Neil Young and Al Gore Embrace Tech to Save Music and the World

( [email protected] ) Oct 18, 2014 02:10 PM EDT
Neil Young and Al Gore at Dreamforce 2014
Neil Young and Al Gore at Dreamforce 2014 held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Calif.

At the fourth and final day of Dreamforce 2014, two legends from the worlds of politics and entertainment - Al Gore and Neil Young - took the stage in San Francisco with a common goal: to enlist the support of 135,000 technology-minded attendees and millions watching online in causes that matter a great deal to both men.

Gore, the former Vice President of the United States and a Nobel Prize winner, delivered an hour-long speech to attendees at the Salesforce annual conference on the threat of global warming. "We've got to take responsibility for the consequences that we have created in endangering the earth," said Gore.

The former political leader touched on many of the key messages and themes he articulated in his 2006 Academy Award-winning documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth." Central to his concern is the world's continued overreliance on fossil fuels which he believes are heating our oceans and damaging the thin, vulnerable covering of the earth's atmosphere. "We are using this layer as an open sewer," Gore told the gathering.

Gore maintained that the increasingly frequent occurrence of storms and floods throughout the world are a warning sign that cannot be ignored. To make this point, his presentation yesterday included many visuals of recent such events including a major flood in Genoa, Italy last week and other flooding in parts of France. "These kinds of freak events have occurred in the past," said Gore, "but now they are a lot more common."

He pointed to the current significant droughts in China and California as further evidence that climate change is having drastic consequences. He also mentioned that the Ebola crisis and the rise of other deadly diseases around the world can be linked to the changing climate which regulates the relationship between humans and microbes.

Gore did offer a hopeful note that the increased adoption of new technologies in support of renewable resources such as wind and solar power to create energy could help reverse negative impacts on the global climate. He also pointed out that the production of solar photovoltaics is on the rise as the cost of making the cells goes down. "We can do this, but we've got to speed it up," said Gore.

The former presidential candidate, who lost his 2000 bid for the White House in a bitterly disputed vote, was joined onstage for a brief period by rock musician Neil Young. When the musician expressed his concern about the rise of contributions from special interests to political campaigns, even though a majority of Americans oppose this, Gore drew a big laugh when he replied, "In my experience, when a majority of Americans vote for something, it doesn't always work out."

Following Gore's presentation on climate change, Young talked about his new venture, a digital music service called Pono. His company takes the analog masters of music recordings by famous artists going back decades and digitizes them for playback on a standalone Pono player.

"It's as if the iPod met the vinyl record for the first time," said Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff yesterday.

Pono, which is derived from the Hawaiian term meaning "righteousness," has been under development for the past three years while Young negotiated with the major recording companies to obtain the rights for his music download service. Pono has so far captured about one third of the two million analog masters available.

Young is partnering with Salesforce to create a community cloud where Pono users can discuss music, ask questions, or offer opinions. "We are the first music company to use this technology in our sales platform," said Young.

"We're trying to bring the goose bumps back," Young told the Dreamforce audience. "Pono is an example of how we can make things better with technology."

This is a vision he shares with most entrepreneurs and, as attendees heard yesterday in San Francisco, with a former Vice President as well.