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Opinion | Ben Mezrich

Mark Zuckerberg 2.0 — the road to the White House

Mark Zuckerberg spoke at Harvard University’s commencement last week.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

IT’S MARK ZUCKERBERG’S world, and we’re all just living in it.

Let’s get this out of the way right up front: Zuckerberg is running for president. His commencement speech at Harvard last week emphasized the point, and the only question is when: Does he intend to take on President Trump in an epic political remake of the “Revenge of the Nerds’’ — Lewis Skolnick vs. The Ogre, writ large? Or does he wait until he becomes the world’s first trillionaire by turning our family photos and pictures of our pets into Oculus Rift telenovels streamed via Instagram directly into our brains?

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Listening to Zuckerberg speak so eloquently — at the school he famously dropped out of well short of graduation — about “connecting the world,” creating a new “social contract,” and handing out a “universal basic income” was like watching a campaign power-point presentation come to life. Instead of a “chicken in every pot” and “Make America Great Again,” Zuckerberg is promising something even better: an entire world turned into Facebook, all of us wonderfully interconnected, warm and fuzzy, and all of it — life, liberty, the pursuit of likes and emoticons — free. If you know Zuckerberg like I know Zuckerberg, this truly fits the pattern of ideas that has made him the hoodied titan we know today.

The simple thesis of my 2009 book “Accidental Billionaires’’ — which was adapted into the 2010 movie “The Social Network” — was that Zuckerberg created Facebook and launched an online and social revolution because he couldn’t meet girls. There are worse reasons to launch revolutions — religious ideology, fear of the “other,” communism — but on the face of it, meeting girls, as a motivating world view, seems a little thin. However, when you see it as a metaphor, it begins to gain gravitas. Zuckerberg’s real goal was to create a world where guys like him — sartorially challenged, painfully awkward, socially inept — could become social stars. Computer geeks formerly chained to glowing green screens could suddenly make friends and banish enemies, ogle potential future dates and spy on failed past ones, share news, create fake news, and heck, maybe even run for office.

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Zuckerberg has mostly succeeded in his quest; for better or worse, we now all live in a Facebook world, so doesn’t it make sense that we will eventually elect ourselves a Facebook president?

“When our parents graduated, purpose reliably came from your job, your church, your community. But today, technology and automation are eliminating many jobs,” Zuckerberg said last week at Harvard. “Membership in communities is declining. Many people feel disconnected and depressed, and are trying to fill a void.”

It’s a pretty presidential speech, and even if Zuckerberg doesn’t explicitly say it, we can guess how he thinks we can really fill that “void.” The answer to all our problems is Facebook, or a world designed to feel like Facebook, run by a guy who basically is the human form of Facebook.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about the dangers of AI — Artificial Intelligence — advanced by people like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk. The basic idea is that AI is our biggest impending existential dilemma — that very soon, a computer will surpass us in intelligence and quickly take over the world.

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Watching Zuckerberg at Harvard, I now have a growing suspicion that the first real functioning AI is already here. The evidence is pretty clear when you compare his commencement address to video of Zuckerberg from 2010, when “The Social Network” came out. Back then, he was always sweating and hunched over and awkward, his voice robotic, clipped, coached. Now, suddenly, he’s smiling and waving and amiable. In fact, his commencement address comes in the midst of a 50-state magical mystery tour: Zuckerberg recently announced that his goal for 2017 was to visit every state in the country, to learn more about us. Isn’t that exactly what an AI would do to better understand the humans he lives among, and will eventually rule?

I don’t know exactly when the Zuckerberg singularity happened; maybe he interfaced with one of his computer programs back in the late ’90s to help him battle Skynet’s Winklevii Terminators — “I’m 6’5, 220, and there’s two of me” — or maybe he’s been a sentient machine all along. That would certainly explain his intense belief in a communal, privacy-abhorring society, as well as his subdued glee as he warns of the “tens of millions of jobs replaced by automation like self-driving cars and trucks.” One can imagine President Zuckerberg — or more accurately, President ZuckerBot — staring out of the dashboard of every automatic car — after he buys Uber and Lyft and Tesla, and assimilates Elon Musk into his idyllic communal Borg, with a graffiti mural on one wall, free flowing Ping-Pong tables, and a never-ending salad bar.

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All of this is not to say I’m not going to vote ZuckerBot when the time comes. Just as there are worse things to base a revolution on than the quest to meet girls, there are worse choices than an intelligent robot for president. I, for one, welcome the ZuckerBot regime. At least, until Skynet perfects Winklevii 2.0, and they advance their campaign with an even better slogan:

“Twelve foot ten, five hundred pounds, and there are four of us.”


Ben Mezrich is author of “The Accidental Billionaires’’ and the upcoming “Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History’s Most Iconic Extinct Creatures.”