“What torture is this?”, you ask, “And what did I do to deserve it?”
This is the first time I’ve heard Mark Zuckerberg in something like a conversation, as opposed to a congressional hearing or prepared speech. I’m not sure how, or precisely why, but he comes across as creepy. On the one hand, he speaks like any one of a multitude of nerds I know and count myself among, but the affect is very odd, and disturbing.
- He doesn’t seem to be, or get, excited about anything: not the technologies he’s developing, the connected world he claims to be trying to build, or the potential for the future they will create.
- He seems deeply bought in to what I call the “Cult of Design”—the belief that a few people, guided by “experts”, informed by “science”, and aided by “AI” (invoked as a kind of spell), can design, on a clean sheet of paper (or perhaps a greasy silicon valley napkin), the systems through which billions of people from thousands of cultures will interact for the foreseeable future, protected from “bullying”, “manipulation”, and “misinformation”. This strikes me as Xanadu-level hubris, compounded by the fact that the systems he’s building are not open, but rather top-down. Human interaction has been, and always will be, evolved organically from the bottom up, in a massively parallel exploration of possibilities, learning from experience. Top-down utopian design always ends in tragedy, and often in huge piles of skulls.
- In the discussion of privacy and security, there is not a single mention of what is the entire business model of Facebook—assembling dossiers of intimately personal information on billions of people and their interconnections, and then peddling this database to advertisers and others who wish to manipulate and exploit them.
- He believes that his “philanthropy” can eliminate or mitigate most human diseases by mid-century, but has deliberately avoided research on longevity.
- His advice to young people seems to amount to “Surround yourself with the right people in college.” You’d think there would be a few more specific tips to impart based upon his experience.
- He believes that real-time intertranslation among 300 languages based entirely upon machine learning from speech is a near-term achievable goal. How much training material exists, for example, for conversations between Finnish and Zulu, just to name two languages with millions of native speakers? How long will it take to train the model on 300^2=90000 language pairs? Can Zuckerberg square 300 in his head? Does he know what O(n^2) means?
- He claims Facebook/Meta is neutral on matters of policy and politics, and cannot help to offend when it “takes a stand” on one side or another of an issue. There is no acknowledgement that essentially every “stand” it takes is on one side, that Facebook’s “fact checking” and other censorship puts a thumb on the scale of political discourse, or that he personally spent more than US$ 400 million to directly influence the 2020 election in the United States.
I’m used to slavers fitting a variety of templates almost all of which were exemplified by Ayn Rand villains (it is said, “Ayn Rand’s heroes are fake, but her villains are real”), but Zuckerberg is something I haven’t seen before, either in fiction or in real life—and it’s creepy.