2020年5月18日 星期一

On Tech: Inside Mark Zuckerberg’s brain

What Facebook's C.E.O. is doing to confront the coronavirus — and what he's afraid of.

Inside Mark Zuckerberg’s brain

Mr. ZuckerbergJessica Chou for The New York Times

To understand the world, you need to understand Mark Zuckerberg. I’m serious.

That’s because Zuckerberg rules absolute over Facebook, a product that helps shape what billions of people believe, and how governments interact with their citizens.

My colleague Mike Isaac talked to me about how Zuckerberg is more in control of his company than ever before — for better or worse — and why Facebook’s chief executive is afraid of it all coming unglued.

“Facebook is never boring,” Mike told me. “That’s why I’ve been writing about it for 10 years.”

Shira: Why is Zuckerberg increasingly involved in all aspects of the company?

Mike: He and the company were scarred by many crises, including propaganda running amok around the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Zuckerberg doesn’t ever want to be in that position again. His response to losing control before is to exert even more control now.

Would Facebook be better off with more second-guessing of Zuckerberg?

I do believe he seeks a lot of input about the decisions he makes. He listens intently when you make a statement, then sits there and absorbs it without giving away how he feels. It can be disconcerting.

Zuckerberg might say he is leaning into a role he’s had for a long time, and he has to trust his instincts. But the best leaders also have built-in checks to their power. I’m not sure what those are now.

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Why has Zuckerberg been so public during this pandemic — like interviewing the infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci live on Facebook?

Being a highly visible leader is part of the job, and I think he’s realized that. Curing disease is also a goal of his personal philanthropy. And Zuckerberg is setting an example for how he believes Facebook can help good information go viral.

He’s working employees hard — sometimes seven days a week, according to folks I talk to — because he believes this is a moment to show that Facebook can do more good in the world than harm.

Does Facebook do more good than harm?

I think about this a lot. Is there a way to tally the good Facebook does, measure it against the bad, and decide which side wins? That’s impossible. The question for a lot of people is — or at least something I wonder — if the nature of the product enables serious harm, including death, should it exist?

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If you asked Mark, I’m pretty sure he would say yes. But should it be up to the person who created Facebook?

Play armchair shrink: What is Zuckerberg afraid of?

Dominance is fleeting, especially in tech. I think this is what keeps Mark up at night. He’s worried about people losing interest in Facebook, and about competitors outside the United States gaining on him.

Those are valid concerns. But it’s hard for most people to see his point when three billion people use one of the company’s apps, and Facebook keeps making more money. He’s afraid of being usurped, but it doesn’t look like that’ll happen soon.

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Tip of the Week

How to watch on your biggest screen

An On Tech reader wrote in to say he is sometimes confused about how to get videos on his computer or smartphone to play on his living room television set. Me too! Brian X. Chen, a personal technology columnist for The Times, is here to help us:

There are so many accessories and apps you can use to stream video from a phone or a computer to a TV. The choices can feel overwhelming. Do you buy a Chromecast or a Fire TV? A smart TV? Find a cable to plug in your computer … somehow?

Allow me to simplify this for you:

If you’re an Apple person with a Mac computer or iPhone, use Apple television products. If you have an Android phone or use the Chrome browser on a computer, use Google’s television gadgets. Here’s how:

Before we go …

Hugs to this

Congratulations to graduates! Here are Juilliard School students, faculty, alumni and some famous faces collaborating on a choreographed virtual performance of “Bolero.” You haven’t lived until you’ve seen beautiful ballet performed with a broom from a tiny kitchen.

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