The image above looks like concept art for a new dystopian sci-fi film. A billionaire superman with a rictus grin, striding straight past human drones, tethered to machines and blinded to reality by blinking plastic masks. Golden light shines down on the man as he strides past his subjects, cast in gloom, toward a stage where he will accept their adulation. Later that night, he will pore across his vast network and read their praise, heaped upon him in superlatives, as he drives what remains of humanity forward to his singular vision.
Except it’s not from a sci-fi movie — it’s from Mobile World Congress, in Barcelona, and the man is Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg. The picture trips all of our “horrible cyberpunk future” alarms, carefully put in place by everything from The Matrix to Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent. The former uses evil squid-bodied robots, the latter privileged human elites, but both works see humanity too distracted and preoccupied — by a full-scale replica of late-90s reality, or just sports on TV — to even be aware of the actions of those in charge. Zuckerberg’s picture acts this out: MWC attendees plugged into Samsung’s Gear VR headset literally can’t see the Facebook boss as he breezes past them.
What’s perhaps scarier is that Mark Zuckerberg chose to share that image himself, figuring it to be a good look. It appeared on his own Facebook page yesterday, quickly giving rise to a number of comedy copies as people spotted its inherent creepiness, and combined it with movies, dinosaurs, and that iconic Apple ad set in a similar-looking dystopian future. Mark Zuckerberg might have stolen the show at Samsung’s MWC conference, but in this unfortunate picture at least, it looks more like he’s planning to steal our brains.