World makers, social network makers, ask one question first: How can I do it? Zuckerberg solved that one in about three weeks. The other question, the ethical question, he came to later: Why? Why Facebook? Why this format? Why do it like that? Why not do it another way? The striking thing about the real Zuckerberg, in video and in print, is the relative banality of his ideas concerning the “Why” of Facebook. He uses the word “connect” as believers use the word “Jesus,” as if it were sacred in and of itself: “So the idea is really that, um, the site helps everyone connect with people and share information with the people they want to stay connected with….” Connection is the goal. The quality of that connection, the quality of the information that passes through it, the quality of the relationship that connection permits—none of this is important. That a lot of social networking software explicitly encourages people to make weak, superficial connections with each other (as Malcolm Gladwell has recently argued 1 ), and that this might not be an entirely positive thing, seem to never have occurred to him.
Ian Buruma will be the new editor of The New York Review of Books in September 2017. He has been a frequent contributor to the Review since 1985. From 2003 to 2017 he was professor of human rights, democracy and journalism at Bard College. Buruma was born in 1951 in The Hague, Holland. He was educated at Leyden University, where he studied Chinese literature and history, and at Nihon University College of Arts, in Tokyo, where he studied cinema. Living in Japan from 1975 to 1981, Buruma worked as a film reviewer, photographer, and documentary filmmaker. In the 1980s, Buruma was based in Hong Kong, where he edited the cultural section of the Far Eastern Economic Review , and from where he later travelled all over Asia as a freelance writer. Buruma was a fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin in 1991, and a fellow of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC in 1999. He is a fellow of the European Council of Foreign Relations and a board member of Human Rights in China. In 2008, Buruma won the Erasmus Prize for “exceptional contributions to culture society, or social sciences in Europe.” Buruma has written seventeen books, including The Wages of Guilt (1995), Murder in Amsterdam (2006), Year Zero (2013), and Theater of Cruelty (2014). He has won several prizes for his books, including the LA Times Book Prize for Murder in Amsterdam , and PEN-Diamonstein Spielvogel award for the art of the essay for Theater of Cruelty .