back to article Larry Ellison: Technology has 'negatively impacted' children

Tech magnate and extremely rich chap Larry Ellison bemoans the effect technology has on children. Billionaire Larry Ellison was asked at the Oracle Human Capital Management summit on Thursday about what changes he thought technology might have on the world. After plugging a movie his daughter produced – "Her" – as a good …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Larry Ellison is an arse.

    But he's right.

    1. the spectacularly refined chap

      But he's right.

      Undoubtedly. Alleging that things like Google may be eroding our ability to think must be the understatement of the year - it clearly is, especially in the younger generation. How many technical forums have been utterly ruined as useful resources by the kids who think anything can be learned in two minutes flat? You know the ones - if their Googling doesn't hit the precise fact needed immediately they just need to ask someone to point them to that magical site that teaches you advanced 3D games programming in C++ from nothing in five minutes?

      It seems to be growing an utter disregard for any actual skills at all - a few months ago in a newsgroup I said something along the lines of "Take some brass sheet, drill holes here and here, cut with a scroll saw and clean up with files and Brasso". That triggered a response of "But that would look really rough and amateurish", not from the OP who took that suggestion but from some kid somewhere. He couldn't make something that looked good, so the idea someone else could make something with a better appearance than a commercial product with a little time, effort and knack never entered his head.

      We're heading for a generation who are nothing but consumers and define skills by what they have bought rather than what they can do. Of course in the long term they won't even be able to buy their shiny, because they have no skills of value in the job market.

    2. Piro

      He is indeed a massive arse.

      But again, correct.

      There's no doubt whatsoever that easy access to vast quantities of information has provided a crutch for many.

      To school kids these days, learning means copying and pasting from Wikipedia.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: He is indeed a massive arse.

        Quote: To school kids these days, learning means copying and pasting from Wikipedia.

        Whe we grew up the teachers could use memorizing or doing some trivial library research as a study method. We gladly believed whatever the books fed us too.

        No more. We now have to skip it and teach the kids the next steps straight away: how to stop believing such material including Wikipedia, how to read between the lines, how to do comparative analysis of articles, how to sieve out propaganda through comparative analysis. As there is no more effort required in obtaining the data, we have to replace this with the effort of analyzing the data. Otherwise the kids will do exactly that - cut-n-paste Wikipedia and leave their brains fester and putrify.

        We now have to start with the presumption that written word is false. The childhood of old, that sweet age when you believed the material you used to study now has to be over day one. So from that perspective, the effect of the information age is even more vicious.

        1. keithpeter

          Re: He is indeed a massive arse.

          @ Voland's right hand

          I say it along the lines of "text in reference books has been fact checked and edited by a large number of people who have studied the topic. Some random Web page that Google found may have been written by one person somewhere and had no review at all. You can get an idea about the page from the quality of the presentation and the writing, but making something look shiny and slick is actually quite easy."

          The teenagers I teach cotton on to that straight away.

          Flappy birds note: Class genuinely surprised that Dong Nguyen 1) has a twitter feed 2) replies to tweets. They have sussed that someone real actually sits down at a computer and produces games. Big discussion about how much the in-game ads might make and the living costs in Hanoi. The next stage of my Master Plan is to get Scratch ( running on the IW and get students to build some function machines that make patterns.

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: He is indeed a massive arse.

            In the "old days" the number of reference works was more limited, so the teachers could tell more easily if you had copied something straight out of a reference work.

            You had to actually read the reference material, understand what you had read and the put it into your own words. The middle part was the important part. You had to understand what you had read.

            I agree with a lot of what has been written here. I see a lot of people coming out of school and uni who don't know "anything". You find a lot of them don't know any facts about the jobs they are supposed to be performing, they don't know where to look for information - if Google doesn't throw up a good reference on the first go, then there is no information to be found about a topic!

            They don't think about looking further or refining their search, no relevant answer = there is no possibility of relevant information being available somewhere else.

      2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        Learning these days

        "To school kids these days, learning means copying and pasting from Wikipedia."

        Which makes learning these days just like learning in the good old days except that few people would ever find out where people like JR Oppenheimer really came from in the good old days. Or ever get a chance to cross reference anyone's list of immigrants. And I mean EVER.

        If you grew up in the McCarthy era, everything was in black and white, just like TV. Everything you learned would be right except your spelling.

    3. Charles Manning

      He's wrong

      I don't know enough about him to know is he really is an arse, but he's wrong about technology.

      Technology isn't just ipods and video games. Technology is everything that we do to modify our surroundings. It encompasses clothing, tools, medicine, printing, education and agriculture. Mankind has been dabbling with technology since we started playing with rocks and fire.

      Without technology we'd be literally living like baboons. The population of humans would be a few million at most.

