Behold a 6,000-word manifesto from the CEO and co founder of Facebook that he probably shouldn’t have handed in but, you know, when you’re utterly filthy rich, every problem looks solvable…
“On our journey to connect the world, we often discuss products we’re building and updates on our business. Today I want to focus on the most important question of all: are we building the world we all want?”
So it begins. And the insights just keep tumbling out from there:
History is the story of how we’ve learned to come together in ever greater numbers – from tribes to cities to nations. At each step, we built social infrastructure like communities, media and governments to empower us to achieve things we couldn’t on our own.
At this point every history teacher in history is preparing their red Biro pen because, you know, most history actually comprises people working together to prevent themselves from dying. But let’s go with “empowering” themselves for now.
“Today we are close to taking our next step.” That’s today. It’s happening right now and, let’s be honest, most of it is happening on Facebook. All those pictures and updates – that is where the real work of humanity is occurring right now.
Of course Zuckerberg isn’t an ego-maniac. He knows that an electronic message board is a fun and useful thing but isn’t really going to solve the world’s ills; issues that have tormented mankind for millennia. That would be…
Our greatest opportunities are now global – like spreading prosperity and freedom, promoting peace and understanding, lifting people out of poverty, and accelerating science.
Our greatest challenges also need global responses – like ending terrorism, fighting climate change, and preventing pandemics. Progress now requires humanity coming together not just as cities or nations, but also as a global community.
Maybe he’s not talking about Facebook at all. Maybe it’s just, you know, a flight of fancy. A thought experiment. A pretty teenagery one, but…
Facebook stands for bringing us closer together and building a global community.
Ah, so it appears he really does think that giving people the ability to write about themselves online while making millions selling their personal data to advertisers is going to resolve, you know, poverty and war. Because it really isn’t.
Across the world there are people left behind by globalization, and movements for withdrawing from global connection. There are questions about whether we can make a global community that works for everyone, and whether the path ahead is to connect more or reverse course.
We’re going to have to skip ahead here before it becomes so vomit-inducing that the keys on this computer – which Facebook doesn’t make – get gummed up. To the nub of it:
Facebook can help contribute to answering these five important questions: How do we help people build supportive communities that strengthen traditional institutions in a world where membership in these institutions is declining?
What institutions? The WTO? The parents-teachers association? Wtf are you talking about, Mark?
How do we help people build a safe community that prevents harm, helps during crises and rebuilds afterwards in a world where anyone across the world can affect us?
Um, support local government by paying your taxes? Get a job at the UN? Where on earth is this going?
How do we help people build an informed community that exposes us to new ideas and builds common understanding in a world where every person has a voice?
OK, we need to skip ahead again.
Our job at Facebook is to help people make the greatest positive impact while mitigating areas where technology and social media can contribute to divisiveness and isolation.
Is it, though? No, it’s not. It’s to encourage people to post about their lives as frequently as possible so that can be monetized. Let’s be honest, the greatest impact on your life day-to-day almost never comes from something you’ve seen or read on Facebook. And if it does, you really need to get a life.
Skip, skip, skip.
As we build a global community, this is a moment of truth. Our success isn’t just based on whether we can capture videos and share them with friends. It’s about whether we’re building a community that helps keep us safe – that prevents harm, helps during crises, and rebuilds afterwards.
The job of government? Apparently not.
No nation can solve them alone. A virus in one nation can quickly spread to others. A conflict in one country can create a refugee crisis across continents. Pollution in one place can affect the environment around the world. Humanity’s current systems are insufficient to address these issues.
Wait, what was on that square of paper that Mark took last night?
I have long expected more organizations and startups to build health and safety tools using technology, and I have been surprised by how little of what must be built has even been attempted. There is a real opportunity to build global safety infrastructure, and I have directed Facebook to invest more and more resources into serving this need.
And there it is: the Technology Jesus moment. There is no human problem that cannot be solved with the right UI and emoji. Praise the Lord! And the Lord is code!