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A letter to our daughter (facebook.com)
790 points by arasmussen on Dec 1, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 518 comments

> We will give 99% of our Facebook shares -- currently about $45 billion -- during our lives to advance this mission. We know this is a small contribution compared to all the resources and talents of those already working on these issues. But we want to do what we can, working alongside many others.

Ninety. Nine. Percent.

I mean, what else are you going to do with $45 Billion? Build a really big house?

I've had the opportunity to rub shoulders with a few billionaires over the past few weeks, and it's remarkable how differently they think about money than the people who don't have it. Sure, they may buy a nice car (or jet), but after a certain level the only thing you can do with that kind of money is plug it back into something meaningful.

Hats off to Zuck and the other people who try to turn their success into something even greater than, well, their success.

>I mean, what else are you going to do with $45 Billion?

You are thinking about it the wrong way. You don't spend $45B on stuff for yourself. You spend $45B on changing the way governments and populations live work and how power is balanced.

When Bud Fox asked Gordon Gekko "How much is enough" Gekko knew immediately that Fox wasn't in the same league. Money isn't about stuff, it's about power and influence.

I strongly feel this power, influence, giant houses, jets, personal cruise ships etc are old generation stuff - something that grey haired Gekko will personify. The "new rich" is dramatically different and for the better. Today's centi-millionairs wants to stay anonymous, don't want to have butlers, have houses that they can manage without permanent staff and often prefers travelling first class or renting Yatch instead of buying them even if they can afford it. The new rich sets target to make X amount of money and then "retire". Their "retirement" consist of working hard doing their favorite activities and travelling the globe to sample the "regular folks" flavors. Most of them don't have desire to keep growing billion dollar business which will sip away their time and energy. They have strong political belief but have no desire for acquiring political power directly or indirectly. They are not in to heavily influencing how rest of the population shall live. They consider time to do their favorite activities far more important than keeping money scoreboard. They want to buy fashionable cloths and accessories but not those that will immediately attract attention and single them out in the crowd. They want to be physically fit and avoid having family as long as possible. They like to invest in ideas and technology more than traditional financial instruments.

I think new rich crowd will almost completely replace old generation wealthy in next 50 years or so. People who are born in this decade will have very hard time understanding philosophies and life style choices of Gorden Gekko.

Hate to break it to you but what you described about the "new" millionaires is the majority of all multimillionaires, regardless of generation.

See: The Millionaire next door

I accidentally downvoted you due to fat finger error, sorry.

Well I'm crushed, but hopefully I can get over it ;)

I hope most people understood this. In fact bulk of the worlds rich is invisible, they become rich through mundane savings and investment methods everybody else avoids.

World is a strange place. Very few millionaires win and lose spectacularly. Nearly all of rich people out there are silent and invisible.

These people you're describing are no different than the old aristocracy. Aristocrats have always attempted to live a comfortable, quiet life of idle pleasures. A Rockefeller or Ford figure that works really hard is the exception--and they are a very American invention who were raised with the protestant work ethic.

> Today's centi-millionairs wants to stay anonymous, don't want to have butlers

Peter Thiel, the godfather of "today's centi-millionaires", has a butler.

— At least he had one in 2007:


you're idolizing new rich a bit too much. yes there are people like you describe, but that's nothing new with this generation. then there is remaining majority, which is a mix of it all, including the worst "offenders".

just because via social media you see more of the "new rich", which have desire to make public statements and be as visible as possible, doesn't mean that's all there is.

>You spend $45B on changing the way governments and populations live work and how power is balanced.

$45B is even overkill for that. Each presidential candidate spent (or had spent on their behalf) roughly $1B in 2012. Zuckerberg therefore could have doubled a candidates spending for each presidential election for the rest of his life and still have half his fortune. $45B is that huge.

EDIT: The multiple downvotes seem to indicate I said something that is disagreeable. I'm not implying that buying elections would be a better use of Zuckerberg's money, just that he has so much money that elections are just more "stuff" he could buy without even thinking hard about it.

The Koch brothers have a combined $100BN and they still haven't gotten the influence that they want. So yes, $45B is a shitload, but practically once you spread it out to where you need it to be to make the world look like you want it to, it still only makes a dent.

The Koch brothers are the most influential political backers in the country and they spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $200M per election cycle. They are the closest someone has come to trying to buy an election, but even their donations are still only rounding errors in comparison to their overall fortune. Politics is a relatively cheap game for someone with tens of billions of dollars.

It is a cheap game for someone with millions of dollars even. ROI on these sort of political contributions can be absolutely insane. Apparently corporations on average receive ~$760 for every $1 spent influencing politics. Depending on the industry, ROI is anywhere from 5,000 to 77,000 percent.


Zerohedge is... rarely aligned with reality. Do you have a reliable source?

> Depending on the industry, ROI is anywhere from 5,000 to 77,000 percent.

That is clearly not true. If that sort of ROI existed in anywhere near the general case, a lot more people and companies would spend a lot more money on it, and they don't. Perhaps there exists lobbying opportunities with these kinds of ROIs, but they are limited, and there definitely isn't a 5,000% floor on it.


I think the problem with the zerohedge article (and the report it summarises) is that, first, they seem to assume that all corporate welfare benefits the businesses doing the lobbying locally (not to businesses in general, which is probably more the case -- Ford lobbying against foreign competition will help Chevrolet equally, regardless of how much either firm spends on lobbying), and second, that corporate welfare only exists because of lobbying: Politicians still need to get elected, and creating industry, jobs and high-profile ribbon-cutting opportunities in their districts (regardless of whether businesses lobby them for it or not) is likely to remain a popular tactic in the absence of lobbying.

I'm not sure if you meant it that way, but for the record: politicians don't create jobs - entrepreneurs do.

The best thing politicians can do for the common good, is to get the hell out of the way and let productive people be productive.

I agree fully with you -- I was trying to frame the comment inside the political calculus, in which actors can certainly redirect public funds in such away that it appears new jobs are created in their districts, even if it's often zero or negative sum for the economy at large.

Which is exactly the type of stuff Zuck is talking about here, although in less power-hungry ways. So you're kind of proving @austenallred's point.

I think Zuck is still power hungry, he's just more veiled about it. Everyone with enough power (through money) wants to shape the world in their specific ideal.

Agreed. The fact that they're having a big press release about all the awesome stuff they're going to be doing before they've done any of it, heck before they're even ready to say what they're actually going to be doing, is telling. As is naming their initiative after their daughter.

It's nice when vanity projects end up helping the masses (and we'll have to wait and see how successful it is at that). However, we shouldn't act like this very public display of wealth (again, before anything is even done) has motives that are so different from, say, giant statues of oneself or giant mausoleums.

How is any of that stuff bad, though? Seems like a good trade. You put $45B into improving the world, we'll sing your praises.

What's the difference between it being all done in vanity and it being all done in goodwill? It's literally the same thing to the rest of the world, the only difference is some internal chemical state in his brain.

Except he still didn't do a thing besides putting out a press-release. Do you think his real intentions will not shape the way he acts in the future? How can you say it is a good trade when no trade happened yet?

You think he's going to just put a press release out and not actually do it?

I still remember what Internet.org was supposed to be and what it turned out to be. The man is an egocentric liar.

We've become too cynical and rent-seek-ey. Many people realize that a large wad of money was Nature's way of telling them to keep doing what they're doing.

Instead, it has to be "charity" now. Very few rich people ever did charity well.

If we define "power-hungry" so broadly that it encompasses merely wanting to make the world a better place, I'm not sure what use the term is anymore.

I sincerely doubt Zucker wants to make the world a better place, else why would he be doing the opposite while making billions out of it ?

Usually a billionaire giving his fortune away does it out of vanity, out of guilt, for the tax breaks, out of conviction that their success in business makes them equally expert in solving the world’s problems or last but not least as “legacy” as explained by John Caudwell: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/mar/07/new-philanthr...

I sincerely doubt he thinks he has been doing the opposite.

What is so awful about Facebook? I mean it's hardly an original idea, and if Facebook never existed, I'm sure that Myspace or Friendster or some hereto unknown company would have taken its place.

It's like hating Ford because they make cars, while ignoring all other automobile companies.

