Who’s in charge of the world? The Donald? FBI? Putin? Wrong.
The answer is Facebook. How’s that you say? Read Mark Zuckerberg’s 5,700-word State of the Cosmos address. Where? On Facebook, of course. Didn’t you know that’s the alpha and the omega of all that is good and holy. And god help you if you are not part of the Facebook community.
For in the future there will be members of “our community”, doing all that is good and noble and the others, twiddling their thumbs in trivial pursuits that are not named Candy Crush or its variants.
Inspired by the letters of Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates, Zuckerberg tells us all that is wrong with our world — poverty, terrorism, climate change, pandemics – and the simple fix that will bring peace and prosperity to everyone.
En route, there will be hurdles that will need new paths to be built, for you see he is creating an entirely new civilization with so little to build on. He informs us that he has “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.”
He goes on to “This is because of the amount of communication across our network, our ability to quickly reach people worldwide in an emergency, and the vast scale of people’s intrinsic goodness aggregated across our community.”
We should be gratified to note that Zuckerberg worries about how social media in general and Facebook in particular has destroyed the concept of “diversity of viewpoints” by pushing the echo chamber effect, where we reinforce our beliefs by surrounding ourselves with those that share them, besides of course forsaking accuracy in return for symmetry of information thus giving rise to the phenomenon of fake news. But we should worry even more about his declaration that “Social media already provides more diverse viewpoints than traditional media ever has.” Indeed, there is an implicit nod to mobocracy in his profound statement “Over time, our community will identify which sources provide a complete range of perspectives so that content will naturally surface more.” Not right or wrong, this is about letting the people decide what is best, even if it is evil.
There is some dodgy fact-stating as well. “In recent campaigns around the world — from India and Indonesia across Europe to the United States — we’ve seen the candidate with the largest and most engaged following on Facebook usually wins.” Twitter is where we were reliably informed most recent electoral battles were fought including that of Donald Trump.
Facebook does a lot of good, no doubt. Amber Alerts, the mechanism to help find children who go missing, is certainly laudable. But that is merely the collateral part of its role. In the main it remains just another corporation feeding on a consumer need and making hefty profits in the bargain. There’s nothing wrong with that. If more companies made more profits a lot more wealth would be available for shareholders and employees to share. But to say Facebook’s is what can “keep the global community safe” is like saying biryani can rid the world of terrorism, for after all when you are eating a plateful of it, you are unlikely to be building or exploding any bombs in mosques.
Sundeep Khanna is a consulting editor at Mint and oversees the newsroom’s corporate coverage.