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Mark Zuckerberg talks about mistakes, spirituality at Utah tech summit

5 min read
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SALT LAKE CITY — Mark Zuckerberg spoke candidly about his company, and himself, in a wide-ranging discussion to close out the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit on Friday evening.

Zuckerberg started off with a minor gaff that earned chuckles throughout the packed house at the Salt Palace Convention Center, misidentifying the home of Facebook’s new Utah data center as being Eagle Rock, rather than Eagle Mountain. But it also gave him an opportunity to address what he called one of his biggest challenges.

“Look, let’s be real here,” Zuckerberg said. “Communication is not my best thing.”

That communication hurdle, according to Zuckerberg, was one that would plague him throughout Facebook’s early days.

“When I got started with Facebook I was 19 and there were so many parts about building a company that I didn’t know,” Zuckerberg said. “We built a product that a lot of people really liked … and it was working well in spite of the fact that we were communicating poorly about what we were doing.”

He also offered a recounting of the mistakes he’s made along the way to growing the biggest social media company in the world. And, when asked about who he seeks out for mentorship, Zuckerberg had a response that got a round of applause from the Utah audience.

“The last few years have been really humbling for me,” Zuckerberg said. “I’ve become more religious.”

http://www.deseret.com/



  • Silicon Slopes Executive Director Clint Betts sits down with Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020.


    Scott G Winterton, Deseret News



  • Audience members listen as Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, speaks at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020.


    Scott G Winterton, Deseret News



  • Zagg founder Robert Pedersen listens as Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, speaks at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020.


    Scott G Winterton, Deseret News



  • Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, speaks at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020.


    Scott G Winterton, Deseret News



  • Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, speaks at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020.


    Scott G Winterton, Deseret News



  • Silicon Slopes Executive Director Clint Betts sits down with Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020.


    Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Zuckerberg also offered some insight into where he sees the world of social media evolving in the coming years. He noted that while tools like Facebook and Instagram — which his company also owns — are great at creating digital public spaces that he likened to virtual “town squares,” it’s the private communications arenas that are ripe for further evolution.

“When I look at our private social apps today, it’s pretty much just texting,” Zuckerberg said. “And, I think when you fast-forward, it’s not how it’s going to be in the future.”

Zuckerberg said he sees an advancement of video chat and virtual spaces to the point where individuals can interact with each other, and businesses, in ways that aren’t currently possible.

He also envisions advancements in payment systems that solve for current limitations for monetary systems that are still mostly defined by national borders. And, he sees innovations in augmented reality and virtual reality technologies that could allow for people to make their homes in places that best suit them while not giving up access to things they want to access in other places. He said the new technologies could help address current issues around affordable housing and traffic congestion.

“Today so much of people’s opportunities are tied to a small number of cities people may or may not want to move to,” Zuckerberg said. “Why can’t it be the case that people can access any opportunity that they want, living wherever they want?”

Silicon Slopes co-founder and executive director Clint Betts moderated the discussion, and about halfway through, asked Zuckerberg if he’s starting to feel like he’s taking the heat for the entire internet.

“That’s what leading is,” Zuckerberg responded.

But, Zuckerberg did address some of the public controversy that’s swirled around his company, highlighting that the Cambridge Analytica data breach may have been avoided with better monitoring of how customer data was being handled. He noted that the company is continuing to bring new tools on board to combat things like hate speech and terrorist recruiting.

He also said that, in spite of being a global celebrity thanks to both the success of his company and a popular film that mythologized the early days of Facebook, the things that keep him grounded are the same for him as everyone else.

“Part of staying grounded is you need to understand the context that you operate in,” Zuckerberg said. “Work is important … but at the end of the day we’re all people, and you need your family and friends and communities around you.

“We all need to feel like we’re parts of things that are bigger than ourselves. I try to put my girls to bed every night … I don’t always get to do that but that’s important to me.”

Zuckerberg outlined ways Facebook is continuing to try to make the platform a positive experience for users, and it’s work that occurs, at times, in spite of their habits. One change a couple of years ago led to reducing hours spent viewing “viral” videos by 50 million hours.

He also underscored that the only way a company like Facebook can continue to offer free access to the tools it provides is through an advertising driven model. Zuckerberg said that while the company is criticised for both what it does, and does not, restrict on the platform, those offering criticism are typically “people not at risk of being censored themselves.”

He also highlighted his feelings that Facebook, ultimately, is about creating a place where everyone can participate, regardless of their background.

“Powerful people are always going to have a voice,” Zuckerberg said. “I feel like someone needs to stand up for giving everyone a voice.”

In spite of controversies over the handling of customer data and targeted political advertising, as well as recent troubles associated with the company’s announced plans to create its own cryptocurrency called Libra, Facebook remains one of the most valuable companies in the world. At the end of regular trading Friday, Facebook’s market capitalization was over $575 billion — the company trails only Apple, Microsoft, Google parent Alphabet, and Amazon as the most valuable U.S. tech companies.

As of late last year, Facebook reportedly had almost 2.5 billion users, with some 1.6 billion who log on to the platform daily.

Zuckerberg’s public engagements, outside the company’s annual user/developer conference, are rare. Over the past year, his most notable appearances included testifying before two U.S. congressional committees last spring over data handling issues and the Cambridge Analytica data breach, and a speech at Georgetown University last October that focused on free expression.

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