      Frankly, without technology most kids would not even exist.

      1. Tapeador

        Re: He's wrong

        Haha I think you're technically right but basically misconstruing the guy slightly pedantically. He basically means ubiquitous handheld computers and the interweb and all that shit ;-)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: He's wrong

        I think Larry is talking about Information Technology.

        We're all guilty of complaining about "not having time" to do things, we just need to tune out of the web for a bit.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's evolution...right or wrong m not sure!

      1. Kriilin

        Unfortunately, maybe devolution. As unkind as this is to say, it's easier to be stupid these days and survive (in the first world anyways), hence passing one's stupid onto the next generation.

    5. ecofeco Silver badge

      He's right because he's the cause.

      And he's not alone. Not by a long shot.

      The actually technology? I have no problem with it. The PTB who deploy and control it? Satan's minions.

  2. Roo

    @skelband: Agreed + Extras.

    As much as I concur that Ellison is a huge pustule encrusted arse, I also agree that he is right.

    So as it stands technology has reduced the cost of production down to a relatively tiny level, and that has quite naturally contributed to massive (and growing) youth unemployment. This will accelerate the trend of concentrating more cash in a small pool of the population (largely comprised of our elders and betters).

    So the kids of today are born into a very different set of circumstances, they'll have to do stuff differently to get by. Oh yeah, and just to add to the inertia holding back the development of civilisation, mass surveillance is now not only possible but a daily reality.

    Good luck to the kids of today (and us for that matter).

  3. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Technology gives you more options and some of the ways it's exploited have bad results

    This must come as a huge shock to people.

    Well people with no sense of the history of technology, moral panics or a complete lack of either ethics or morals.

    Now who does that sound like to you?

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Technology gives you more options and some of the ways it's exploited have bad results

      "This must come as a huge shock to people.

      Well people with no sense of the history of technology, moral panics or a complete lack of either ethics or morals.

      Now who does that sound like to you?"

      Most Americans?

    2. cyborg

      Re: Technology gives you more options and some of the ways it's exploited have bad results

      I'm telling you if our kids don't grow up knowing the fundamentals of a Spinning Jenny it'll lead to the ruin of society! These new fangled steam powered looms must be stopped! With our sabots preferably!

  4. Justicesays

    Oh Irony

    I'm sure someone at a " Human Capital Management" Conference really *cares* about people, right?

  5. Francis Boyle Silver badge

    Quotes Socrates

    on why writing is inimical to true knowledge. Realises Ellison is no Socrates. Runs away.

  6. Captain DaFt

    Sounds like he's having an "In MY day" moment.

    Did he end the speech with, "Now get off my lawn!"?

    1. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: Sounds like he's having an "In MY day" moment.

      I agree entirely. I think computers were a positive effect on children in the '80s because they booted into BASIC and therefore were an effective educational tool; also games weren't yet sophisticated enough routinely to swallow a large amount of any given day.

      But then I ask myself: why do I think that? Yeah, it's because I was a child in the '80s. So my opinion is probably biased rubbish.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Sounds like he's having an "In MY day" moment.

      It's not get off my lawn. It's get off my island (larry actually owns one of the hawaii islands).

  7. ben edwards

    Wow; the lack of cynicism here shows how right he is.

    Not. With the rise of helicopter parenting, the coddling of the children's activity and choices, the denounciation of children actually learning anything at school (OMG THEY CAN'T TEACH MY SNOWFLAKE ABOUT TITS!!!), it's no wonder that kids are turning to one of the few approved channels of entertainment.

    You know how I know it's approved? The parents provide the kit.

    /causation, correlation, et al.

  8. Geoff Campbell


    I have two teenage daughters. I'm really proud of what they have learned and achieved so far, and I certainly don't recognise in them the pictures painted by grumpy old men such as Ellison.

    (Recent amusing anecdote - SMS from eldest asking me to buy her coffee filters, ammonia, and iodine. I was very proud. And yes, I did, I don't think she'll blow up anything too important.)


    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: <shrug>

      Yes. This. As the poster above says, correlation does not mean causation. Also, each tool is also a two edged sword, with possible benefits and possible drawbacks.

      For example, we use to be able to remember everything. Why? Because we had to. We had no choice, so we spent the time and effort on our memory (and what ever techniques or pure brute force was needed).

      Then a new invention came along... paper. Yes, not computers or mobiles, but paper. We "offloaded" a lot of information and work to a permanent and easily referenced record. Later we made the phone, mobiles (who remembers phone numbers when a mobile can do it for us), computers etc. We "offload" work to another person (secretary) or another tool (computer) when we can.

