Mark Zuckerberg may have just realized he is Prof. Falken
Because everybody grows up, at last. Hopefully.
Prof. Vaidhyanathan just asked on Wired “What does Mark Zuckerberg believe? What does he really care about?” Here, I present my answer.
Prof. Vaidhyanathan notes that:
Like other billionaires, Zuckerberg has the money, power, and influence to take a stand against such malfeasance and malevolence [via] three global platforms - Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp - capable of structuring the cultural and intellectual experience of billions around the world… Zuckerberg and Facebook are deeply embedded in the global economy and power structure. He does not need Trump.”.
But if that is the case, Vaidhyanathan wonders,
“[Why does Zuckerberg choose] to do the opposite? [Why] bolster Trump and other authoritarians… [Why let Facebook] effectively support… authoritarian nationalists like Narendra Modi in India or Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines? Why does [Zuckerberg] let them use his platforms to terrorize critics, journalists, and scholars?… what does Zuckerberg really believe? What does he really want for the world?”
This is his (Vaidhyanathan’s) answer:
“I considered Zuckerberg an idealist, someone who naively believed in the positive power of human connectivity, communication, and community. Being largely uneducated and inexperienced, Zuckerberg was untroubled by facts, history, or complexity. Connectivity was just good - always and completely. [But] I was wrong…. along with an idealistic and naive account of human communication, Zuckerberg seems to love power more than he loves money or the potential to do good in the world…[Zuckerberg] believes in himself so completely, his vision of how the world works so completely, that he is immune to cognitive dissonance.”
And this is my answer
Maybe the reason why Zuckerberg does not “take a stand against malfeasance and malevolence etc…” is that he has, at last, grown up enough to understand complexity, and that in 2020 he finally realizes that:
- He has indeed, albeit accidentally, created a behemoth that “structures the cultural and intellectual experience of billions around the world”
- The mere existence of that behemoth has and will continue to have that effect, regardless of what the policies actually are. Facebook just cannot be “politically neutral” anymore. No way. Nothing that big could, and this is not good
- That is a responsibility too big for anybody to acknowledge, never mind accept, and manage, because…
- Not even Zuckerberg can really “control Facebook” anymore, in any way that would have no unforeseen, unintended consequences
Summarizing, maybe Zuckerberg does not do what he does because of cognitive dissonance. Maybe he does it because he is scared, but also indifferent.
Maybe Zuckerberg finally understands what his toy project really does, no matter how he tries to drive it; and he understands that the only real change would be, instead of clueless “break up” plans, a cold turkey return to the pre-Facebook world, just like in the end of the Wargames movie:
But, unlike Prof. Falken, Zuckerberg also understands that, however things evolve, he’ll still be rich enough to not personally bear any unpleasant consequence. So why not play the part of the cognitively dissonant guy?
Please note that these are the same reasons why I believed, and still believe, that Zuckerberg was RIGHT to not ban political ads.
(This post was drafted in June 2020, but only put online in August, because… my coronavirus reports, of course