Yur analogy makes more sense if Ford make cars that contain cameras and microphones and they monitor everything you say and do and where you go and they send all that information back to the mothership.

And they want to build cars for all poor people, but those cars can only travel to certain destinations on certain roads, but Ford making and providing these cars means other organisations who sell bicycles or mopeds or small cars (which provide a lot more freedom) are hampered.

The problem is "better" is subjective, and its probably preferred that the majority of people determine what better is instead of the small minority of people with billions of dollars.

I like the future Bill Gates and Elon Musk want to bring. I do not like the future the Koch Brother's envision.

First you'll get the one, then the other. Elon Musk and Gates are hardcore egotists. Charles Koch was just trying to live up to his father's expectations. He's stated that his guiding principle is economic consumer surplus.

I won't excuse the whole "killer instinct" thing they all have in common. It's just how humans sometimes work.

Don't get me wrong - Koch et al is a weird company but there's room for that, too. W.R.T energy I hope you're right but it moves slowly.

But would you be in the majority with that? :)

Yes, I'm part of the 7.3 billion people who are not billionaires.

Sorry I was referring to the second part of your comment.

Even if you happen to be in majority with your progressive views, in this instance, there is no guarantee for that generally, especially if we consider the entire global populace.. is what I was trying to point out.

I'd argue 7 billion people can find common ground on what you'd consider "quality of life" for everyone.

That seems counterfactual to me, but that's just my opinion.

I'd go one better:

"Everyone ... wants to shape the world in their specific ideal."

Most people give up on this idea in their mid-20s though or never really believe that they can.

That's because most people actually can't.

I see more and more that hubris is apparently a deprecated concept.

although in less power-hungry ways

Yes, well that's 100% the distinction.

The OP seems to think that the obvious choice is for money to "go to something meaningful" without specifying what "meaningful" actually is. Within this context, that would seem to mean the "meaningful" thing is "greater -good" charity. My point is that more frequently, this type of money go toward direct influence of power like setting up Super PACs, hosting power networks like Sun Valley Conference, establishing think tanks, grants to universities for certain research etc...

Exactly, when you have that much wealth, you buy things that don't have price tags on.

Nah. It's about ego(tism). Power & influence use different currency. You have to either - 1) not know or 2) not care - how badly you'll mess this up.

And you will.

$45B is not enough to change governments. That's about 4 days worth of US federal spending.

It's more than the annual budgets of about 2/3rds of the world's countries, including places like Croatia, or the Philippines. I'd call that politically significant.

Yeah but it's more than enough to bribe the hell out of a lot of senators.

ISRO spent a mere $73 million to go to mars. Big and small are perspectives between what one can do and what one can't.

Spending money meaningfully is hard work. John D. Rockefeller had such a hard time with it that after awhile he just left it up to his son, who devoted his life to philanthropy.

At the Cleveland church he went to, significant portions of his time spent there was to write checks to parishioners.

I'd say it takes roughly the same amount of effort to spend money as it does to make it. You still need an organization, you still need to make really hard decisions day in and day out. It seems that there's something fundamental about philanthropy that doesn't scale.

Personally, I think the work a person does to earn that kind of money, assuming of course it's from legitimate commercial activity, is plenty enough, one shouldn't feel morally compelled to donate it back. But like you said, what else are you going to do with it? Doesn't make a lot of sense anymore to leave billions to heirs.

Relevant bit from Playboy's interview with Steve Jobs:

> Playboy: What does the money actually mean to you?

> Jobs: I still don’t understand it. It’s a large responsibility to have more than you can spend in your lifetime—and I feel I have to spend it. If you die, you certainly don’t want to leave a large amount to your children. It will just ruin their lives. And if you die without kids, it will all go to the Government. Almost everyone would think that he could invest the money back into humanity in a much more astute way than the Government could. The challenges are to figure out how to live with it and to reinvest it back into the world, which means either giving it away or using it to express your concerns or values.

> Playboy: So what do you do?

> Jobs: That’s a part of my life that I like to keep private. When I have some time, I’m going to start a public foundation. I do some things privately now.

> Playboy: You could spend all of your time disbursing your money.

> Jobs: Oh, you have to. I’m convinced that to give away a dollar effectively is harder than to make a dollar.

honest question - how did that went? I mean donation & public foundation part

In typical Jobsian fashion. He talked a good game, but decided to do the opposite. Put his wealth into a living trust to shield it from taxes and publicity and left it to benefit his wife and children.

He died before it happened.

> Personally, I think the work a person does to earn that kind of money, assuming of course it's from legitimate commercial activity, is plenty enough, one shouldn't feel morally compelled to donate it back.

Agreed. And not to get too political, but I'm thankful that individuals in the U.S. are exceptionally generous, and do think about these things. And that those who DO earn copious amounts of money have the choice of what to donate it to - rather than having 90% of it confiscated and doled out by someone else who didn't earn it.

>>It seems that there's something fundamental about philanthropy that doesn't scale.

There is.

You don't give people fish to eat, you teach them how to fish.

John D. Rockefeller started the University of Chicago. Much of his time had to be spent convincing his trustees that they had to spend time soliciting funds from other donors than him. They tended to get slothful and spendthrift otherwise.

Teaching isn't presently scalable. You can look to the failures of our public school system for evidence. One might be tempted to look to other countries for systems that work better, but there has to be a political path forward for implementing those systems here.

One good teacher can only teach so many. That good teacher may not be good at teaching teachers. Teaching is not warfare, where good soldiers can teach other people to teach soldiers.

Teachers that are good at teaching teachers can only teach so many teachers. Any attempt to scale a working method will eventually run out of talent. And if you don't stop when you run out of talent, then the quality of your teaching will inevitably go down. Universities can only get so big.

Billionaires who want to put their wealth towards education are pretty limited in their options.

> I've had the opportunity to rub shoulders with a few billionaires over the past few weeks, and it's remarkable how differently they think about money than the people who don't have it.

Yah, I don't necessarily disagree with their mindset. I've crossed a lot of spectrums, including chilling and rubbing shoulders with the rich to scraping by. I definitely do agree with a lot of the lofty 'moon shots' and some of these people have achieved remarkable things not just for themselves, but for society as well.

But, with Zuck, I just don't know. Gates got rich off operating systems and crushing opponents at all costs (a success story for capitalism). Zuck, from advertising and selling 'your' data. It's admirable that he's giving 99% away, but, I just don't get a warm fuzzy feeling about it.

Time will tell and I hope it turns out good.

> Zuck, from advertising and selling 'your' data

IMO that's a really narrow-minded read of what Facebook is. >1B people log into products he founded every day. He lets advertisers target you using data you've provided, as you sit on the platform he helped build, but I'm not convinced that makes him an evil dude.

My problem is him collecting data on people who aren't even using the service. They collect data on any site with a Facebook button. I don't even use the service and he has my data. I'm not getting any value from his product, so what right does he have to my data?

well, I don't think there are many FB users who would like that to be done to them either, I know I am not.

FB might not be some evil company, but they are definitely not nice guys.

"Dude they just give me their info. Yeah... Dumb suckers!"

Okay perhaps he was young and naive. But is Facebook naive now in Belgium where they want to track people outside of facebook "for their own safety"?

This is EVIL!!

...Meanwhile, Samsung's owner Lee Kun-Hee is still officially alive (even though nobody has seen him in months after he had a heart attack), because the company still hasn't tied up all the loose ends for transferring the company's ownership to Lee's son while paying as little tax as possible.

So, yes, you can do a lot worse (to your society) with $$billions.

(Sorry for the rant. Please carry on.)

> I mean, what else are you going to do with $45 Billion? Build a really big house?

Leave it to your children so you can perpetuate hereditary wealth on a grand scale. Because your great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren should never have to work, right?

I give Mark and Priscilla a lot of credit for this. There's a big difference between 50% and 99%. There's a big difference between leaving your children a few hundred million and many billions. They have certainly exemplified the challenge to ''put your money where your mouth is''.

