This column first appeared in the January 26, 2020 PRINT edition of The Vindicator and Tribune-Chronicle newspapers:
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg knows something about New Year resolutions.
At the beginning of every year for the last decade, he’s set a new personal challenge.
That changed this year.
“My goal was to grow in new ways outside my day-to-day work running Facebook,” Zuckerberg posted to Facebook earlier this month. “These led me to learn Mandarin, code an AI assistant for my home...and get more comfortable with public speaking.”
This year, however, his new approach was to set decade-long challenges.
Most people would scoff at this approach. Of course, those are the same people who set resolutions on January 1st and forget about them on January 2nd.
I know this because I’m “most people.”
Forgetting for a moment about the scandals Facebook has faced, Zuckerberg has some credibility to back his 10-year challenge. After all, he learned to speak a new language and programmed a robot.
“This decade I'm going to take a longer term focus,” Zuckerberg said. “Rather than having year-to-year challenges, I've tried to think about what I hope the world and my life will look in 2030 so I can make sure I'm focusing on those things.”
To set this kind of challenge, it’s important to think about our personal lives look like in 2030. I’ll be 60, eyeing retirement. My kids will be graduating, with careers, probably married, and—dare I say it—with a grandkid or two for their old Dad.
Those kinds of aspirations aren’t all that different for Zuckerberg, with the exception of a few loftier goals.
“By then, if things go well, my daughter Max will be in high school, we'll have the technology to feel truly present with another person no matter where they are, and scientific research will have helped cure and prevent enough diseases to extend our average life expectancy by another 2.5 years,” he added.
Here are some challenges Zuckerberg thinks are important for the next decade.
Generational Challenge. Zuckerberg foresees complicated issues for the next generation of Facebook users, and they have little to do with social media. These include climate change, education costs, housing, and healthcare. He put it to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative “to focus more on funding and giving a platform to younger entrepreneurs, scientists, and leaders” to identify solutions.
Private Social Platform. Facebook is big (maybe too big), and Zuckerberg knows it even if he won’t admit it. “Being part of such a large community creates its own challenges and makes us crave intimacy,” he said. “Our digital social environments will feel very different over the next 5+ years, re-emphasizing private interactions and helping us build the smaller communities we all need in our lives.”
New Computing Platform. The last three decades have been defined by technological advancements. In the 1990s, it was desktop computing. The 2000s gave us the web. The 2010s, mobile device. What’s in store for the 2020s?
Zuckerberg thinks we should be able to be anywhere and everywhere. “The ability to be ‘present’ anywhere will...address some of the biggest social issues of our day, like ballooning housing costs and inequality of opportunity by geography.”
These are important challenges for all to consider, not just Zuckerberg, and they’ll take more than money to resolve. He’ll need time to change hearts and minds.
Let’s hope ten years is enough time to make these things happen.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is special assistant to the provost and professor of communication in the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA where he also directs the graduate program in professional communication. He researches and writes on a variety of topics including communication technologies, relationships, and sports (with an emphasis on fandom). His work has appeared in Mahoning Matters as well as The Vindicator and Tribune-Chronicle newspapers.