In a post on his company's Facebook page, Zuckerberg laid out his goal for 2019, namely to "host a series of public discussions about the future of technology in society" with the hopes of tackling the most difficult questions facing technology and society today.
These tough questions include, who gets to be the technology gatekeepers and how do we decentralize (or centralize) power? How can we integrate technology better into our physical communities. How do we create new jobs rather than destroy them with AI? How do we keep up with the rapidly changing technological environment in general? And, of course, how does Facebook fit into all of this?
And you thought losing 10 pounds was aspiring.
Meeting this goal is not going to be easy. Zuckerberg is not the most charismatic and emblematic spokesperson for his company, one of the most powerful and influential in the world, a fact that has always given me pause. He concurs, saying in his post, "I'm an engineer, and I used to just build out my ideas and hope they'd mostly speak for themselves."
For good or bad, however, Zuckerberg is inextricably linked to the company, and with so much at stake, it is going to fall on him to set the public opinion course forward. "I'm going to put myself out there more than I've been comfortable with," he continued in his post, "and engage more in some of these debates about the future, the tradeoffs we face, and where we want to go."
His resolution is being met with a good deal of skepticism, especially after a terrible year that saw the company enveloped in negative coverage, from massive data breaches to election manipulation, and even genocide in Myanmar.
Here's the thing. We all need to root for Zuckerberg, and by extension Facebook, because technology and business -- and community and culture -- are forging ahead, with or without them. Given their massive influence, Facebook has the ability to take a positive lead in that progress.
I realize that many believe Facebook is bad. Like anyone or anything with that much influence, power breeds corruption. Facebook is no different, but I believe the company is not evil or nefarious -- it's just young and naive. And we are all young and naive when it comes to understanding how technology has permanently attached itself to our lives and the impact it continues to have.
Personally, I applaud Zuckerberg for this goal. And while it is important to listen and process the questions and concerns of the community in general, he has to be cautious not to become overly reactive. Like the introductions of the automobile, the television, and the internet, it is difficult for the general public to reconcile today's progress with yesterday's expectations.
And as with disruptive leaders in the past, Zuckerberg has a responsibility to balance perceptions and expectations with the yet conceivable evolutions coming tomorrow -- and even happening now.
All this is to say that Zuckerberg has a much bigger responsibility than to just listen to his community and steer Facebook. He needs to balance where Facebook -- and technology and business in general -- is today with what will exist tomorrow. He has the absolute ability to shape both.
So why root for him? Because Facebook has the reach and the influence already. The fact that Facebook has not been wiped off the Internet after a recent past of astounding failures demonstrates its staying power. We need them to step up and lead right now.
More important, if they do not lead, someone else will. If that happens, you can be sure that the next technology giant that will shape the future is unknown to us now. At least we can watch and shape Facebook as it grows.
Do I believe that Facebook is a savior, or that our future depends on Facebook? No, but I don't think it is a secret or even disputed that what happens to Facebook will affect many of us. For that reason alone, I hope they can right that ship and set a positive course forward.
What do you think? Should we root for Facebook, or should we revolt? Share your thoughts with me on Twitter.