He might have a grand plan to connect the world, but Mark Zuckerberg still hasn't made up his mind about when he'll let his newborn daughter use the Internet.
"I have some time to figure that out," joked the CEO of Facebook, the planet's most widely used social network, during his Mobile World Congress keynote on Monday. "She's only three months old."
That's not to say that Zuckerberg lacks for focus on the next generation of Internet users -- quite the contrary. "Our children really should live dramatically better lives than all of us have been able to," he said, "so the question is, how do you invest to make that happen?"
It's a challenge he has already started to address, in part with free access to online services and with infrastructure development, in part with lasers and solar-powered aircraft. All of these projects fall under the umbrella of the Internet.org coalition, which aims to combine the efforts of tech companies to meet Facebook's overarching mission of getting the whole world online (and finding its next billion users).
Zuckerberg appearance at the Barcelona show to talk about Internet.org, his third in three years, comes amid controversy over a project that has thrown him on the defensive. Earlier this month, India's Telecom Regulatory Authority blocked Free Basics, a package bringing Facebook and selected websites to new Internet users for free, for fear it would create a two-tier Internet in the country. Zuckerberg used the keynote to reiterate his passion for Free Basics, saying he had learned "every country is different and the models that work in one country may not work in another."
Free Basics has so far been deployed in 38 countries and will continue to operate in those areas. Zuckerberg claims that the service has already got 19 million people onto the Internet and that 50 percent of people who use it become paying customers within the first month.
This year Facebook will press ahead with beaming Internet to Africa by satellite and also crafting network-casting, solar-powered drones that can stay in the sky for three to six months at time. These aren't toy-store drones. The company is building its second full-scale aircraft, which has the wingspan of a 747 and weighs about as much as a car. Facebook hopes to have the first of the planes in the sky within 18 months.
The company also is building is a laser communication system, given that with a laser you can get a much higher-bandwidth signal. The challenge is accuracy. "It's equivalent to basically shooting a laser pointer from California to a quarter on the tip of the Statue of Liberty in New York," Zuckerberg said.
As for India, Facebook will continue to work there, but through other projects. "Facebook isn't a company that hits a roadblock and gives up," he said. "We take the hits from there and try to do better."
Oculus and VR: Zuckerberg, whose company two years ago bought the hotshot virtual reality specialist Oculus VR for $2 billion, said his mother captured his first steps by describing the moment in a baby book. When it's his daughter's turn to start walking, he has grander plans. "What I hope to do is capture the whole scene with a 360 camera," he said.
5G: Zuckerberg expressed his disappointment that where 4G wireless connectivity was about giving people a good Internet experience, the discussions around next-generation 5G -- a hot topic at Mobile World Congress this year -- are all about connecting things. When carriers roll out the speedier broadband, the tech world also will need to "finish the job of making sure everyone in the world has access to the Internet," Zuckerberg said.
Philanthropy: In December, Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, said they plan to establish the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a good-works organization that will receive 99 percent of the CEO's Facebook shares, at the time worth about $45 billion. "A lot of people think that companies don't care about anything other than making money," he said Monday. "People rarely take you at face value at this, but we really want to get people onto the Internet."
Encryption and the FBI: Apple is involved in a tense, high-stakes legal battle over whether and how to give the FBI access to the encrypted data in an iPhone tied to December's terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California. "We're sympathetic with Apple. We believe in encryption -- we think that's an important tool that people are going to find a way to get anyway," Zuckerberg said. "At the same time we feel like we have a pretty big responsibility to help prevent terrorism."
Artificial intelligence: A lot of the important things that AI helps make possible, from cancer treatments to self-driving cars, come down to pattern recognition, which Zuckerberg calls "this awesome trick that we can push so far." People do not need to fear artificial intelligence, which could confer ever greater autonomy on machines, because, he said, "we're nowhere near understanding how intelligence actually works."
Live video: Live video over the Internet is giving public figures audiences similar to those of popular TV shows, he said. But perhaps more importantly, it is relieving some of the pressure on people to present themselves online a certain way."It gives people more intimate environments and more raw environments to just be yourself," Zuckerberg said. When asked what he has learned from live video, he quipped: "Try to sweat less."
Mobile World Congress 2017
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