Having said that, the first thing I thought of was the tax implications. If the shares were to eventually be sold (but not donated), the State of California alone would earn roughly 6 billion dollars in tax revenue. And the Federal Government another 13 - 15 billion. Assuming a lot of variables that could push the value up or down, of course, and the fact that they would be unlikely to sell the majority of their shares any time soon. My understanding is that by donating the appreciated stock to a charity, under current laws, there is zero tax due. I wonder if there's a state financial forecaster or analyst in Sacramento having a bad day today.

"There's a big difference between 50% and 99%. There's a big difference between leaving your children a few hundred million and many billions."

There is a saying "you can name the price if I can name the terms". Zuckerberg saying this and when he actually does this are two different things. (Per my other comment). I am not saying that he won't (how would I know?) but this is a promise that is based on a future event that, given the age of both parents, could easily be 50 or 60 years in the future. And of course exactly nothing will happen if he changes his mind (he isn't going to issue a press release on that) and nobody has any access to his finances anyway. So he is free to say anything he wants for any reason and that of course could change. That said it's his money and he can do what he wants with it. And there is no reason to even announce this if not playing some PR angle.

Edit: And to my point I just got a WSJ Technology Alert email with the headline "FACEBOOK'S MARK ZUCKERBERG IS GIVING AWAY 99% OF HIS SHARES" and then further down in a paragraph "over the course of their lives".

> Nonetheless the big winner here is the group of causes they donate to but it comes at the expense of a significant amount of tax revenue

Here is the world's smallest fiddle...

In this case it really does just sound like "the tax incentive is working as intended".

Good! Government is far less efficient anyway. How many different agencies and special interest groups does the money now not have to touch to get to where Zuck thinks it's best used? The government would just buy a few more F35s or funnel it to bail out companies like GM. Or squander it on 'investments' such as Solydra or market-distorting Ethanol subsidies. It certainly wouldn't get funneled into meaningful education reform or lowering taxes for the rest of us.

I might be wrong, but didn't he already pay the massive tax bill for all of the stock options? Meaning all of those stocks would be taxed at long term capital gains rates, not at the high rates you are saying here. I believe his Federal taxes on sales would be 15% of current price - IPO price so approximately 4.5B not 13-15B at this time. That is also assuming Facebook continues to be dominant and doesn't go the way of every other social networking site before it, but that is a different issue.

And either way, the charitable organizations deserve to be supported and will do good for society, and they get to pick how it is used. Which doesn't seem like a bad thing, when the Federal government can barely agree on any budget at all.

The current capital gains tax rate he would be avoiding is 20%, or $9b at today's Facebook market cap. There is also a 3.8% Medicare tax added on that would come to another $1.7B. The state of California would also get their hands on it and take another 13.3% (or about $6B).

tl;dr Giving capital gains away is very tax advantageous!

I did miss the Medicare Tax part yes, however he takes a $1 salary which would put his regular tax bracket at 10% and long term capital gains would be 0% to start and work his way up to 15%. As long as he doesn't cash out $400k a year he never pays that 20%, and he shouldn't need to ever. You also need to subtract IPO price from current price. Which is about going to drop those estimates about 35%. It still a big chunk of change, no doubt, but I have no problem with getting around it by going to charities. Especially when he already paid ~$2Billion in taxes for the stock at IPO time. The top 400 tax payers only payed $16Billion in 2009 so, he has paid a huge amount.

It would be shocking if he doesn't have alternate income from investments that would knock him up to the top tax bracket. Even moderate dividends on $25m add up to putting you in the top bracket. I have to imagine he has more than $25m in non-Facebook assets.

Regardless, he's saving a fortune in tax by donating money to his own foundation. It could turn out to be awesome like the Gates Foundation, but it could also be a decades long experiment in tossing money down the drain as he works on pet projects. Hopefully the former!

I think that's why they created a non-profit organization, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Non-profits are taxed differently and I'm sure they'll figure out how to get the money where it needs to be and pay as little tax as possible.

According to NYT, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is LLC, and not a non-profit. See my comment here:


Thanks for the correction.

Is it possible in the US to take both names after marriage?

If so, I'm disappointed that Mark didn't choose to be Zuckerberg-Chan.

In the US you can change your name to anything. The guy can change just as the girl can but it is very uncommon for the guy to change his last name.

Honestly, why are you disappointed?

"Chan is a diminutive suffix; it expresses that the speaker finds a person endearing. Thus, using chan with a superior's name would be condescending and rude. In general, chan is used for babies, young children, and teenage girls. It may also be used towards cute animals, lovers, and close friends. "

It's otaku humor.

In Japanese ... his wife is ethnically Chinese.

Doesn't matter in the context of the joke. Has nothing to do with his wife, only 'chan'.

Everybody's disappointed with Mark one way or another, it seems.

Yeah. I have an extended family member who took both names and a friend who opted to just take on his wife's maiden name and dropped his. Another set of friends came up with a last name that was new to them both.

The hyphenating of both names is an interesting concept, but would in all practicality be a difficult thing to pass on after a few generations if it were the standard. Though maybe I'm not thinking thorough it properly.

It's possible to do anything with your band. I'm disappointed he didn't choose Suckitwinkelvoss.

Neither of them changed their names.

Is it possible in the US to take both names after marriage?

Where isn't it possible?

In Switzerland for example. Either both use the same name or they keep the one they already had.

According to https://www.ch.ch/en/married-name/

> Surnames combined with a hyphen, such as Meier-Müller, are still allowed. Combined surnames are not official registered names, but may be used in everyday situations and recorded in your passport and identity card.

So, it's not "official" but you can use it everywhere including on your official documents.

They didn't announce plans to sell immediately and given the timeframe, I'd imagine that selling/transferring those shares will be done in the most tax-advantaged way possible.

Besides taxes, selling 44.5 billion worth of shares would affect the share value negatively. They will probably use some kind of derivative contract to get funds for the non-profit.

He's not selling the shares. He said they "will give 99% of our Facebook shares." If he sold appreciated stock and donated the proceeds, he'd still have to pay tax on the capital gains, and could only deduct the amount of the actual donation, which would be smaller after tax.

By donating stock directly, he still gets to deduct the full value of the stock without paying any tax, and the charity (or more likely, private foundation) gets to keep the full value without paying any tax. And it could take as long as it wanted to liquidate the stock and get the best price.

> the charity (or more likely, private foundation) gets to keep the full value without paying any tax. And it could take as long as it wanted to liquidate the stock and get the best price.

Yes, and the foundation will likely not liquidate the stock, but use the proceeds of some kind of swap contract.

The Initiative is an LLC and not a public charity or private foundation, so as not to limit the activities they can take part in. This will all be taxed at some point (though the Initiative may further grant shares to public charities).

Yeah, I missed this the first time around. But you are not quite correct. An LLC is a pass-through entity. No doubt it will be treated as a disregarded entity for federal tax purposes. So, gifting shares to an LLC is not a taxable event. If the LLC sells shares for a non-charitable purpose (e.g. lobbying, or funding commercial ventures), then sure, that will be taxable. But if it in turn donates shares to either a private foundation or another charity, in that case, it will not be taxable, and will in fact be deductible for the Zucks.

Basically, if the Zucks own the LLC, then until funds actually leave the LLC they really haven't made a donation at all.

However, if the Initiative ever liquidates shares, regardless of what it does with them, they'll owe cap gains just M+P would have.

I think his point of "We must make long term investments over 25, 50 or even 100 years. The greatest challenges require very long time horizons and cannot be solved by short term thinking." is extremely important.

As someone doing research at a top university, I am constantly annoyed by short term vision and optimizing for publication number at all costs. This system is broken.

Alfred Sanger got 2 Nobel Prizes, and he spent a lot of time without publishing before each. Clearly something impossible to do these days.

If you're not already familiar, you might be interested in the Long Now. "The Long Now Foundation hopes to provide a counterpoint to today's accelerating culture and help make long-term thinking more common. We hope to creatively foster responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years."


And on the other hand we have the public companies, lacking strong leadership, forced to look at quarterly returns.

Well there are more research institutions competing for the same dollars so the only way they can differentiate is based on publications. A lot of science is derivative and collaborative. Most important though it needs to be reproducible. Starting there is priority #1.

Is _top_ university an important distinction in this context?

