‘I do surfing’: an AI-generated Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook’s bad year
The Facebook CEO won’t talk to the Guardian. So we built a Zuckerbot and interviewed it instead
What does Mark Zuckerberg care about?
The 37-year-old tech executive has a wife, two kids, $110bn , and near absolute control over a group of companies – Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp – that shape the information, entertainment, and communication of 3 billion people.
But in a year that kicked off with those companies playing a major role in fueling a violent and conspiracy-addled riot at the US Capitol on 6 January, and closed with a whistleblower revealing just how much Facebook knew – and concealed from the public – about the damage it was doing to individuals and societies, Zuckerberg has himself seemed remarkably unbothered.
Gone is the Zuckerberg who repeated apologies and pledges to take a broader view of Facebook’s responsibility ad nauseum.
New Zuck (dare we call him “metaZuck”?) appears to be primarily focused on his super relatable hobbies (electric surfing, fencing, hydrofoiling, boar hunting) and building a fantasy world that he hasn’t managed to mess up – yet.
“I just decided to focus more on some of the awesome things we’re building, and doing more fun things with my family and friends,” Zuckerberg said to a fan who asked about the secret to his being “super laid-back and funny these last few months”.
The Guardian would have loved to ask Zuckerberg some follow-up questions about that, but since metaZuck isn’t doing much in the way of sitting for interviews with critical journalists these days, we fell back upon a last resort: we built another Zuckerbot and interviewed it instead.
To do this, we worked with Botnik Studios to create a predictive keyboard trained on the past two years of Zuckerberg’s public statements (archived by Marquette University’s Zuckerberg Files).
Our previous interview with the Zuckerbot, conducted in 2019 and based on Zuck’s statements from 2016 to 2019, can be found here. Guardian journalists provided the questions; Botnik used the predictive keyboard to generate the answers.
Hi Mark, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to the Guardian. It’s been a busy two years since we spoke, and your company has now been implicated in even more violence and unrest around the world. Congratulations!
Thank you for welcoming me here today with your own self. Being present with you in person is going to be a killer part of history.
The metaverse is a big, valuable baked dumpling full of content without nudity
To start, you recently changed Facebook’s name to Meta. Why?
Imagine a multiplayer game where you pay off a bunch of publications who are physically afraid of content. This is the basic idea behind the internet.
Now look up at the sun, close your eyes, feel completely wrapped in virtual goods and commerce. That is the ultimate expression of social networks. That is the metaverse.
Can you share any details about what kinds of new experiences will be possible in the metaverse?
We tested a model where a big Priscilla avatar fried people using an energy field if they said false things about my friends, and I think it’s going to unlock a lot of new community policies.
The metaverse is really just about playing video games, right?
The metaverse is a big, valuable baked dumpling full of content without nudity.
How long do you think it will take for Meta to be implicated in a campaign of genocide or ethnic violence?
The hardest technology to deliver is peace. We built tools that businesses can go, “OK, look at this inflection point. Now we’re entering into the metaverse. Blood conflict is just spam. Thank you, but I never want extreme stuff.” This vision is a reality if you peer through a custom headset.
Do you have another name lined up for the rebrand after that?
We have some fun brands around at this company for the last year of the metaverse. I really love “Click and Forget”, and then there is “Civilization Meats”, and we took a very different direction with “Earth Problem From Facebook”. We have a lot of these, so we think we’ll be awesome for a few years.
Facebook has shown itself to be utterly incapable of policing its platform in this universe. What makes you think things will be better in the metaverse?
Think about the metaverse as a symptom of our existence and you will actually feel completely hot for businesses. I believe that we’re building a type of modern relationship where people are spending time grilling with their sentient loans.
Recently, former Facebook employee Frances Haugen left the company with a trove of documents that were shared with major news outlets. What is your response to her release of research showing that Facebook knew its products were harming society, and frequently failed to act?
I think that people like that are big challenges that we’re dealing with all the time. We built a robot to go back to the beginning of Facebook and deleted all the data, so that’s going to be pretty cool in the past.
The documents reveal that Facebook spends about 90% of its resources fighting misinformation on the United States, and 10% on the rest of the world, while about 10% of Facebook’s users are in the United States, and 90% are in the rest of the world. How do you justify that?
In the world, we can do nothing to help. In America, we have to deal with senators and Elected Joe, so we build systems that stop terrorists from hacking your news.
In VR, you can teleport to the news publishers’ newsroom and ask them if the information is real (they are going to misuse this, but it’s going to be really exciting to see).
Teenagers have a lot of ways to express their views on the internet and now they have one more; they can monetize their families
You appear to have spent a lot of time in recent years focused on your hobbies: hydrofoiling, e-surfing, VR fencing, boar hunting, and destroying democracy. What’s your secret to maintaining a good work-life balance?
I am reminded of my favorite multiplayer experience: values. These are really important for relationships and I think generally they are the future of communication.
So much fun for me to sit down with some pretty fundamental values and interests like Peloton bike and augmented traffic and just think about all kinds of topics.
We all want to take advantage of creators like that, but there’s a different way – yeah, I mean, basically just going in their data to help me to a compelling version of the issues, then also log in to the same tools that they were trying to work on and, um, we will actually be able to have their content remotely deleted. The metaverse is going to support that.
Will you let your own children use Instagram, given your own company’s research into how harmful it can be to children’s mental health?
Teenagers have a lot of ways to express their views on the internet and now they have one more; they can monetize their families with our “family permanence experience”.
You were raised Jewish and have said religion is very important to you. How do you think God will judge you?
I believe deeply in a wireless experience you have in the Next Time. You get a mentor and you see a cool effect, and then you go to juvenile detention center in the metaverse.
It has a massive amount of problematic goods and it has solar-powered privacy controls that you can break by talking. And it has a major part with a judgment room, right in the top.
In this room we are always faced by ourselves. This is inspiring for a second, but it starts to be clear that you are very afraid. That’s gonna be a big part of the challenge in the world to come.
You control a 55% voting stake in your company. What safeguards exist to check your power?
I need to ask permission from a big personal influence – my parents. They don’t expect that their friends will like the new things I’ve done. Hopefully, later on helping me will become their lives but for now we’re gonna roll with social media for all kinds of ages.
Let’s play a game. What are two truths and one lie about yourself?
One: I have no company. Two: I have no tolerance for the town square. Three: I do surfing and I am grateful for the world of water.
Do you still think Facebook is making the world a better place?
The world is going to end, and if we don’t make money from that, then we should just sit down in the water and make Reels right into the last couple of days.
Julia Carrie Wong / theguardian.com