Mark Zuckerberg believes that one day we'll be able to directly share emotions, thoughts, and sensory feedback with each other, just as we currently share text, photos, and videos through social networks. "You'll be able to think of something and your friends will immediately be able to experience it too," the Facebook CEO said, his comments coming as part of a lengthy question-and-answer session hosted on the wall of his own Facebook profile.
In addition to telepathy, Zuckerberg addressed a wide range of topics during the session, including Facebook's AI research efforts, the social network's real name policy, and the inspiration for poking. The Q&A drew questions from famous faces too, with questions on scientific study and the importance of working out coming from Stephen Hawking and Arnold Schwarzenegger respectively.
It wasn't all telepathy and sentient AI
Publishing mogul Arianna Huffington also got a question in, asking about the future of online news. Zuckerberg said he foresaw trends toward "richness and speed" from news outlets, making use of videos and new technology such as virtual reality — not surprising for the company that purchased Oculus for $2 billion. As for increasing the speed of the news, he said there was "an important place for news organizations that can deliver smaller bits of news faster and more frequently in pieces," but that he wasn't sure that anyone had "fully nailed" this yet. Conveniently, Facebook — with its new instant articles — is ideally placed to facilitate the future Zuckerberg imagines.
Explaining Facebook's AI initiatives, Zuckerberg said his company was developing technology to recognize objects, scenes, and people in images and videos. "These systems need to understand the context of the images and videos," Zuckerberg said, part of the company's goal to build "AI systems that are better than humans at our primary senses: vision, listening, etc." When asked — by one of the world's most prominent scientists, no less — which big scientific question he'd like the answer to, Zuckerberg again indicated a focus on the human element.
I'm most interested in questions about people. What will enable us to live forever? How do we cure all diseases? How does the brain work? How does learning work and how we can empower humans to learn a million times more?
But it wasn't all sentient programs and telepathic emotions — Zuckerberg also addressed Facebook's current real name policy, called out by some as discriminatory and even life-threatening to trans people and others who choose not to go by their birth name. Zuckerberg first defended the policy, saying it both made it easier to find your friends and helped reduce abuse by tying comments to their owner's profile, before attempting to clarify it.
There is some confusion about what our policy actually is. Real name does not mean your legal name. Your real name is whatever you go by and what your friends call you. If your friends all call you by a nickname and you want to use that name on Facebook, you should be able to do that. In this way, we should be able to support everyone using their own real names, including everyone in the transgender community. We are working on better and more ways for people to show us what their real name is so we can both keep this policy which protects so many people in our community while also serving the transgender community.
Facebook removed hundreds of drag queens from the site last year, before relenting on its stringent real name policies, demanding instead that people use their "authentic names" on their accounts. But even that has proven to be an imperfect system. In June, drag queens and LGBT activists led a protest against the policy at Facebook's headquarters, stating that trolls had been using the company's reporting tool maliciously to try to kick them off the social network. Zuckerberg's reply today parrots the same replies given by Facebook at the time, but doesn't explain directly how the company will fix the issue.
Zuckerberg tried to clarify Facebook's real name policy
Zuckerberg's decision to set his salary to $1 — "because I've made enough money" — was better received by commenters. So too was his reply to Arnold Schwarzenegger, in which he told the Terminator and ex-governor of California that he worked out three times a week and liked to exercise with his dog because it was "like seeing a mop run." The only thing Zuckerberg wasn't able to give a lengthy, well-reasoned response to was why he'd designed Facebook's poke feature. "It seemed like a good idea at the time," he said.