It’s not often regular folk get to ask questions of the multi-billionaire founder of a global tech empire. But, committed as he is to being your friend, Mark Zuckerberg held a one-hour Q&A session last night (on Facebook, of course), answering 16 questions from celebs and ordinaries alike. Here are the most interesting replies.
Facebook doesn’t hinder face-to-face communication
Ever since Alexander Graham Bell first said ‘would you excuse me while I just take this?’, people have been concerned that communications technology is eroding our interpersonal skills. Facebook in particular has got a lot of flak. Zuckerberg, unsurprisingly, doesn’t think that’s fair.
‘No,’ he said, when asked whether it hurt face-to-face skills. ‘Tools like Facebook help people communicate mostly with people who aren't directly around them. For example, I can stay in touch with family members who are traveling or friends who live in other countries. It's great to be able to do that since I wouldn't have good opportunities to stay in touch with those folks otherwise.’
Oculus Rift will be ‘pretty wild’
All that face-to-face business notwithstanding, the virtual reality headset that Facebook bought for $2bn (£1.4bn) last year will be, like, totally cool. ‘Our mission to give people the power to experience anything,’ Zuckerberg said, even if you can’t get to a certain place or person, or it’s ‘physically impossible to build in our analog world’.
As a communication tool, Oculus Rift will be ‘pretty wild’, with people able to share 3D environments like we currently do pictures. Isn’t that what the enslaving machines who developed the Matrix said?
Zuckerberg’s very excited about personalised education
As any Shakira fan knows, the hips don’t lie – and neither does Zuckerberg. When the Latin American pop sensation asked him how technology could help education, the Harvard dropout jumped at the chance to reply.
‘I’m very excited about personalised learning,’ he said, after thanking Shakira for her question (he didn’t thank Turxan Qarishga or Chris Roberts, did he?), ‘giving everyone the ability to use technology to learn what they’re most interested in and at their own pace.’ Perhaps more suitable for budding software developers than doctors or engineers, but that’s by the by.
The internet benefits everyone
Shock: internet tycoon supports internet. Well, Zuckerberg had a little more to say about it than that. In particular, he wants to extend his plans to give free internet access to the two-thirds of people, mainly in third world countries, who otherwise couldn’t afford it.
He received support from none other than Sir Richard Branson, who asked what the benefits of connecting the third world would be.
Zuckerberg jumped on the question, after thanking Branson for dropping by. There would be obvious benefits to the people who live there, he said, but also benefits to those in the developed world.
‘Think about how many brilliant entrepreneurs there are out there who have great ideas and the will to change the world, but just lack basic tools to do so today,’ he said. 'Once they get connected, we may have three times as many good ideas and amazing new services built that will benefit everyone around the world.’
Zuckerberg has a sense of humour
If you’re going to open yourself up to questions from any of the billions of people who use Facebook, you need the ability to laugh, probably at yourself. When a young hopeful asked if he could have a job, Zuckerberg simply posted a link to Facebook’s careers page. He ignored a request for a ‘dislike’ button, but when someone asked for a sarcasm button just for the Brits, he was apparently converted to the idea. ‘Sure,’ Zuckerberg said. ‘We’ll get right on that J’. MT will be waiting patiently for the day.
Billionaires work hard too
When asked how much he worked, Zuckerberg gave two answers. ‘If you count the time I'm in the office, it's probably no more than 50-60 hours a week. But if you count all the time I'm focused on our mission, that's basically my whole life,’ he said.
Of course, that doesn’t stop him from finding time to study Mandarin or read books (he’s currently reading Orwell’s Revenge), or indeed participate in Q&A sessions. Then again, given Facebook’s recent push to boost its profile (amusingly largely through ‘old media’ advertising), this will not doubt count as time well spent in promotion.