Over 1.78 billion people use Facebook. That, in itself, is a deeply impressive figure. But is there a fundamental disconnect between the people who use Facebook, and the people who run it?
Mark Zuckerberg seems to think so, and consequently has resolved to visit all 50 states in 2017, where he will meet ordinary Americans and try to understand their concerns for the future.
My personal challenge for 2017 is to have visited and met people in every state in the US by the end of the year. I’ve spent significant time in many states already, so I’ll need to travel to about 30 states this year to complete this challenge.
2016 was one of the most turbulent years in recent memory, and laid bare the fault lines created by globalization and automation – particularly of jobs that have been performed by blue-collar workers.
Zuck hopes that by getting out of the Silicon Valley bubble, and speaking to the people directly impacted by these issues, it will improve his understanding of them.
Going into this challenge, it seems we are at a turning point in history. For decades, technology and globalization have made us more productive and connected. This has created many benefits, but for a lot of people it has also made life more challenging. This has contributed to a greater sense of division than I have felt in my lifetime. We need to find a way to change the game so it works for everyone.
On the subject of who he’d be speaking to, Zuckerberg added:
My trips this year will take different forms — road trips with Priscilla, stops in small towns and universities, visits to our offices across the country, meetings with teachers and scientists, and trips to fun places you recommend along the way.
Right. Fucking. On.
It’s so refreshing to see tech leaders drifting away from the naive utopianism that has traditionally been the hallmark of the startup and technology world.
It’s equally pleasant to see someone meaningfully step outside of the Silicon Valley echo chamber, into what is often (perhaps condescendingly) known as ‘real America’.
The collective howls of anger that resulted in Brexit and Trump in 2016 are a combination of a vast number of factors. Many of them are grounded in the unchecked influence of technology in our society, and the consequences they present for working- and middle-class workers.
By going to Boise and Biloxi, Detroit and Denver, Mark Zuckerberg is better able to understand these issues. And with ever-increasing automation, drones and driverless cars on our doorstep, now is the time to do so.
Oh, and Zuck, you mentioned you were looking for recommendations? If you ever find yourself in the great state of New Jersey, I totally recommend The Dillinger Room in New Brunswick. They do a mean old fashioned.