There are countless dystopian fiction novels and sci-fi films about brainwashing, dominance and unethical population control. And while we're sure that's not the image Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was going for, that's sure how it came across.
At the 2016 Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, attendees were given what seemed to be the chance of a lifetime. In an effort to set the tone for the conference, Samsung demonstrated its highly anticipated product, the Samsung Gear VR Headset. But, what attendees didn't know was that while they were engrossed in a virtual reality, Mark Zuckerberg was making a surprise entrance right beside them.
Zuckerberg posted this photo on his Facebook page shortly after the event, and it practically tells the rest of the story. The Internet exploded with comments and parodies from people who observed some frightening similarities.
Mark Zuckerberg brainwashing the American public pic.twitter.com/qekCgiWqHw
— Daniel Breton (@BR3TON) February 22, 2016
A rich leader with a sly, calculated grin - check. A mass of people hooked up to machines, or who appear to be brainwashed - check, check. A public forum where a podium awaits, and the leader will soon receive praise from the people who adore him - check, check and check. The photo, although it was innocent, seems as if it were pulled right off of the big screen.
In truth, Zuckerberg attended the event to speak on Facebook's commitment to shaping the future of virtual reality. He discussed the special team on Facebook's staff that is dedicated to researching the virtual reality experience, and exploring how it can be used to help people connect.
"Going back about 10 years," Zuckerberg explained, "most of what we shared and experienced was text. And then it was photos. And now we're entering into a world where that's video. But pretty soon we're going to live in a world where everyone has the power to share and experience whole scenes as if you're right there in person."
Facebook's commitment to this project goes well beyond general interest. Back in 2014, the company invested around $2 million to buy Oculus, which has been working with Samsung on the development of the Gear VR headsets.
When it comes to virtual reality, Zuckerberg seems convinced it's the way of the future, even suggesting it will one day be "the most social platform".
During his speech in Barcelona, he described the endless possibilities. "Imagine being able to sit in front of a campfire and hang out with friends anytime you want," he said. "Or being able to watch a movie in a private theater with your friends anytime you want. Imagine holding a group meeting or event anywhere in the world that you want. All these things are going to be possible. And that's why Facebook is investing so much early on in virtual reality. So we can hope to deliver these types of social experiences."
Despite the unfortunate reaction the media has had over the image, Zuckerberg remains positive. He says, "We're excited to be focused on building this next important computing platform that has the potential to be changing our lives and to be doing it with zest."