Facebook CEO Speaks to Stanford Audience

On Tuesday, Mark Zuckerberg sat down with Stanford’s President John Hennessy before a packed Memorial Auditorium to chat about Facebook, entrepreneurship and the future.

Zuckerberg, whose annual visits to the introductory computer science class CS106A have become a staple date for students to mark on their calendars, reiterated many of the sentiments laid out in his previous visits.

In response to Hennessy’s question of the young CEO’s initial plans for his company (founded, of course, when he was in his second year at Harvard), Mark pointed out that the birth of Facebook looked much less like the “moment-of-revelation” scenario in “The Social Network.” It was more like a slow, methodical process of garnering knowledge about computer science and tackling the issue of connectivity.

He didn’t dream of becoming a CEO so much as he did of helping the Internet meet the human need to connect with others. He recounted that at its inception, he imagined that a website like Facebook would only take off once one of the existing behemoths of the technology world decided to build it.

Now, as Facebook nears its 10th birthday, a slightly older Zuckerberg has big goals for the future. Given the huge cash reserves Facebook now sits on, he plans to direct his team toward tackling education, immigration and the proliferation of Internet access.

Increasing international access to the Internet seemed to be of special interest. Zuckerberg pointed out that only a third of the world has any access to the Internet, and that an even smaller fraction has what we in the Bay area consider standard. Comparing the goal of fully global Internet access to the Apollo mission in terms of the broadly beneficial new technologies that would be needed, he estimated that this project could be completed within 10 years and lead to immeasurable fringe innovation.

Further, he pointed repeatedly to his belief that the democratization of educational resources would be vital for the next generation. Citing his support of Code.org; his donation to the Newark, NJ school system; and his own teaching of a class on entrepreneurship at a middle school in Menlo Park, Zuckerberg made clear his belief that the spread of education would be vital as the world continues to shift to a “knowledge economy.”

His optimism and drive carried over as he addressed the students present, whom he told to find something they’re “irrationally passionate” about and pursue it intensely. Citing his own experience, he offered to students, “There’s no such thing as tackling a big problem without making mistakes.”

He even hinted that a little Mark Junior could be coming in the not-so-distant future, and answered one student’s question of whether he too should drop out of college with a laugh.

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Featured image of Mark Zuckerberg courtesy of Kris Krug via Creative Commons license.