It was just to highlight that things are broken even at the top. I've worked all the way from a relatively small institution and I've found little correlation between long term vision and institution ranking, which is quite surprising.

It actually is in my opinion. If the top, elite research institutes show these kind of problem, then we can expect it to be very prevalent in the rest of the field as well. As in, this isn't some no name low tier school run by mediocre people.

Actually, I’d say it’s the opposite.

"Top" "Elite" universities are usually optimized for their metric – which is the Shanghai index, which is based on number of publications in english-language magazines.

In countries outside of the Anglosphere often research at universities can go a lot slower, as they have no chance in the Shanghai index anyway.

The Fraunhofer institute has, in cooperation with Sony, VW and Mercedes, worked on self driving cars since 2002. Sometimes you just have to throw a few million euro and a few decades onto a project to get some results.

Implication is competition is paramount - both level and quality of output

Will this ~$45 billion go to efficient use? Based on his track record of $100 million to newark and how effective that was, I am skeptical.

Good intentions in philanthropy are a dime a dozen, actual results are less common.

Improving schools is HARD for techies and non-techies alike. Education is one of the major iniatives of the Gates Foundation and Mrs Jobs main charity.

Dumping money in to a proven failed approach was not a great idea. He should have founded a separate school system instead.

Has it really been so big a failure as the press has led us to believe?


If the Newark experiment winds up being a catastrophe, we do still walk away with a postmortem teaching us interesting things about the problems we face, and debunking the notion that all schools need is more money.

Did you actually read the results of the $100 million going to Newark instead of blindly believing the media? Probably not... #uninformed.

Now I don't feel too bad about Fb snubbing Telegram. /s

I'm curious how they plan to liquidate that shares as it will have quite some effect on the dynamics of Fb and on this:

  I will continue to serve as Facebook's CEO for many, many years to come

Pledge during lifetime means that they have the flexibility to do the bulk of the liquidation during the latter years of their lives, when perhaps he has assumed only Chairman responsibilities.

Also, you can get loans at very low rates by putting shares into collateral. This is how Larry Ellison funds much of his endeavors.

Crazy. Even crazier when you realize that that 1% is $450 million....

so Max will still be (half) a billionaire once she grows up.

She'll be way richer than that.

They'll donate 99% of their shares along their lifetimes. In the meantime, they'll get cash in several ways: dividends, salaries, bonuses, etc.

Zuck takes only $1 as salary btw from facebook.

Mr. Zuckerberg probably has other assets ;)

Assuming Facebook maintains it's valuation.

Empires grow and empires crumble.

Chances are at least 1% of their wealth will be put into something stable. Index funds, bonds, treasuries. Hell, cash'd be fine.

Indeed. Bill Gates owns a railroad in Wisconsin, for example.

So much for the three comma club.

So she'll be OK. Hope I'll still be able to take care of my kids after Zuckerberg unleashes the flood of H1Bs to lower my salary.

Keep in mind that it is of the Facebook shares value, not net worth. Although admirable, it is not apart of the Bill and Melinda Gates pledge that many billionaires (notably, Buffet) have taken of giving away half of their new worth before they die.

Anyway though, it's still a lot. And I hope they follow what other billionaires have been doing; not just throwing it at charities, but putting it into research and even funding entirely new projects.

Funding startups and research labs that have no economic goal or an economic return to shareholders is something that is very needed. I see much of the funding coming from this.

"Although admirable, it is not apart of the Bill and Melinda Gates pledge that many billionaires (notably, Buffet) have taken of giving away half of their new worth before they die."

Are you referring to The Giving Pledge [1]? Both Mark and Priscilla have signed it [2]:

"We salute the Giving Pledge movement, and are proud to be part of its declaration that those who have been fortunate should give back at least half of their wealth during their lifetimes."

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Giving_Pledge

[2] http://givingpledge.org/pdf/pledge-letters/Zuckerberg_Letter...

>Anyway though, it's still a lot. And I hope they follow what other billionaires have been doing; not just throwing it at charities, but putting it into research and even funding entirely new projects.

You might be interested in reading about Chuck Feeney (the founder of Duty Free Stores), who was the original guy advocating for such hands-on charitable work.

How much does he have outside of Facebook shares? A billion or two? So it's still >90% of net worth.

Yeah... how's that for burying the lede? I almost didn't get that far through the post.

"During our lives" doesn't specify a time frame such that it will happen in the next 5 years or 50 years. What he appears to be really saying is "our heirs will only inherit 1% of our Facebook shares". Until both Chan and Zuckerberg pass away we don't know how many shares (or wealth) they will have access to.

It's very probable Facebook will get a competitor, and/or make a decision, that makes the company worth a lot less in a very short time, like its predecessors / previous competitors did. Internet companies can be fickle like that. Mind you, it's not likely to happen overnight and it also depends on how much the company's value is based on thin air, but still.

That would leave him with $450 million left over.

Four hundred. And fifty. Million.

He earned it.

lolz, the army of facebook engineers earned it.

No, they did the work, he earned the money.

He's still left with US$450 million, for living expenses...

He's not giving it all at once. He announced that he plans to give 1-2% of his Facebook wealth per year.

Chapeau Mr. and Mrs. Zuckerberg.

if they break up, it might become 49.5% as this is not a done deal...

Mark Zuckerburg is now officially the one percent.

What point are you making? Are you saying that's a lot or a little? We all read the 99% number. Adding periods between the words puts emphasis on it sure (great job putting in the extra effort to enhance the discussion by the way) but given the nature of this discussion I can't for the life of me figure out what you're actually trying to say.

At last Zuckerberg realized real problems of the world can't be solved by Facebook or for that matter technology. I am talking about healthcare and medical problems. Personally websites like Facebook are wate of time and barely make ant impact in human potential improvement.They do make us feel worse and sell our personal data to advertisers though.

There hasn't been another other thing that has had as much impact in bringing me closer to my family and friends across the globe. Waste of time for you, positive life changing medium for me. Further, who know what positive impact this have had on my health? Maybe it has prevented the need for medicines in many cases.

Except for the internet and computers and electricity and a few other things.

I hope you understand that your personal experience is anecdotal evidence at best and perception bias for you didn't take into account the downside for the rest of the population.

What about this stubborn family member who refuses to have a facebook account because he believes in privacy as a fundamental freedom, how exactly facebook is bringing you closer to him/her?

Anecdotal? Perception bias? Okay, let's go by hard data. 1.4 Billion active users. Billion of advertising dollar flowing through the platform because users are engaged. How many billions of family pictures shared and enjoyed? You think people are suffering through the experience and being forced to use facebook? Think again. And that stubborn family member with the tin foil hat (edge case), he can surely pick up the phone and give me a call.

yes one's own experience is always anecdotal and due to perception bias we believe our personal experience to be significant. You're not special, we pretty much all do this.

Please define active user as it could mean anything, then again don't, as number of used (which is more appropriate than users for facebook) and advertising dollars are hardly valid metrics for bringing people together and positive life changing. Turns out you are right actually, some are suffering through the experience and feel they are forced to use facebook[1][2][2], note that they are mostly in the same demographic group which happen to be the next generations of adults.

This tin foil hat edge case is a boat that has sailed a while ago, facebook is a major privacy problem[3][4][5] and as we know privacy is the foundation for liberty and freedoms. But Facebook is also censorship[6][7] and manufacturing public opinion[8].

Not only that, but contrary to your personal experience facebook usually makes people miserable and feel bad about themselves[9][10][11][12] and other personal experience point to it being bad and getting worse at giving you the meaningful posts[13].

If you care about your loved ones and family you should help them get away from facebook[14][15], not trap them in by putting all you interactions with them there.

[1]: https://medium.com/backchannel/a-teenagers-view-on-social-me...

[2]: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/05/22/teenagers_ha...

[2]: http://mashable.com/2013/08/11/teens-facebook/

[3]: http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/it-security/why-you-should-...

[4]: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/06/23/1218189/-HBGary-Pal...

[5]: http://techcrunch.com/2015/06/06/the-online-privacy-lie-is-u...

[6]: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2015/01...

[7]: https://www.aclu.org/blog/naked-statue-reveals-one-thing-fac...

[8]: https://medium.com/message/engineering-the-public-289c913902...

