A Facebook Future: Utopia or Dystopia?

In February earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg released a 5,700 word letter on Facebook titled ‘Building Global Community’. This blog post is not a summary of the points that Zuckerberg makes in his letter, but looks specifically at his belief that artificial intelligence and technological advancements are an answer to many of the world’s problems. Despite his best intentions, his solutions seem ideological and create a Utopian feel to the letter.

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Image credit: Unsplash

Zuckerberg’s letter included five sections that commented on Facebook’s role in online communities:

  • Supportive community
  • Safe community
  • Informed community
  • Civically-engaged community
  • Inclusive community

Each of these sections explained how Facebook could be a force for good in helping to build these types of communities online and offline.

In the first paragraph, Zuckerberg states that he aims to answer the question:

“are we building the world we all want?”

The answer to this question is of course, no. Everyone has their own vision of a perfect world. But the fact that Zuckerberg thinks that this is possible is idealistic which is reflected in some of his ideas for global improvement. His main answer to global issues is that at some point in the future, there will be technology to solve the world’s problems.

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There have been a number of speculations about the reasons behind this letter, such as Zuckerberg’s political aspirations to run for presidency in the near future, or Facebook’s aim to take over the digital world. Despite his motivations being unclear, it is evident that his intentions are to genuinely make a positive impact on the world. However, many of his statements about Facebook’s place in the global community refer to technological advancements that could be many years away. This is problematic since it shows Zuckerberg’s idealistic view that technology will solve the world’s problems and echoes the motto of the World State in Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World: “Community, Identity, Stability”.

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Image credit: Facebook

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2017 is the year of misinformation and fake news, something that Zuckerberg made sure to mention in his letter since Facebook has been criticised for the amount on their website. The company are finding it increasingly difficult to control content on their site with billions of users able to freely use it how they wish. Again, his answer is that he hopes there will be artifial intelligence in the future to combat this, but that it could be a long way off.

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April 2017 saw the ‘Facebook murderer’ in the headlines with many complaints about the amount of time that it took Facebook to take the video offline. Zuckerberg’s response was to say, similarly to his letter that they have a lot of work to do, which although displays that he is aware that Facebook is not perfect, he admits to mistakes but offers no immediate solutions, instead he repetitively states that they are working on technology to combat this.

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Image credit: Unsplash

Although there is a lot of innovation happening in the technology industry, it is possible that there is too much pressure on future technologies to solve todays problems. This is the main issue of Zuckerberg’s letter since although he admits to Facebook’s imperfections, he idealistically argues that future technology will play a part in his utopian social infrastructure despite the technology being potentially years away.

However, it can be seen that Zuckerberg realises the power of Facebook and so wants the world to know that he is trying to govern it as honestly and as best as he can. Zuckerberg did not have to write this letter, but the fact that he did shows that he knows he is responsible for the potential uses of Facebook, and that he did not intend for it to be used in a negative way at all. It can be seen that Facebook’s position in society is getting stronger with the increasing digital economy and whether it has a dystopic or utopic future is yet unclear.

 

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