The story of Facebook’s founding has entered American legend, but its founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg couldn’t resist briefly rehashing its conception in a Harvard dorm room during a commencement speech at his alma mater on Thursday.
Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook before dropping out of Harvard, also used his speech to explain his view of technology in starkly clear terms: he believes that technological progress as a whole is threatening to many people’s way of life, but certain individual technologies, including Facebook, actually change people’s lives for the better.
It all comes down to a sense of purpose, according to Zuckerberg. Millennials like him have it, while many older people have lost it thanks to technological change.
“When our parents graduated, that sense of purpose reliably came from your job, your church, your community,” Zuckerberg said. “But today, technology and automation are eliminating jobs. Membership in a lot of communities has been declining, and a lot of people are feeling disconnected and depressed, and are trying to fill a void in their lives.”
His remarks echo those of many government and business leaders who are grappling with the prospect of robots taking over people’s jobs. The European Union is even considering a form of social security tax on automated factories to make up for an anticipated decline in wages being paid to humans. Others, including U.S. Secretary of Labor Steve Mnuchin, aren’t as worried about a robot revolution.
To Zuckerberg, though, not all technology is menacing, especially not the world’s largest social network. Echoing the company’s motto, he explained that Facebook is the way the world connects, and he suggested that the world is a better place because of it.
“This idea was so clear to us, that all people want to connect, so we just kept working on it,” he said, recalling early coding sessions in his dorm room.
What Zuckerberg didn’t get around to in his speech is that more than 10 years after those sessions, Facebook is now a multinational company that snapped up many smaller ones, including Instagram, which the Royal Society for Public Health recently determined to be the “most detrimental” social media platform for young people’s mental health and wellbeing.