[9]: http://www.npr.org/2012/10/18/163098594/in-constant-digital-...

[10]: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563214...


[11]: http://qz.com/546799/a-study-forced-people-to-quit-facebook-...

[12]: http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/2158359...


[13]: https://www.refheap.com/ee96f4d90abd10b643cee0448

[14]: http://saintsal.com/facebook/

[15]: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/andrewbrown/2010/ma...

We both agree that individual experience is anecdotal. That is why I tried the way of stats. But you are now questioning the number of users on fb. That boat has sailed few yrs back.

A.We can all confidently agree that a large number of users use fb.

B. Most of what you have linked is opinion pieces. The first one I clicked had private chat transcripts from Zuckerberg when he was a kid and fb was nothing like what it is today.

C. Some studies are referenced which show people are miserable using social networks. Similar results have been "derived" for almost anything: news, video games, television, cell phones etc. I recommend taking it with a pinch of salt.

D. You say that advertising dollars mean nothing. Exactly the opposite is true. Try getting coke, kraft, apple and other brands to associate themselves with something that makes miserable.

With the amount of money Zuk has he should start a non-profit drug maker that produces generic drugs at cost.

Maybe I'm being too cynical, but this seems about as philanthropic as Ron Hubbard starting a religion.

Firstly, the donation is stock not cash, so the value of this foundation will be directly linked to the value of Facebook shares.

Secondly, it has been stated that one of the things this foundation will do is "participate in policy debates". If the headline was "Mark Zuckerberg to put $45 billion is stock behind lobbying effort to establish Internet.org as a monopoly in developing countries", that wouldn't sound quite so positive, would it?

It sincerely depresses me that the top comment on Hacker News is so incredibly cynical. The man is giving away a huge amount of money and you can only find ways to detract.

> Firstly, the donation is stock not cash, so the value of this foundation will be directly linked to the value of Facebook shares.

So? The vast majority of his wealth is in Facebook shares. That doesn't change the fact that he's giving away the vast majority of it. You think he should have sold it all now, destroyed its value, and donated a much smaller pot?

> it has been stated that one of the things this foundation will do is "participate in policy debates".

One of many things. Not to mention he has never attempted to make Internet.org anything close to a monopoly.

That your reaction to an incredibly charitable act is such pure cynicism is absolutely disgusting. There are plenty of billionaires who hoard their money or perpetuate hereditary fortunes, and those who don't should be commended.

> Not to mention he has never attempted to make Internet.org anything close to a monopoly.

Do you even know what Internet.org is? They're providing free access to a subset of the internet that Facebook controls, while forcing people to pay if they want to access the internet as a whole. The entire reason Internet.org exists is to create a Facebook monopoly on data access in developing countries.

Your entire comment is naive.

Internet.org provides access to a subset of the internet that Facebook chooses to pay for. The target audience is mostly people that can't afford any internet access to the first place because it is to outrageously expensive. As well, that subset of the internet is open to developers to submit their own services to be supported by Internet.org [1]. Last time I glanced through the agreement, Facebook is just trying to avoid paying for HD photos and video downloads, which would increase the cost of Internet.org beyond feasibility.

An initiative can be charitable while also benefiting the donor. The users of Internet.org get free access to Facebook as well as the other services being provided and that doesn't detract from the service or make the whole initiative evil.

I have yet to see research that providing a zero-rating service is harmful as you suggest.

[1]: https://developers.facebook.com/docs/internet-org

> I have yet to see research that providing a zero-rating service is harmful as you suggest.

"Internet.org provides access to a subset of the internet that Facebook chooses to pay for."

> Last time I glanced through the agreement, Facebook is just trying to avoid paying for HD photos and video downloads, which would increase the cost of Internet.org beyond feasibility.

This could be achieved by choking bandwidth, which would be easier to implement, simpler, and more transparent. Instead, you get stuff like:

"In order for your content to be proxied as described above, your URLs may be re-written and embedded content (like javascript and content originating from another domain) removed. In addition, secure content is not supported and may not load." [1]

Let's be absolutely clear here: Facebook wants to control what content gets into Free Basics and how it's presented, and is willing to make security impossible in order to do it. This enables both censorship and mass surveillance controlled by Facebook and whoever is willing to pay them.

> The users of Internet.org get free access to Facebook as well as the other services being provided and that doesn't detract from the service or make the whole initiative evil.

It's not the things users get access to that I'm worried about, it's the things they don't get access to, and who else gets access to those user's data.

[1] https://developers.facebook.com/docs/internet-org/participat...

Try exercising a less naive approach ("incredibly charitable act") perhaps.

In particular, regarding your statement "he has never attempted to make Internet.org anything close to a monopoly", it surely looks like that's the end game here - see https://www.techinasia.com/talk/facebooks-internetorg-evil/ (discussed on HN here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10568525)

You are being too cynical. He's giving away stock not cash because if he sold the stock first to raise cash to donate, he'd have an enormous capital gains tax liability. By gifting stock, he can gift a far greater amount and the tax-exempt recipient charity can sell the stock itself to raise cash. This is standard in situations like this - e.g. it's what Buffett did when gifting away almost all of his billions.

Also the cause you listed is just one of many that he is gifting to so you're missing the forest for the trees. To help overcome this, list all of the good causes he mentioned (personalized learning, curing disease etc), then list the ones that you don't like. I bet the list of good causes will be far longer than the list of ones you don't like.


Mr. Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, said they were forming a new organization, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, to manage the money, through an unusual limited liability corporate structure. [...] By using a limited liability company instead of a nonprofit corporation or foundation, the Zuckerberg family will be able to go beyond making philanthropic grants. They will invest in companies, lobby for legislation and seek to influence public policy debates, which nonprofits are restricted from doing under tax laws. A spokeswoman for the family said that any profits from the investments would be plowed back into the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative for future projects.

Someone with more knowledge of the U.S. tax code than me will be able to explain how he's going to achieve this while funding a new corporation (perhaps he'll set up a foundation that owns a corporation, similar to what some endowment funds do to avoid UBTI), but there is no way that he's going to make this gift much smaller by doing it in a way that realizes a taxable gain at the time of gift.

If anything, you are not being cynical enough. This 'letter' can be summarized as "We will use the money for leftist lobbying in our country and establishing a monopoly in other countries AND we're going to say it's charity so no taxes will be paid".

I think you're being too cynical.

So what if the donation is stock?

Since when does

> We must participate in policy and advocacy to shape debates. Many institutions are unwilling to do this, but progress must be supported by movements to be sustainable.

mean "lobbying effort to establish Internet.org as a monopoly in developing countries"?

You're just picking the part of the story that you don't like. Zuck maybe has taken decisions that some of us don't share (most likely all related to privacy/monopolies in the internet)... but (like Bill Gates) he's undoubtedly in a unique position to bring deep changes and improvements to the world through philanthropic activities.

If having a child has made him rethink his views (which would be normal) then that's great. Too bad he didn't have a child before and started this initiative few years ago!

What part of "curing diseases" sounds greedy, egomaniac, or bad in any sense? I hope he joins Gates, Thiel, Parker, Diamandis, Page, Kurzweil, and many others on their quest to eradicate diseases from the face of earth. And I hope he funds Aubrey De Grey like Thiel is doing...

My first response was "why not just give it to the Gates foundation" since they're already doing it and well. What's his special insight into what makes a cause effective to fund? Are we perpetuating a world in which charities employ a bunch of people to convince any of a hundred different rich philanthropists/foundations to hand over wodges of cash?

It's a hugely net positive thing he is doing no question.

Gates managed to make people believe he somehow became a Saint after leaving Microsoft, even though he created and guided it to become pretty much the most evil IT company ever.

People just don't talk about it anymore, so he's all good now.

But there's obviously something shady about his dealings: http://newsjunkiepost.com/2013/06/07/bill-gates-big-pharma-b...

Something's always bugged me about relying on philanthropy as a source of funding the public good, as opposed to the public funding the public good through taxation and the democratic process: In the former case, the public doesn't really have much of a say about where the help goes. We must rely on the judgment (and personal values) of a few rich people and hope they pick charities that maximize the benefit.