      Likewise, when learning or finding information we can do the same. The libraries at Schools have similar problems the Wikipedias of the internet have. Rubbish in, rubbish out. The scale and reach has increased and problems related to these have too. However the ability to cross check is much better. Before if the School said it, it was "fact" even if the book was misprinted. Now we can check references and data online with as many sources as we wish.

      It is though down to the individual in most instances to make those checks. It always was though!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: <shrug>

        "Now we can check references and data online with as many sources as we wish."

        Not as many as you'd think, as most of them are a copy and paste type, from one source. OK, copy and re-shuffle the word order type, so that the copyist avoid being accused of plagiarism. I wouldn't object too much, if only as THE original source were reliable(ish). But often it isn't, to say the least. Content creation online is practically free, but unfortunately people still grade its quality through that rosy image of content being hard / expensive to create / distribute, thus of high value.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: <shrug>

        The problem is that looking up something is not equivalent to actually understanding. Having to actually think and come up with solutions to problems when there's no Internet connection should still be a skill taught to children. Not much of this is happening from what I see, and I'm speaking as the father of a child in a "gifted" class. I see the inability to focus on solving larger, multi-step problems in my own and others' kids.

        It's concidental that I was bemoaning this very issue with my brother the other day (he's in the same boat with his kids). I hate Larry (doesn't everyone?), but the point he's making is very valid and this is a damned serious and depressing issue if you at all care about the future of your kids. I talked with my brother about pulling the plug on the kids and letting them get so bored that, hopefully, they'll ask for something to stimulate their brain other than video games, videos, etc.

        As a software developer who's been messing around with personal computers, and having interests in graphics, music, generative art and other computer related activities, since 1979, I tried to induce my little guys to show an interest in actually creating stuff, rather than just consuming it. Not much uptake. It's painful. When random surfing and button mashing on video games gives them that dopamine kick with so little effort, it's quite understandable that there's no incentive to try harder and get past any kind of learning hump.

        I think it's clear that some kind of stress (this can include boredom) needs to exist in order to develop succesfully as a competitive (as in having some kind of reasonably valuable skills) being. It will hurt to be the bad guy who doesn't let them have whatever their friends seem to have, but if that's the only way to get them to do other than what they've become accustomed to do, so be it.

    2. David Pollard

      Re: <shrug>

      I didn't think they made them like that any more.

    3. deadlockvictim Silver badge

      Re: <shrug>

      That SMS has without doubt just put her on the GCHQ watchlist. Thankfully she's a teenager and will probably be excused.

      1. Geoff Campbell
        Black Helicopters

        Re: GCHQ

        She's well trained, she used her sister's phone...


  9. John Sanders

    About children playing outside...

    When I was a kid I used to live in the countryside, I could play outside, there were plenty of areas to play outside.

    My children live on a city, the only time they play outside is when we accompany them. They're too small to wander around in a big city full of cars. Besides, it is illegal to leave small children unattended.

    I began tampering with computers and playing video-games when I was 13, they were hard as hell compared to today's video-games and computers, and I did spend as much time as I could with the computer from then onwards.

    My kids spend their indoors time either playing with toys or playing with a couple of video games on the big TV, and the older one is learning how to write on the computer, and how to draw on it.

    Once they are 12-13 I will teach them how to program with the lowest level language I can.

    1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: About children playing outside...

      Once they are 12-13 I will teach them how to program with the lowest level language I can.

      And, starting before that, teach them manual skills. Most kids today are incapable of making anything. By that I don't mean using Lego - I mean something creative, like cutting parts from a sheet of balsa and gluing them together to make a simple glider that actually flies, making a simple analogue circuit (crystal set) that requires some soldering or painting a picture using actual paints on actual paper or canvas. These will be useful skills in later life for everybody, not just those who study sciences or engineering.

      1. Kriilin

        Re: About children playing outside...

        Agree totally. I'd like to add that I think a big shift in the loss of manual skills happened when agriculture became mechanized, and we moved from mainly rural to urban living. I was fortunate to grow up on a farm. It was the best education I could get, I learned everything from basic construction to welding and mechanical work, safely use guns, etc. Heck I even helped deliver calves and "process" (read decapitate, pluck, and draw) chickens. And yes, I still eat meat.

  10. DerekCurrie Bronze badge

    Larry: Save The Java

    Oracle: I Hate You.

    So Larry: Return Java to a usable form again, one that can never 'negatively impact' a user who merely has it installed on their computer. No more Java drive-by infections and botting. No more Java Trojans. Yes more actual sandboxing of Java in order that it doesn't wake up children screaming in the night that Oracle, once again, has ruined their computing life.

    Until then, Oracle: I Hate You.

  11. Unicornpiss Silver badge

    Larry's contribution to tech has negatively affected adults!

