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Mark Zuckerberg’s visit offers a glimpse into Michigan’s future

May 8, 2017

The Next Idea

Facebook’s 32-year-old billionaire founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has been touring the country. He made stops in Michigan recently. He toured Ford’s Rouge plant and even tried his hand at putting parts on an F-150 pickup truck. Turns out time on the assembly line is hard work. He also privately met with Muslim students at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

The Next Idea’s Jeff DeGraff and Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes joined Stateside to talk about the visit and what Zuckerberg could be planning down the road.

"I think he's trying to get a line of sight on autonomous vehicles," DeGraff said. "I think what he's trying to figure out is where are the metalbenders going?"

In talking to U-M Dearborn students, and later a Donald Trump-voting family in Ohio, DeGraff feels like he's trying to get a sense of what people are thinking and what people will be using in the future.

Howes, who recently wrote a column about the visit, was intrigued by Zuckerberg's posts on Facebook following the trip to Michigan.

"[His posts] sounded a little wide-eyed, as if he, for lack of a better term, was visiting the zoo," Howes said. "He goes into an auto plant and he's just slack-jawed that people actually work hard. I thought he came off as living in a bit of a bubble. And we here in Detroit know a little bit about living in a bubble, we've been accused of it, and rightly so, for many decades."

Listen to the full interview above to hear what the impact of Zuckerberg's visit ultimately will be and how a future move into the auto industry by Silicon Valley isn't necessarily a move for cars, but rather, a move for data. 

The Next Idea is Michigan Radio's project devoted to new innovations and ideas that will change our state.

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