Would the outcome be better or worse if we had, say, a 99% tax bracket at >$N million, and let the public decide the best way to deploy that funding via the ballot box? Would that process better align with the values of a democratic society? Or would we just get more corporate welfare, bombers and aircraft carriers?

I'm not ragging on philanthropy--it's awesome that some of these billionaires understand the meaning of "enough" and choose to give away their fortunes to worthy causes. But is it best for society to leave it to a few lucky 'elite' to judge what is and isn't a worthy cause?

Mark Zuckerberg donated 100 million dollars to Newark public schools a few years ago, and they ended up no better for it (and arguably worse off). Here's a great article on the topic -- http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/05/19/schooled .

The main reason for the failure of the donation to create positive change was that the community wasn't engaged at all in the reform process. The first time Newark students and parents heard about the donation and the accompanying "reforms" were when Zuckerberg announced them on Oprah.

I completely agree with your sentiment, and wish philanthropy wasn't seen as an unmitigated good thing.

It is interesting that the same rich people created a political system that allows the public to be so disengaged.

We need the 99% tax because we had it before, and at that time, the public was more engaged. It will take time, but people can learn civic skills.

You're becoming too clouded in fuzzy ideals and missing the ugly reality that there is no virtuous public and democratic society, but the state. You say we must rely on the judgment and values of a few wealthy, but then completely ignore the whole landmine of public choice. Not that "having to rely on a few rich people" is even true.

I don't think OP is clouded, missing the ugly reality, or ignoring the landmine of public choice. That's why most of it was phrased as a question, and even mentioned:

    Or would we just get more corporate welfare, bombers and aircraft carriers?
OP is wondering, not unreasonably, if that reality might be less ugly than what we have today.

That's a little nihilist.

Traditionally the state has been a form of wealth redistribution, because while it may not be a true democracy, citizens still vote, and could potentially vote to have the majority of the wealth redistributed equally amongst themselves.

But instead we have a power struggle between those with the means to sway others and the idealists. While I'm sure the idealists will probably never attain their utopia, if they don't continue to share their dream we'll end up living someone else's self-serving one.

I think there's a reason, why the people who attain the means to sway others stop being idealists.

Which is?

I have more faith in the judgement of the system that elects billionaires than the system that elects our government.

Billionaires will spend their money in more efficient and productive ways than our government spends tax dollars. You may disagree with a rich individual's vision of the future, but he will be vastly more likely to effect his vision than our elected officials.

The system that elects billionaires is the same as the system that elects our government.

Perhaps billionaires will spend their money more efficiently.

But they'll spend less of it on the public good.

The government may be less efficient (also, citation needed there, as I don't buy that at face value), but even if it is it has access to WAY more funds.

Sure, we have some nice billionaires like Zuckerberg and Gates who give their money away, but if you required all the billionaires to give up some money, you'd have a much larger pool to work with. So efficiency isn't the only part of this argument. There is also volume.

If you force rich people to give away a large enough percentage of their money, perhaps you will remove any incentive for the non-philanthropic ones to keep earning more money. If they weren't inclined to give it away in the first place, they probably won't be inclined to make more, knowing they'll be required to give it away.

And therefore the people who end up making the most money are the people who are the most philanthropic and that is worse than the current system how?

Because those people are already giving most of their money away to causes that benefit the world. The "other" rich people are still, on average, creating wealth though, via the companies they start and run. If you disincentivize them from doing those things, you eliminate that wealth, leaving everyone worse off on average.

Hope you're ok with whatever that billionaire's vision is.

One difference is that billionaires (at least the Buffett / Gates crowd) seem to put a lot more of their donations toward projects in foreign countries than the government would. Since the vast majority of people living in bad situations in the world are not Americans, I think it's very plausible that they're doing more good with the money than we would get from taxing it.

> Would the outcome be better or worse if we had, say, a 99% tax bracket at >$N million, and let the public decide the best way to deploy that funding via the ballot box?

If we had that and still had charitable deductions, I suspect more public goods would be funded by charity rather than public decision-making then is now the case, since the marginal cost of charity giving would be much lower.

You're suspecting wrong. In the sense that less public goods and services are funded today on a global scale due to facebook tax evasion scheme.

Even with a 99% tax on Zucker's fortune, it would still be diverting money from countries around the globe towards the US, in other words the already rich and destroying condition favorable to human life USA would get richer by making the poor poorer.

In a world with no countries, it would make sense. In the current world it would be another way for the USA to abuse and exploit the rest of the world.

Hopefully you're not the only one, as I share your reluctance to embrace it as the "go-to" model of social constructiveness. There's a lot of good that comes from people "giving back" in one form or another, be it financial, skilled labor, or just simple time and attention when possible. I think it's admirable to want to change "institutions" like education for the better - I've been an advocate for 'progress' ever since I saw some of the challenges back in my own youth - but I can't help but think of such experiments as pet projects. Those can be productive, sure, but do I believe, deep down, that the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is going to have the answer to the variety of problems that plague Chicago's South Side, New Orleans, or any number of troubled communities? Sigh, might just be me.

Would you voluntarily give more taxes to your governments? Or would you rather donate that money to a charity of your choosing / research?

> the answer to the variety of problems that plague Chicago's South Side, New Orleans, or any number of troubled communities?

No one (government, private sector, etc.) has the answer to those problems. Those are really really hard problems that require the cooperation of non-profits, local governments, religious institutions, families, etc. I don't think they're expecting to be a silver bullet.

>Would you voluntarily give more taxes to your governments?

I already voluntarily pay more taxes than I need to. It's pretty easy to (legally) pay much less tax if you are running your own business.

Also, I and quite a few other people I know don't use GiftAid when giving to charity or buying things from charities (GiftAid basically lets the charity claim back the income tax that I've paid on that money) for the reason that the government is better placed to know what projects need money than I am. They are more likely to spend the money on 'unfashionable' things that don't trigger the same emotional response in people but are actually more effective uses of money.

I, for one, would absolutely voluntarily give more taxes to my government for the sole purpose that all this shit infrastructure would be fixed up. Put people to work on infrastructure projects and I will gladly give up more money in the form of taxes.

Basic income on the premise of infrastructure renovations is something I'm fully behind and I think many more citizens would be too, specifically those getting by on food stamps.

So you would donate to the government, but only if you could ensure that your voluntary tax dollars go to the most important thing?

That's exactly why billionaires donate to their causes directly instead of letting the government allocate it; they don't trust the government with that extra money any more than you do.

Yeah so you just agreed with the above comment - you want control on where your money goes. So does Zuckerberg.

Economically speaking, giving people jobs is far better than tossing 100 million dollars into schools where the students home life is the true source of abandonment in society.

This is a well received economic theory, not a way to save face on taxes by promising to give away money in the future so that I don't have to pay taxes now (Zuck).

I think it's good to have both. Philanthropy of rich guy means three things:

1. He can afford really good advisers. Democratically elected can be good. But they might be good at campaigning and only get selected because of party status.

2. He can afford to monitor charities closely. And enforce legal action if they fuck around. When you invest several millions, you probably take care that they reach the destination. If you just pay little taxes that go everywhere and you also have day job, much slimmer chance.

3. These individuals could fund projects that in the future give back to whole humanity. But such projects aren't always popular with the public in the start.

Do you have a say on how government spends your tax dollars? In theory sure, and in theory politicians represent our interests. In practice none of that happens and my tax money isn't spend on anything nearly as constructive as what any NGO (or foundation) is doing. Moreover, I'm obliged to contribute to whatever the fuck they want to do with my money, even if it's war. So yeah, that's better than a rich guy giving money away, right? Society already leaves it to an 'elite' to judge what to do - an elite of politicians and whoever is backing them financially. How can you be so naive?

So would "the people" know of a better way to deploy Zuckerberg's fortune than the man himself?

why is his opinion more valid?

edit: "its his money" doesn't explain why he would be more able to judge how to donate money, or effect positive change than someone else. i understand he is allowed to spend it how ever he chooses. the point i'm trying to make is that someone is not inherently more likely to know the right thing to do than someone else just because they have more money.

Have you ever given to charity? If so, why? Why didn't you give it directly to the IRS? They accept donations, you know...

because it's his money

Because it is his money.

