First off, Mark, I’m sorry you had to find out this way but in fact, you are my professional nemesis. Of all the tech titans living rent-free in my brain, some are arguably more evil than you, but none soar to the same disruptive heights of molar-grinding tediousness. Unsurprisingly, the dry, positionless-ness of your overlong apology posts translates flawlessly in the spoken word—for example, this hour-and-a-half-long conversation with Yuval Harari, a guy who has thoughts on technology, people, connections, communities, society, and all the other words Mark has practiced saying once every eight minutes.
This conversation is, of course, part of Zuckerberg’s annual “challenge.” Where in past years he’s tried to learn a new language or get in shape, the way people do, this year he’s decided to do more talking with people, the sort of goal a beta-stage AI trying to pass the Turing test might set for itself. Is he getting closer to carrying on an engaging, human conversation? I don’t know, because every 40 seconds or so my brain switches off involuntarily while trying to follow a dialog with no direction or animus which addresses topics only in generalities about which neither participant has any sort of identifiable opinion.
Can anyone who works directly with Mark confirm that he always talks this way? It’s fucking maddening, and if Facebook wasn’t one of the worst companies in history I’d almost feel sorry for you.
But back to this conversation. Is technology bringing people together or tearing them apart? Certainly, that’s a question one of these two pale, bed-sweatered men brought up. They must have solved it because somehow we got to talking about little league baseball, the Roman Empire (I think? don’t quote me on that one), killer robots, and how your clothes would make you stand out in a foreign country 200 years ago. I also blacked out and noticed I’d cooked myself lunch and ate half of it, and Harari is talking about how automated systems are not his mum. I am not a stupid or especially impatient person! What is happening! Who is this for!!
Let me jump to a random point in the video and transcribe it to illustrate:
I think that the incentives are more aligned towards a good outcome than a lot of critics might say. And here’s why: I think that there’s a difference between what people want first-order and what they want second-order over time. So right now you might just consume a video because you think it’s silly or fun and you wake up, or you kind of look up an hour later and you’ve watched a bunch of videos and you’re like, ‘well, what happened to my time’? So maybe in the narrow short-term period you consumed some more content and maybe you saw some more ads so it seems like it’s good for the business but it actually really isn’t over time because people make decisions based on what they find valuable, and what we find at least in our work is that what people really want to do is connect with other people.
“I’ll try different formats to keep it interesting,” Zuckerberg wrote in his announcement. Swing and a miss so far, pal—this sucks shit!