Moses to Zuckerberg: A Position of Power

Mark Zuckerberg is the Robert Moses of the twenty-first century. Never elected, powerful beyond imagination. Not from the right family, but more influential. Not a member of Phoenix, but extremely selective. Not in the game, but driven to rewrite its rules. Robert Moses experienced similar social exclusion at Yale. Similar to Zuckerberg, this exclusion drove him. On Moses, Caro writes,

“Alongside the massive cathedrals of Yale’s traditions, buttressed by prejudice and pride, Bob Moses had erected his own small but sturdy structure. ‘In our little world…,” Bacon was to say, “he made himself a position of power.’ 

In light of Moses’ later career, that was the key point” (Caro, 47).

From his Ivy League education, Zuckerberg didn’t look to New York for power, that traditional American icon. The internet and computers were dramatically reshaping global influence in Silicon Valley.

In grand New York, Moses planned and completed massive public works projects to connect the boroughs and the region while Zuckerberg, from a garage in the valley, constructed a virtual bridge to connect the entire world. Through their efforts, these two men shaped the world that we inhabit today.

Facebook’s Twitter description states, “Giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.” Essentially they want to democratize the world, to end exclusivity. Moses also worked to make the city more accessible for the average American (as long as they could afford a car) and used his power to force roads through old-money estates in Long Island and elsewhere.

Someone from a powerful, WASP background wouldn’t work to undermine regional power. But neither of these men had much to loose. Moses was a Jew, didn’t know how to drive a car and spent his life building roads, bridges and tunnels. Zuckerberg (also of Jewish descent) is a socially awkward computer hacker who made billions connecting “friends” around the world.

Zuckerberg and Moses both lived life on the margins of traditional power.  As a result, they both developed a deep understanding of power. And when they realized that power wouldn’t engage them as equals … they turned it on its head. Both knew they could not win at the old game, both knew that the game had a weakness, and both were smart and industrious enough to exploit it.

Both created new worlds and situated themselves comfortable in the center.

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