That's the principle of the free market -- central planning is inefficient.

I'd rather see them pay a considerable chunk of those billions in taxes - which Facebook and other giant companies like it don't pay in the US due to its lax tax laws, and which they evade in other countries using various tax evasion schemes. Then there'd be more money to pay for affordable schools and whatnot.

Then again, the US is more likely to spend trillions on wars abroad without those really improving their own country, so on that note, it's probably better for a philanthropist to invest the money in a charity with a singular goal, such as education or research.

It's not really "as opposed to". We have both, and I figure that's good.

Each model has its strengths, weaknesses, and problems it is most suited to, just like public vs. private industry.

If you have the ability and luck to make a billion dollars, you probably have a bit more skill than the average Joe to determine where that money should go...

i've wondered about this as well, and it seems really insane to me when you break it down. being good at making money does not imply being good at philanthropy, nor does it imply that your opinion is more valid. yes, i know there isn't a perfect solution, but isn't it silly that that's how things work now? it seems like letting the public vote would do better.

I feel only on HN and Reddit can people find reason to criticize a guy who is giving away billions of dollars for humanity. Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees.

I think it's a good sign if people don't take words at face value and be critical of it.

Their public pledge to donate 45 billion dollars to charity within their lifetimes with an eye towards long term solutions deserves criticism? Seriously, WTF?

If I may paraphrase the sentiment here:


  Their public pledge to donate 45 billion dollars
That number is based on current valuation of Fb and cannot be equated to someone writing a check for $45B. If Fb goes the MySpace way, how much is that donation worth?

Secondly there appears to be a duality between how the company operates and what this post tries to rally for.

Finally, using the pretense of writing a letter to their newly born daughter rubs some the wrong way.

> If Fb goes the MySpace way, how much is that donation worth?

If Fb goes the Google way and its value continues to go up, the donation will be worth more. It's true that the donation is of unclear value. But calling it $45 billion is a way to communicate the scope of the pledge that they've committed to.

> Secondly there appears to be a duality between how the company operates and what this post tries to rally for.

It's important to distinguish between the behavior of a person and the behavior of Facebook, Inc. Every time the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation does something, we don't get dozens of people rising out of the woodwork harping on Microsoft's unethical business practices - but Bill Gates' mid-90s Microsoft was definitely on par with Facebook at its worst. It's okay to celebrate good things done, as long as we don't fully forget how we got there. We should continue to criticize Facebook as a company even as we recognize that the individual here is attempting something great.

> Finally, using the pretense of writing a letter to their newly born daughter rubs some the wrong way.

It's a pretty easy and effective rhetorical device. The letter is obviously targeted at the world, or he wouldn't have published it. But it's a good way to present some emotional framing - this is why he cares so much, why he's invested in a better world. Not all attempts to inspire pathos in the reader are rooted in evil, it's just a tool for effective writing.

1.Now you're valuing his donation based on total value? Well using your logic everyone else donates a measly <$10k and is essentially worthless.

2.Any substantiation for that?

3.Okay. Should've sent a friend request first.

The post you're responding to never said this essay deserved criticism. It said it's good people aren't taking it at face value and are being critical of it. They are not the same thing.

Being critical of the claim to donate 45 billion dollars is pretty natural. First, they didn't say 45 billion, they said a percentage of their worth which right now is 45 billion dollars. You would have a very strong point if they had just delivered the check for 45 billion dollars and people were criticizing it.

But they didn't do that. They wrote a post on the internet saying they're going to give away their money sometime in their lifetime.

The scope of this pledge in combination with the dollar amount would stretch so thin that it would have the net effect of giving every child in the world $20 and saying, here, go improve the quality of your life.

So, yeah, if he wants to open himself up to public scrutiny with a tastless "letter to my daughter that i'm actually making for the public because my daughter can't understand this for another 10 years", people are going to criticize.

But he has 45 billion freaking dollars, so I doubt he cares.

Who runs the initiative?

This seems more like PR than a genuine letter to a child. Which is fine, but I wish they'd treat it as such.

They talk about facebook, donations, improving the world, their beliefs, etc. but very little on how to be a better person or how to enjoy life. Maybe I'm projecting, but what would you want to find in your pillow after moving in for your first day of college?

I hope they wrote their daughter a real letter. One directed to her and not something that will be tweeted by hundreds of news organizations.

My brain hurts just reading through this letter. I'm trying to picture my parents -- or anyone's parents! -- writing:

"Your mother and I don't yet have the words to describe the hope you give us for the future... Our hopes for your generation focus on two ideas: advancing human potential and promoting equality... We can do this work only because we have a strong global community behind us. Building Facebook has created resources to improve the world for the next generation. Every member of the Facebook community is playing a part in this work... Love, Mom and Dad"

Philanthropy aside, doen's this "letter" read like a scene from the Silicon Valley TV show?

Isn't the birth of a child enough of a celebration, without smothering it in a multi-page manifesto?

Telling her they're donating $45B seems like a clear message on how to be a better person to me. Selflessness and the desire to improve the world.

Why are the techno-barons so focused on human health? Not that there's anything wrong with these efforts, but human disease is much less of a threat to our species and planet than an ever-increasing human population. What I'm saying is that humans have little difficulty reproducing; it's a solved problem.

What's not a solved problem is our disappearing fisheries[1], rhinos going extinct all over the place[2], farmland desertification[3], tropical deforestation[4], ocean acidification[5]... From my back of the envelope math, it seems that longer lives and a larger population will exacerbate our environmental and resource issues.

I'd like to see billionaires purchase large tracks of land simply for preservation. Cleaning up industrial waste from rivers. Foot the salaries of anti-poaching efforts. Get clean fusion energy production up and running. That sort of thing. Perhaps we should get our planet's shit together before tackling immortality?

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/06/03/t...

[2] http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/16/africa/kenya-northern-white-rh...

[3] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-34790661

[4] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/30/indones...

[5] http://fm.kuac.org/post/increasing-ocean-acidity-threatens-m...

Bill Gates has teamed up with Mark Zuckerberg to form multi-billion-dollar clean energy fund: http://www.sciencealert.com/bill-gates-has-teamed-up-with-ma...

It sounds like they are doing exactly what you request.

Investing in new energy technologies is not an effective way to address any of the problems he mentioned.

So clean energy isn't beneficial in tackling 'farmland desertification[3]' and 'ocean acidification[5]'? You have heard of climate change, right?

Dirty energy isn't the (main) problem; intensive agriculture and aggressive fishing is the main problem.

Humans need to eat less meat and fish. Much less. Like, in rich countries, at least 95% less.

> "aggressive fishing is the main problem."

That is a separate problem from ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is directly linked to pollution from fossil fuel usage.

Yes, aggressive fishing is a different problem (but a problem nonetheless).

Ocean acidification however, is caused by the fact that the oceans absorb the excess of CO2 present in the atmosphere; and livestock are responsible for more CO2 production than all of transportation.

> "Ocean acidification however, is caused by the fact that the oceans absorb the excess of CO2 present in the atmosphere; and livestock are responsible for more CO2 production than all of transportation."

There's a common misconception that all CO2 is bad. CO2 is a natural part of the bio cycles found on Earth, what's bad about using fossil fuels is the rapid expansion of CO2 (and other gases) in the environment where life lives, which causes instability and damage as the Earth adapts.

It might be marginally beneficial but it's not an effective way to combat climate change. Something else is needed to stop USA, Saudis, China and Russia from digging up the cheap oil and coal. And to stop everyone from doing all the wasteful and co2-increasing things with agriculture and deforestation etc.

We need intergovernmental coordination and limits on market forces much more than we need an energy MacGuffin.

> "Something else is needed to stop USA, Saudis, China and Russia from digging up the cheap oil and coal."

So you don't think cheap and effective clean energy technologies are very useful to encourage moving away from oil and coal?

Sure, I believe it's useful in that rich western countries continue their leisurely transition to cleaner energy as it becomes cheaper, combined with gas taxes and carbon trading and such. Billionaires investing more money in cleaner energy can be marginally beneficial, though there is already large and increasing amounts of capital allocated by the markets toward this end.