    Has anyone here besides had the joy of installing and troubleshooting Oracle and its myriad issues? To say nothing of actually using it...

  12. ecofeco Silver badge


    "In old age, arms dealer ruminates on problems caused by rifles"

  13. Stewart McKenna

    Human Capital Management

    For Heavens sake, let's stop using this term... too close to 'Human Cattle Management"

    and that's generally how the PHBs consider us

    1. Gannon (J.) Dick

      Re: Human Capital Management

      Highly demeaning to the intelligence of Cattle, IMHO. Only a quant in a full blown episode of Financial Accounting could possibly believe that 90 Days quarters a sustainable growing season. In fact, the Cattle will complain bitterly when left hungry in cow poop for the last 5 days of the year and you really won't be able to convince them that your math or reason is in any way modern or even thoughtful.

      There is no opposite to Energy and humans consume Energy in the winter months.This is of extreme importance in the scheduling of Education because the curve is "flipped" not shifted, and it flips around the Equinoxes. Human Cattle, unlike your kids, can do math.

  14. Gaius

    @DerekCurrie when was that then? Java came with the Yahoo toolbar as far back as the 90s!

  15. thenim

    I call bollocks, the fundamental problem these days is drive-by-parenting. My parents wallopped a good education into me, irrespective of the distractions, and I will ensure the same to mine. The same cannot be said for the rest of the statistics.

    Technology can play an important role in development as long as it's closely monitored by parents, it's the lazy fools who treat it as child minding that contribute to the large statistics that weigh against technology.

    It's human nature to blame everything (and everyone else) besides one's self.

  16. MrDamage

    Is Larry

    Willing to accept any portion of the blame? After all, he was one of the technological pioneers which helped drive the commonality of hi-tech in today's society.

    Or is he just going to sit there and mutter about the evils of it all, while ignoring the part he played in it?


  17. Mahou Saru

    Blame everything else but the parents...

    You can take a look at every period of time and there is something that isn't good for children. A small percentage of the well off may have good healthy life styles, but that is dependent on their parents/guardians.

    You don't need to go that far back when kids where slaving away in workhouses, or that far away to find them doing back breaking work in the fields or sweatshops.

    Maybe its a survival trait, but popping out the sprogs to benefit yourself (e.g. for benefits where I am from), seems like a far worse thing then spoiling them with tech imho!

  18. Semaj

    Not Black and White

    Thinking back to my own childhood, I can say that in fact technology and computer games had the exact effect that Ellison describes - and it was the best thing that could have happened for me.

    I grew up in a relatively poor area. Thankfully not the hell that inner city kids have to deal with but the kind of place where 8 out of 10 families (mine included) were dependent on benefits of one form or another.

    As a young child I'd go outside a lot and do all the usual stuff such as making tarzan swings, camps in bushes and things like that (didn't have a bike until I was 12 as we couldn't afford one). The people I'd do these things with were not nice (I knew right from wrong) and along with the good, wholesome activities there were the games which involved setting stuff on fire and other antisocial stuff.

    That all changed when I got my Sega Master System (saved up all year). Now I finally had something to do, which didn't involve hanging around with mini-chavs. Then when we could afford the Internet, that really allowed me to become the person I am today. I could talk with those with views like my own and it allowed me to see that there was a whole world out there to experience.

    Fast forward a few years and now I'm doing well. I'm a software developer with a good degree from a decent uni, a good few years of experience and will soon be buying my own house. The majority of the kids I hung around with are either dead, in prison or on benefits with a horde of little bastards of their own.

    It's true, computer games and other tech can prevent kids from going outside and in my opinion, that's a good thing.

  19. Ben Rosenthal

    The old folks were saying the same thing when Larry was out wasting his time on a push bike.

    Some things never change, mostly when they do it's cosmetic.

  20. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    No shortage of unsupported opinion here, eh?

    The problem with all of this is that it's the services that tech tycoons like Larry Ellison created

    No, the problem is that Ellison made a bunch of off-the-cuff, unsupported, unresearched, uncritical, tiresome, ignorant, generalizing, unproductive claims, and an audience equally unconcerned with supporting arguments, evidence, research, originality, insight, specificity, and usefulness echoed them back. As usual, Ellison displays an utter lack of awareness of his own sociocultural milieu, and the arrogant confidence in the validity of his own least-informed opinions that can only come from unwarranted success in another area.

    I don't see any of Ellison's supporters above providing a single shred of evidence to back up their claims that he's "obviously" correct.

    I am relieved to see a number of people (Geoff Campbell, Ben Rosenthal, et alia) declining to leap on this particular bandwagon. There's some hope for Reg readership after all.

    Now if you damn non-critically-thinking kids would please get off my lawn...

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