Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg says – his personal challenge for 2019 is to arrange regular public discussions about the future of technology in society.
The chats focus on “the opportunities, the challenges, the hopes and the anxieties” of how technology shapes human behaviour. Zuckerberg wrote in a (FB, +3.60%) Facebook post on Tuesday. So, he said the chats will help him explore his thinking beyond engineering.
In an era of growing suspense about such topics, Zuckerberg said he wants to discuss some of them out loud. Many touches on issues that Facebook itself is struggling with, including artificial intelligence and how internet can strengthen society.
This year’s resolution follows a sequence of other annual goals from Zuckerberg. They include building an artificial-intelligence system for his home, running 365 miles, visiting every U.S. state and learning Mandarin.
ZUCKERBERG’S PAST CHALLENGES
Zuckerberg published his new year’s resolutions publicly in 2009, when he vowed to wear a tie to work every day. Since then, he’s taken on a variety of challenges.
Last year, Zuckerberg’s personal challenge was to focus on fixing the issues plaguing the world’s largest social network. It includes the spread of misinformation and election meddling. But Facebook woes piled up in 2018, raising concerns about the company’s leadership. Its future and whether it’s doing enough to protect the data of its nearly 2.3 billion users.
Some of the challenges were:
- 2009 – Wear a neck tie every day
- 2010 – Learn Mandarin Chinese
- 2011 – Only eat animals he killed himself
- 2012 – Write code every day
- 2013 – Meet a new person who isn’t a Facebook employee every day
- 2014 – Write a thank-you note every day
- 2015 – Read a new book every two weeks
- 2016 – Build an artificial intelligence home assistant like Iron Man’s Jarvis
- 2017 – Visit all 50 states he hadn’t already to meet and talk to people
- 2018 – Fix Facebook’s problems
From the framing of the 2019 challenge, it sounds like Zuckerberg finds Facebook as the answer to issues facing society. He asks,
- Firstly, “There are so many big questions about the world we want to live in and technology’s place in it.”
- Secondly, “Do we want technology to give people a voice, or will traditional gatekeepers control what ideas can be expressed?”
- Moreover, “Should we decentralize authority through encryption or other means to put more power in people’s hands?”
- Finally, “In a world where many physical communities are weakening, what role can internet play in strengthening our social fabric?”
The inferred answers there are
- “The people should have a voice through Facebook,”
- “people should use Facebook’s encrypted chat app WhatsApp,” and
- “people should collaborate through Facebook Groups.”
To conclude, hopefully the talks will also address how too much social media can clash polarization, self-image and focus.
SPEAKER SUGGESTIONS ON ZUCKERBERG CHALLENGE
- Firstly, a formal debate between Mark and a civil critic.
- Secondly, referendum where Mark is asked questions where public can select from multiple-choice answers, then analysing the publicly visible tallies.
- Thirdly, conference with an early employee about how Facebook’s culture and priorities have changed.
- A talk with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet on longitudinal approaches to philanthropy.
- A round-table with high-achieving high school students about the next generation’s thoughts on privacy and the internet.
- Discussion with heads of Messenger (Stan Chudnovsky), Instagram (Adam Mosseri), and WhatsApp (Chris Daniels) about how the company work together.
- panel with top Facebook Group and Page admins about what the app’s most committed users wants from product.
It’s good to see that leaders of the world will shed more light on his thoughts. But, given Zuckerberg is prone to sticking to his talking points. The public would gain from talks held by moderators who don’t give all the questions to CEO, ahead of time.
Listening to Zuckerberg’s thoughts on the intrinsic trade-offs of:
- “bringing the world closer together” or
- “making the world more open and connected” could help users govern whose interests he has at heart.