Zuck says he wants real debates about the way tech is changing the world. Lets set them up.
Mark Zuckerberg begins every year with a personal goal. In 2010 he vowed to learn mandarin. In 2011 he vowed to only eat the meat of animals he personally butchered. For 2019, after one of the hardest years for the company, Zuck vowed to enter the arena of public debate in a way he hasn’t before. His explanation from his Facebook status update:
I used to just build out my ideas and hope they'd mostly speak for themselves. But given the importance of what we do, that doesn't cut it anymore. So I'm going to put myself out there more than I've been comfortable with and engage more in some of these debates about the future, the tradeoffs we face, and where we want to go.
Facebook lost so much trust the past year that his annual goal was hardly picked up. The press, and even his own Facebook page audience, largely ignored the announcement and there hasn’t been any followup about upcoming debates. If Zuck’s recent Wall Street Journal article is any indication of what is to come, then we are in for a long year of the same playbook.
There is a temptation to just assume bad faith. Assume that Zuck or other platform CEOs like Jack Dorsey, are just defending their power as the pressure to regulate their companies becomes all the more real. You can make a case for this but it’s also a dodge of the real intellectual work that is on the table. If Zuck is framing the conversation about the future of tech in a way that is wrong, what are the better frames?
I may eventually eat my words but I love that Zuck is taking this on this year. After years of zany goals, this one seems like the one that will be the most difficult for him and could yield the most growth. It comes with the recognition that things have not gone according to plan. There’s no doubt that Zuck has every reason to be terrified of this and that’s also why it seems like he could potentially use a push.
So I want to try something. For the next few weeks I’m going to be building out a list of questions about the future of the platforms. Ways of framing issues and people who would be most relevant to the debate itself. If Y Combinator has Request for Startups, think of this like Request for Debate. I’m not sure where it will go but it seems like a list is a good place to start. Submit yours here.