Hey, Zuck. You're no Oprah

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says his personal challenge for the year will be to host discussions about technology. That should be riveting.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg

The Oprah of tech?

Image: Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla

It's hard competing with yourself.

Every year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg commits to a new personal challenge.

Every year, the challenge is greater than last year's.

Why, last year Zuckerberg promised he'd fix Facebook. What could be bigger than that?

Alright, the picky will say that was a multi-year commitment, while the very picky will suggest that the only fixing Zuckerberg has done so far is to affix his company in the position of leading tech pariah.

Still, he's moving ever upward. He's just announced that his personal challenge for 2019 is, oh, this: "My challenge for 2019 is to host a series of public discussions about the future of technology in society -- the opportunities, the challenges, the hopes, and the anxieties."

Zuckerberg as Oprah? That ought to be riveting, as the Facebook CEO talks to "leaders, experts, and people in our community from different fields."

Yes, leaders aren't experts, as he himself has so brilliantly proved over the last few years.

Please imagine, though, that someone as uniquely ill-suited to warm discussion with other humans is now going to be hosting discussions with other humans about how tech has set the world on fire.

This is something Zuckerberg appears to realize -- or, at least, his PR handlers do.

In his announcement, he concedes that "I'm an engineer, and I used to just build out my ideas and hope they'd mostly speak for themselves. But given the importance of what we do, that doesn't cut it anymore."

Dear Mark, it never cut it. The fact that humanity sat back and watched, as you and your fellow tech leaders tried to get everyone to think and behave like engineers doesn't mean that, even back then, you were all wise.

You were a bunch of kids who thought you were so, so clever. Equally, you thought the way humans went about things was largely quite stupid.

Now that you've grown up (a little), you see that there are many more dimensions to the human conundrum than you realized.

Zuckerberg admits that he's (finally) leaving his comfort zone of aloof power and total control. He writes: "I'm going to put myself out there more than I've been comfortable with and engage more in some of these debates about the future, the tradeoffs we face, and where we want to go."

But, given that he's outside his comfort zone, how can he drive these discussions to bear significant fruit? Won't there be a lot of staring into space?

Moreover, if you're a leader and/or an expert, why would you want to appear on a show that's designed to give Zuckerberg and Facebook renewed credibility?

Now if Zuckerberg could get Oprah to host these affairs, that might be interesting.

She might start by looking benignly at the Facebook CEO and asking: "Why, Mark. Why?"

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