But the deciding factor is can we make everyone stop using the cheap fossil fuels that are basically free money lying in the ground. Oil price will follow demand. It might get cheaper if western countries cut consumption, but someone will still buy the rest with the lower price. And there is nothing in the horizon that would displace oil and coal at their minimum profitable production prices for developing countries (where most people live) in the requisite timeframe. If we leave it to markets, this is the case by overwhelming odds, Zuckerberg or no Zuckerberg.

Think what needs to happen on the world stage in order to enact a global ban (1) on oil pumping and coal mining within 20 years. That's the job. Interests of nations addicted to the oil income, interests of nations whose agriculture is entirely dependent on cheap imported oil, etc. Easy UN consensus?

And this is just the energy sector, there's more to climate change drivers. So fixing this is necessary but not sufficient. The same political measures that are needed to coordinate the energy sector will also work for the other sectors. But energy tech won't.

(1) A very high tax really, that 99% prevents use in fuel applications. Ban is a simpler word.

edit: added bit about fossil prices reacting to demand in west

> "Think what needs to happen on the world stage in order to enact a global ban (1) on oil pumping and coal mining within 20 years. That's the job."

You could aim for that, or you could aim for a steady stream of improvements leading to larger change once momentum is built. Or in other words, revolution vs. evolution. If you want to pursue revolution, go for it, I'll continue to pursue evolution.

Are you uggesting we don't have give up fossils that quickly, or are you suggesting we could wait 19 years and then shut down fossil fuels with a large change which would bring cheap fossils replacements for even third world countries?

I do favour ramping down incrementally, and we should get started ASAP.

I'm suggesting that instead of waiting for dramatic political and/or economic changes I will support every opportunity we get to move in the right direction, regardless of how small those changes are. The key in my opinion is building momentum. Research into clean technologies are likely to pay off eventually, even if the changes in the near term are negligible.

Remember that the best way to predict the future is to invent it. If you truly want your revolution, then lead the way by action. I'll continue supporting change in my own way.

I heard that healthy human is the key to sustainable population. Less-healthy human condition tend to make human have more babies since mortality rate on their babies are higher.

The cynic's answer is that human health is something that really rich do not have much control over. (SJ is just one shining example)

In other words you get billion dollars but realize it is all for naught as you will be worm food in 100 years.

So some go full Kurzweill, some find/found religion, some do a bit of everything.

This problem is not unique to billionaires but they can attempt to roll a bigger rock up the mountain.

Manoj Bhargava is doing something similar: https://imgur.com/gallery/teGsT

Bill Gates is actually very concerned with reducing population growth.

I think you have an OK point and the more intelligent rich people like Elon Musk are the ones furthering your agenda. Bill and Zuck were always too conventional to think big like this. Their conventionality was part of their success--they are both too uncreative to come up with something new but instead they know how to steal the ideas of others and make a more competitive business out of them.

Ted Turner bought a bunch of land.

You make a very good point. Currently, the largest threat to long and happy life is a destroyed habitat.

Sometimes, I think people on HN probably think they get points for being the most cynical critic.

Can't we just say, "Dude we are happy for you, and thanks for the money."

And what happened to the rule about not saying stuff you wouldn't say to a person's face. Would you be calling Mark a narcissist to his face? Keep it civil people.

> Would you be calling Mark a narcissist to his face?

I definitely would. I'd call him a cunt too. He is one, and in my country you call a cat a cat. None of that tippy toeing around you english people do, Zuck is a horrible person as the last ten years has shown everyone, Facebook is a despicable company with despicable ethics.

This letter is vomit inducing, and the comment section is rich people stroking each other for "helping the world" after being major actors in destroying it, fuck them all too.

Where are you seeing "narcissist" reflected in the comments here? I'm seeing, "ulterior motive". And yes, I think most HN'ers wouldn't hesitate to call Zuck out on that. I know I would.

Zuckerberg isn't planning on retiring.

He will rival Bill Gates in the magnitude of philanthropic contributions.

And in other news Facebook Notes is challenging Medium as the default one-column publishing tool.

Note as well, that of all the immaterial goods that have the potential to create immense value to people and humanity, education and health are the ones strongly highlighted. Global equality is there, but to a critic this too will be seen as another factor in building and supporting an ever-growing, and long-living, consumerist middle class.

There is very little said about freedom, democracy, privacy, justice or self-determination. Even if this reading is unfair, cynical or simply too demanding of what this text and announcement is. Not to mention detracting from what is otherwise a highly admirable act.

According to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's financial declarations [0], assets as of December 2014 read at a hair under $45 billion. This very much rivals the size, even if it will take some time to build momentum and make as much of a difference as the Gates Foundation has to date.

[0] http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Who-We-Are/General-Informatio...

I'm signed up for CNN's "Breaking News" emails that are sent out whenever some earth-shattering crisis occurs or particularly important news that affects everyone. I received one of these email alerts upon the arrival of their daughter. This gave me a great sigh; good news for them, but how did it become worthy of worldwide immediate news notification?

You didn't read the article did you?

I did. What does that have to do with CNN Breaking News?

Couple problems with this otherwise well-intentioned effort:

1. It's a drop in the bucket compared to what governments spend on a regular basis trying to solve these problems. (Bill Gates has said as much.)

2. Private charity by the billionaire class is not a scalable solution. Historically most social advancement has happened through popular organization and government programs, not charity.

Silicon Valley itself is a product of government spending. The Internet and thus Facebook wouldn't exist without billions of taxpayer investment in early stage high risk research and procurement via DARPA and other government agencies. That continues today (just a couple examples: Siri and autonomous vehicles).

If we are serious about accomplishing social change and "long term investments over 25, 50 or even 100 years," the answers lie in greater government investment in these areas. Just like Silicon Valley. And that means all Silicon Valley companies should be paying back to the government just as they would an early stage investor. Not as a "noble choice" but as an obligation. (Currently they get the core tech pretty much for free.) That would drum up an order of magnitude more funding for much-needed social projects.

I'd like to hear more Silicon Valley CEOs talk about that.

To quote the letter itself: "We know this is a small contribution compared to all the resources and talents of those already working on these issues. But we want to do what we can, working alongside many others."

A far cry from "we know this is payback for public investment in tech companies, and we call on all of silicon valley to support formal remuneration to the federal government to give back to the public."

I'm not trolling, as much as it will seem the opposite, but I feel compelled to wonder about postnatal mania (mild postpartum psychosis) as I read the letter. I wonder how different (or private) the letter may have been had it come four months from now. I wonder how many really significant acts of charity and kindness by the super wealthy and influential occur in the days following childbirth. Just wondering aloud here.

I'd imagine they had such a significant decision planned far before the kid was born.

You would think there is significant PR-department oversight and long-term planning that went into this.

But on the other hand.. nobody really knows?

Reading this is impossible to not to think of Bill Gates. Someone who realized the impact his money can have. Many people in this industry have been influenced by the actions of Gates, especially in the tech community. As a 20 something the money I make certainty pales in comparison to that of Gates or Zuckerberg, but even at a low rate for the tech industry it is much above that of my friends, many of who have worked much harder to get to where they are. It is difficult to be in a position to give help and refuse. Perhaps the effect Gates can have on the minds of the wealthy will be even greater than the already vast contributions he has produced.

Just wow. I asked my parents how my birth changed their lives. They said they had to invest in some good ear plugs (for themselves) as a sleep aid, and that they lost a sock drawer until I graduated to the futon. While I did not spark the solving of the world's problems, at least I did have some small impact.

Never much cared for Zuckerberg but this changes my perspective.

Off-topic: can Facebook please go ahead and literally kill the blogging industry by giving the ability for everyone to use these updated Notes section? As is, the majority of the referrer on the Internet is Facebook. They might as well get the blogs out of the way.

I agree, let's put the entire internet in Facebook. News like this just proves Zuckerberg knows best. /s

"As you begin the next generation of the Chan Zuckerberg family, we also begin the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to join people across the world to advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation. Our initial areas of focus will be personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities.

We will give 99% of our Facebook shares -- currently about $45 billion -- during our lives to advance this mission. We know this is a small contribution compared to all the resources and talents of those already working on these issues. But we want to do what we can, working alongside many others."


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