The past 50 years have seen an unprecedented explosion in the use of the internet as more of our daily lives become hinged on the worldwide network that we now experience through our computers and mobile devices. There are many innovative people who have brought about this change. In this article, we will look at two pivotal players that have already changed the technological landscape and are still attempting to push the boundaries of the virtual world even further. These two figures are Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. The world we live in today has already been shaped by them. However, as will demonstrate below, they may just be getting started.
Elon Musk was born in South Africa in 1971. In 1988, he left South Africa when he was about to turn 18, being unwilling to join the South African military because he did not want to support Apartheid. He moved to San Francisco where he got a bachelor’s in physics. He was about to continue to get his master’s in the field until he changed his mind and left only 2 days into his master’s program. He says that he left the program upon the realization that the internet would change the world much more than physics. One of his first major accomplishments was his founding of PayPal in 1998 which he later sold to eBay in 2002 for $165 million. It was in the same year in which he founded Space X with the goal of establishing a corporate presence in space exploration. In 2012 Space X had its first successful rocket launch which carried 1000 pounds of supplies up to the International Space Station. He has also founded Tesla, an electric car company, Solar elites, a solar energy company, and the Boring Company in 2017, a company that builds tunnels to reduce traffic. Elon Musk works famously hard to maintain each of these successful companies and yet still has his sights set on much more.
Musk has many more entrepreneurial endeavors coming through the pipeline, one of the most interesting being his company Neuralink which is trying to create a device that would be surgically installed inside people’s skulls and attach to the brain. These “neuralinks” would be able to make people capable of storing information in their brains more easily acting as a sort of memory card, as well as having other capabilities. Musk said in a recent interview that Neuralink has already been conducting experiments on monkeys enabling them to play video games inside their minds. He says that their next goal is to get two monkeys with neuralinks to play “mind pong” against each other. But Musk has much greater visions for Neuralink than video games. He envisions neuralinked humans communicating simply by transferring information from one neuralinked brain to another neuralinked brain. In the infamous interview with Joe Rogan back in 2018, Musk stated that if all goes well with Neuralink, he hopes that in 10 years, humans will no longer need speech to communicate. With information transfer via neuralink, not only would speech not be needed, but it would also be obsolete.
Mark Zuckerberg was born in 1984 in White Plains, New York, and went to Harvard University to study psychology and computer science. During his freshman year in 2004, he started Facebook which became so successful right off the bat, that he left Harvard his sophomore year to continue his focus on his social media company. In 2007, he struck a deal with Microsoft to give them a 1/6 stake in the company for 240 million dollars. Zuckerberg has also founded internet.com which has the goal of bringing the internet to developing countries. Facebook, somewhat unexpectedly, has lasted much longer in popularity than other social media companies such as Myspace, while acquiring other social media companies such as Instagram. In recent years, Zuckerberg has found himself mired by data breach scandals and political controversy over Facebook. Facebook, however, remains a powerhouse, boasting 2.89 billion active users worldwide.
Despite all the success and controversy, Zuckerberg has continued to press on with a completely new endeavor, the Metaverse. According to Zuckerberg, the Metaverse will be the next phase of the internet. He envisions the Metaverse as a virtual place where people will exist through avatars using devices such as VR headsets and digital gloves. So instead of clicking through a grid of apps on our computer or phone, people will now be connected in a more experiential way. For example, two people from 2 different physical places could both attend a concert together in this digital realm. This would go beyond just fun and videogames, however, as Zuckerberg envisions people being able to have work meetings with a more enhanced feeling of presence than just a simple video call. Zuckerberg has been so committed to the metaverse, that he recently renamed the company in charge of Facebook to Meta. The metaverse, if successful, could have profound impacts on the way humans interact with each other. Even Bill Gates is taking the Metaverse seriously. In a recent statement he said that he envisions that in the next 3 years, most work meetings will be taking place via VR headsets.
When we think of people no longer using language to communicate or people interacting in a virtual reality world, it seems crazy to us. But when seeing people like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, two tech giants with proven success and tremendous influence, putting their chips in on this technology, it really does make one stop and think about whether a radical change in society is just beyond the horizon. Both Musk and Zuckerberg recognized the internet’s power and left everything they were doing in pursuit of it. What they did instead has already changed the world profoundly. Today they are now going beyond their already successful endeavors to push new technology. They are both striving for a radical change in the way humans have always interacted and it will be interesting to see if Neuralink and Metaverse technology end up overlapping somehow. Will they be successful in changing the world again? If successful, will these changes be good? Time and history will tell.