’s a lot of people like that out there, and they’re not all old, including – surprisingly enough – some who like to think of themselves as intellectuals. When I realised this, I realised I personally had nothing to worry about.

  23. @Gex
    I love the notion that Sean Fanning created a perfectly packaged product for the record industry. He was like 2o when he did that. I bet he would have taken ANY sum of money for a complete buy out and not thought twice.

    Give your dad a “waytogo” from me. I have a buddy that works for a MAJOR telecom and he and his Dad program side by side (not really they are in different departments but it sounds better that way). You have to choose obsolescence.

    I hate to ruin your day but I wasnt familiar with Bierce until after reading your comment and his Wiki entry (thanks!). I was thinking more from my childhood when i saw a special on magicians through the ages. This “sorcerer” used to pass off a fancy puppets as a chess playing robot.

    Its the pingbacks. Its a way that wordpress uses to let a blog know that someone has linked to a post.

    This reminds me of a Ben Folds lyric:

    “You’re worried there might not be
    Anything at all inside
    That you’re worried
    Should tell you that’s not right”

    Youre right. Anyone that worries they might fall into a negative situation is probably less likely to than someone who runs blindly though life.

  24. Age is no excuse for not keeping atleast a little upto date on technology. All of my grand parents who are all around 80 are online all the time and they all understand digital downloading, atleast two of them use iTunes regulaly.

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