Zuckerberg’s revenge | Wessie du Toit

Iis it possible to feel sympathy for Tuek Zuckerberg? In the public life drama, the Facebook founder has long held the role of a crudely drawn villain famous for his scheming ambition, insecurity and reptilian style of communication. Facebook itself has something in its story to irritate everyone, be it allow human traffickers Where censor press articles about the Biden family. Still, it’s hard not to detect a hint of pathos in the final chapter of Zuckerberg’s story.

It has been almost exactly a year since, on the 28 October 2021, Zuckerberg changed his company’s name to Meta Platforms, signaling his intention to develop the next generation of immersive internet technologies, known collectively as the Metaverse. During this period, he energetically preached his vision for the coming era of virtual reality, while pouring billions into research and development. This rebranding exercise was a mess, to put it mildly. Zuckerberg’s increasingly desperate efforts to plug in his metaverse idea have made it less threatening than ridiculous.

Meta’s flagship VR platform, Horizon Worlds, has become a prolific source of memefodder, thanks to graphics that compare unfavorably to video games from the 2000s. Helmets have been compared to having a smartphone or plastic brick strapped to your face. In AugustAt first, Zuckerberg tried to sell his vision to Joe Rogan listeners by portraying himself, rather unconvincingly, as a sports and martial arts nut (“I also think wrestling with friends is great “).

By most accounts, the cringe sharp at a promotional event at October, where Zuckerberg & Co. (or rather, their cartoon avatars) attempted to pitch the Horizon virtual space as the future of remote desktop work. It just made the metaverse incredibly mundane and depressing – VR now includes whiteboard features and Microsoft 365! — while raising the question of why companies would proceed their meetings in a setting reminiscent of children’s entertainment such as bob the builder.

A normal CEO might get the Investor Truss treatment

A particularly surreal moment came when Zuckerberg proudly demonstrated that his virtual avatar had legs (Horizon famously embodies its users as floating torsos), only for him to emerge later that the legs in question had been rendered using special effects.

All of this weighed heavily on Meta’s financial outlook. In the year since its big rebrand, the company’s stock market value has fallen by nearly three-quarters, including a 25% drop last Thursday only. The market now values ​​the company at $700 billion less than before October. Yes, it’s part of a larger tech sale, but no one has fallen as far or as fast as Meta. The tech giant is now smaller than Home Depot, which is basically an American version of Currys.

British spectators might expect such unfortunate leadership to result in a defenestration; that’s what happened to our Prime Minister Liz Truss, after she offended the financial markets by making big bets on a dubious premise. Part of Zuckerberg’s tragedy is that he has isolated his pet project from any responsibility. While a normal CEO might get the Truss treatment from investors in such circumstances, a special arrangement allowed Meta’s chief to retain majority voting rights on the company’s board.

Perhaps a better parallel to the world of politics would be Chinese autocrat Xi Jinping, whose power is also spared from the recent leak of investors from China Inc. The gossip leaking from Fortress Meta alludes to vanity of a dictator, although pettiness is more mundane than sinister. According to a deletion LinkedIn position by an artist from the company, it took four weeks and 40 attempts to develop a profile picture for Zuckerberg. Employees are would have labeling metaverse assignments with the acronym MMH:Make Tuek Happy.

Considering this as a Succession-drama style of corporate megalomania misses an important story element. It seems like Zuckerberg really believes in the Metaverse, not just as a business proposition, but as a utopian vision of the future. He thinks that, before long, we’ll be spending our time socializing in the Sistine Chapel, beaming to live concerts, touring the surface of Tuesand designing an infinite number of entirely new spaces, all from the comfort of our own homes. He regards the creation of this sublime destiny as his personal legacy to humanity.

In other words, the stupidity of Zuckerberg’s efforts belies the fact that he is yet another tech billionaire thinking in terms of a great civilization. The Metaverse is his answer to the cosmic pissing contest between Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, who portray their v-spacewalk ines like the launch of the interplanetary future of the species. Of course, Musk has now taken over the world’s most flawed sewage system, Twitter, ostensibly “to help humanity” through the creation of a digital public square. These projects suggest a type of selfishness deeper than the mere pursuit of profit and power, a selfishness that turns into true idealism.

Wealthy businessmen have long busy themselvesves with aspirations of building a new world. In the 19th c.walk iny, industrialists like Robert Owen in Scotland, Titus Salt in England and George Pullman in Illinois designed model communities to serve as models for a more just and enlightened society. Many British textile magnates, not to mention American magnates like John D. Rockefeller, plowed their money in collections of rare objects and grants to educational and scientific institutions.

The difference is the range the tech barons have adopt their fantasies

The tech barons of our time have the same impulse to treat civilization as their personal descent; the difference is the range they have adopt their fantasies. The Zuckerbergs and Musks of this world do do not produce textiles, petroleum or railroad cars like their predecessors did. They creating systems and platforms that serve as the architecture of modern life. Their the philanthropic imagination is magnified by the experience of reorganizing the lives of millionsand muddled by the mystical dreams of Silicon Valley techno-futurism. Those men are designers go wild: they or they recognize no limits on plans they or they could conceive.

They can also fantasize on this scale because nothing stops them. We are sometimes shocked at the power amassed by the plutocrats of the industrial age, but it is in our time that political institutions have been too ossified to impose significant constraints on technology and capital. What passes for billionaire madness today is not a speculative garden city somewhere in the countryside, but the ambition of lodge a trillion people in spaceWhere transform life on earth into a glorified version of The Sims.

If history actually obeyed our narrative patterns, Zuckerberg’s metaverse illusions would signal impending self-destruction out of hubris. Instead, tech moguls can afford their vanity projects, because they are always in a position to reap the benefits of a growing digital world. Meta’s recent downfall reflects terrible publicity more than a critical problem with its existing system business model. Even if Zuckerberg fails, something like the metaverse will eventually emerge, if only because so many children are already using metaverse-like gaming platforms such as Roblox. Meta’s childish aesthetic may seem silly to us, but ultimately children are its real audience.

Meanwhile, Google continues to pump money into artificial intelligenceand Microsoft continues with its own VR headsets, after signing a huge supply contract the American army. Zuckerberg isn’t the only one who thinks a race is on to claim tech territory for the next few decadesand those ten billion spent now are peanuts compared to future revenue at stake.

We can laugh at the floundering billionaire all we want, but the joke is really on us. We will be as powerless to determine the course of the next technological revolution as we were with the last.

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