Mark Zuckerberg sets toughest new year’s goal yet: fixing Facebook

CEO reveals this year’s ‘personal challenge’ as site faces relentless criticism over spreading of misinformation and damage to users’ mental health

Amid unceasing criticism of Facebook’s immense power and pernicious impact on society, its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, announced Thursday that his “personal challenge” for 2018 will be “to focus on fixing these important issues”.

Zuckerberg’s new year’s resolution – a tradition for the executive who in previous years has pledged to learn Mandarin, run 365 miles, and read a book each week – is a remarkable acknowledgment of the terrible year Facebook has had.

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Fat Cat Thursday and the changing world of work | Letters

Tim Gossling says that automation means the old capitalist model is no longer viable; Albert Beale writes that our drive for ‘efficiency’ is creating an increasingly inhumane world; plus letters from Keith Flett, John Wilson and Christine Weaser

The Institute for Public Policy Research seems to think it is expounding some new ideas on the dangers of future technology (Poorest to fare worst in age of automation, 28 December), but in fact these ideas are half a century old. Norbert Wiener pointed them out in his book on Cybernetics, written in 1947 and published in 1948. His argument, in paraphrase, was that the first industrial revolution – the coming of steam power in the late 18th century – represented the devaluation of muscle, so that humans only found purpose as controllers of machines, in factories. The second industrial revolution, in the last century through automation and the digital economy, represents the devaluation of the human brain. If you devalue a man’s (or woman’s) muscles and also his brain, what has he got to sell in terms of his labour?

The consequence is, as the IPPR points out, a hollowing out of the world of work. We shall still need design engineers, computer programmers and brain surgeons; we shall probably still need people to clean offices, streets and toilets. It is the middle-ranking jobs – the much derided “back-office jobs” – that are going. Does the Guardian still have a typing pool, I wonder?

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