Like an overclocked android who only recently escaped the uncanny valley, Mark Zuckerberg has never seemed exactly of this world. He founded one of the world’s most influential social tools in human history without having very much social skill of his own. He landed amongst a handful of the world’s richest individuals before he even hit 35. And perhaps more extraordinary, he is a man who cares deeply about New Year’s resolutions, and actually keeps them.
In years past, this has meant vowing to learn Mandarin; reading 25 books; running at least one mile every day; and building an artificial intelligence-based system to control his home (which, after 100 hours of work, he completed and showed off last month).
With the new year just a few days old, Zuckberg has wasted no time in setting his next goal. “My personal challenge for 2017 is to have visited and met people in every state in the U.S. by the end of the year,” he posted on Facebook on Tuesday, noting that he will need to travel to about 30 states in order to complete his objective. “After a tumultuous last year, my hope for this challenge is to get out and talk to more people about how they’re living, working and thinking about the future.”
Rubbing elbows with the people is a curious sort of task for Zuckerberg to set himself. After learning a complex language, building a robot butler, and picking up a physically grueling activity he had no experience doing, simply talking to folks across the country seems a bit unchallenging, especially with a private jet.
Maybe Zuckerberg, millennial dad, is burnt out, between raising a child, eradicating disease, and ridding the Internet of fake news. Maybe talking to people is actually particularly difficult for Zuckerberg, and worthy of a resolution. His Facebook Live event with Jerry Seinfeld last year certainly lends credence to that idea.
Then again, perhaps Zuckerberg’s latest challenge is actually a trial run down what may one day become a full-scale campaign. A 30-state listening tour—shaking hands, kissing babies—sure sounds political. It also comes less than a year after Zuckerberg pushed the Facebook board to approve a clause that would allow him to retain control of his company if he takes a leave of absence to serve in a government position or office. The board approved, fueling speculation that the 32-year-old could even mount a presidential bid in the future.
If Donald Trump can remain executive producer on The Apprentice, then this feels like an acceptable conflict for a budding politician. By 2020, ties to a measly Internet company will probably seem like the ethical equivalent of apple pie.
Lena Dunham takes a selfie with Mark Twain.
Which one is the “voice of a generation” again?