X Close

(9/10) Slow down. You don’t need to be President for a decade or two

Stephen Collins

October 26, 2017   2 mins

This is the ninth of ten themes in Nigel Cameron’s open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, exploring obstacles to him seeking the US presidency. Click here for whole series. 

We’re just listening to rumours and trying to put two and two together from places you’ve been to and people you’ve hired. The focus does seem to be on the presidency, with the implication that you might try for it in one shot. But – and sorry to be so blunt – why do you expect hundreds of millions of Americans to trust you to run the country when all you have ever done is run Facebook? Why should we trust you, for example, to outmanoeuvre Vladimir Putin when, in the dark arts of statecraft, this graduate of the KGB has been at it for as long as you’ve been alive? He already seems to know more about how to abuse your advertising systems than you do.

Here are some quick suggestions:

First: “Move fast and break things,” your widely quoted motto, may not be the best approach to take when it comes to the messiness and complexity of politics. Maybe move a little more slowly, or at least more carefully, and try not to do unnecessary damage? At a very basic level we really do need to hear you speak more. When you have spoken in public1 you’ve often had really interesting things to say – whether in English or Mandarin!

But we are genuinely puzzled as to what you think about so many things – from strategy on North Korea to tax reform to the kind of people we need on the Supreme Court to stem-cell research (a point  that former White House economist and current robotics company head Pippa Malmgren made forcibly when we met her). In fact among those we have been speaking with there was even uncertainty as to whether you might run as an independent, a Democrat (the general assumption), or a moderate Republican (which Pando’s Sarah Lacy suggested).

It’s time for a series of speeches, picking up the poverty issues we’ve just discussed, or the health issues the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is tackling, and then starting to outline your take on the other great questions of our day. Whether you prefer the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco or the World Economic Forum at Davos as a starting-point, what’s really needed is a barn-storming tour around those states you are busy visiting. (Dealing with hecklers is a key political skill – and you aren’t likely to acquire it in all-hands meetings at Facebook HQ.)

Why not start by running for governor of California like another famous “outsider” who had never held public office did before you. (The springboard worked just fine for him.) Your state, the state of Silicon Valley and Hollywood and the greatest fount of creativity on the planet, is also the state with the highest rate of poverty in the United States. The State with perennial budget crises. The world’s sixth largest economy. A state replete with challenges – and resources. That would give you time to build your image as a public servant and a political leader – a fighter for the poor and the homeless, and for decent, well-run companies – in the Valley, the state, the nation, and around the world.

Part 10: Whose side are you on?

  1.  For example your Harvard 2017 Commencement Speech. Not bad for a drop-out!

Nigel Cameron writes about technology, society, and the future. In 2007 he founded the Washington think tank The Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies. His most recent book is Will Robots Take Your Job?


Join the discussion

Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber

To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments