Mark Zuckerberg's long-term vision for Facebook, laid out in a sweeping manifesto , sometimes sounds more like a utopian social guide than a business plan. Are we, he asks, "building the world we all want?"
While most people now use Facebook to connect with friends and family, Zuckerberg thinks that the social network can also encourage more civic engagement, from the local to the global level. Facebook now has nearly two billion members, which makes it larger than any nation in the world.
His 5,800-word essay positions Facebook in direct opposition to a rising tide of isolationism and fear of outsiders, both in the U.S. and abroad. In a phone interview with The Associated Press, Zuckerberg stressed that he wasn't motivated by the U.S. election or any other particular event. Rather, he said, it's the growing sentiment in many parts of the world that "connecting the world" — the founding idea behind Facebook — is no longer a good thing.
"Across the world there are people left behind by globalization, and movements for withdrawing from global connection," Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook in a Harvard dorm room in 2004, wrote on Thursday. So it falls to the company to "develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us."
While the idea of unifying the world is laudable, critics contend Facebook makes some people feel lonelier and more isolated as they scroll through the mostly ebullient posts and photos shared on the social network. Facebook also has been lambasted as a polarizing force by circulating posts espousing similar viewpoints and interests among like-minded people, creating an "echo chamber" that can harden opinions and widen political and cultural chasms.
Today, most of Facebook's 1.86 billion members — about 85 per cent — live outside of the U.S. and Canada.
"For the past decade, Facebook has focused on connecting friends and families. With that foundation, our next focus will be developing the social infrastructure for community — for supporting us, for keeping us safe, for informing us, for civic engagement, and for inclusion of all," he wrote.
Last fall, Zuckerberg and his wife, doctor Priscilla Chan, unveiled the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative , a long-term effort aimed at eradicating all disease by the end of this century. Then, as now, Zuckerberg preferred to look far down the road to the potential of scientific and technological innovations that have not been perfected, or even invented yet.
AI systems could also comb through the vast amount of material users post on Facebook to detect everything from bullying to the early signs of suicidal thinking to extremist recruiting. AI, Zuckerberg wrote, could "understand more quickly and accurately what is happening across our community."