One of the world’s most powerful business leaders, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, gave a revealing answer about how he thinks about the role of technology. During a public town hall last week, a Brazilian user asked Zuckerberg how Facebook could make users more social in real life.
He answered the eager user in a rather indirect and philosophical way:
“What defines a technological tool — one historical definition — is something that takes a human’s sense or ability and augments it and makes it more powerful. So, for example, I wear contact lenses or glasses; that is a technology that enhances my human ability of vision and makes it better.”
The point of a social network, he argued, is to “extend this really fundamental human capacity for maintaining social relationships.”
Tech founders are stereotypically optimistic about the future and, from Zuckerberg’s answer, this fact becomes more clear. Technology makes people superhuman: faster, stronger, smarter.
In his response, Zuckerberg referenced sociological research that found that people have difficulty maintaining than 150 strong relationships at a time, the so-called “Dunbar’s Number.” “One of the things that I think that we can [do] through Facebook is make it so that you can maintain relationships with many more people.”
Of course, humans can also use their powers for evil. But the young CEO didn’t even reference the capacity for nefarious aims like developing weapons or launching cyberattacks in his answer. Indeed, earlier in the talk, Zuckerberg gave a response about why tools like Facebook could help resolve the ongoing issues of racial tension and police brutality.
“A greater diversity of perspectives is also important for creating understanding. Before the Internet, we might have only gotten our news from a few TV stations or newspapers. Now we get updates from many more people and sources,” he wrote on his Facebook Timeline, linking to the town hall video.
It’s not surprising that Zuckerberg sees technology as a mostly positive force in the world. The solution, it seems, is simply to foster greater connections. The more we talk and share, the more we realize our common humanity. And if that’s how a billionaire sees the world, it’s easier to imagine what kinds of products he’ll build to move humanity in that direction.