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Mark Zuckerberg's science fiction exercise

Mark Zuckerberg at a conference at Georgetown University on October 17. Nick Wass / AP

This, it seems, is the end of a small tradition: for several years, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, has presented every January his wishes to all users of the service, sometimes detailing his ideas on a variety of technological or political topics and set a personal challenge for the coming year – whether reading books, running again, or committing to eating meat only if himself had killed the animal on the menu.

But for 2020, Mr. Zuckerberg chose to “Look at the long term”, he explains in a long message published Thursday, January 9. “I tried to imagine what I hope the world and my life will look like in 2030, to make sure I focus on the right subjects”, he writes. The result is an amazing exercise in futurology, in which the founder of the 2.4 billion social network describes a ten-year-old world that is both very close and quite distant from ours.

Some of the developments described by Mr. Zuckerberg are hardly surprising – he writes, for example, that the world of 2030 will leave more room for the young generations than today and reaffirms his conviction, already detailed several times in recent years, that social networks will evolve towards more restricted communities.

“Being part of a community [de plus de deux milliards d’humains] creates challenges and drives us to seek more privacy. I grew up in a small town, and it was easy to find a place and a purpose there. (…) In the coming decade, some of the biggest social networks will help us rebuild all kinds of smaller communities that will give us that feeling of intimacy. “

For two years, Facebook has strongly promoted its “group” function, which allows the creation of open or closed discussion spaces on any theme.

Connected glasses and life expectancy

But Mark Zuckerberg also imagines a whole series of technological advances in areas that are not directly linked to social networks. Starting with connected glasses, which he describes as the main development of the coming decade, of similar importance to the arrival of the computer or smartphone, because they go according to him “Redefine our relationship to technology”. In 2030, “When my daughter Max is in high school, technology will allow us to really feel in the presence of another person wherever she is”, he believes.

This development will also have consequences in areas as diverse as urban planning and the world of work, he writes.

“The ability to be “Present” anywhere will help us address some of the biggest issues today – such as the cost of housing and regional inequalities. Today, many people think that they have to go to big cities to find work. But the lack of housing in these cities causes rents to rise and the quality of life to fall. Imagine if you could live anywhere and work anywhere: if we can create what we are working on, it should be much more possible by 2030. “

This vision of a world transformed by the ability to work remotely is not new: similar arguments on how the Internet would allow congestion in large cities and reduce transport have been raised regularly over the past two decades . But the real impact of technology is far from having had as much effect as certain experts claimed in the 1990s. The technology of connected glasses mentioned by Mr. Zuckeberg has also proved disappointing until now: the most successful project, led by Google, has finally been abandoned by the search engine after unsatisfactory sales.

The Facebook founder is also betting on a rapid acceleration of medical progress, which pushes him to say that they will “Help heal or protect us from enough disease to extend our life expectancy by 2.5 years”. Mr. Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, who is a doctor, co-direct a foundation that invests large sums in medical research.

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