Why Mark Zuckerberg Just Pledged to Give Away 99% of His Facebook Stock

If sold at today's value, the value of that stock would be $45 billion.

Fatherhood has already made Mark Zuckerberg a very generous man. While he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announced the birth of their new daughter, Max, the Facebook CEO pledged to give away 99 percent of his own stock in Facebook. Profits from nearly all future stock sales will go to philanthropic efforts. If sold today, that would equal approximately $45 billion.

In 2010, Zuckerberg signed the Giving Pledge, a commitment by the world's wealthiest individuals to sign more than half of their fortune away for the good of humanity. Today's announcement makes good on that pledge, with Zuckerberg making his commitment in an open letter to their daughter.  

The letter itself is a fascinating glimpse at what Zuckerberg may aim to do with his sizable fortune. Perhaps the most fascinating and futuristic question he poses about how future generations will benefit from science and technology is this:

Can you learn and experience 100 times more than we do today?

The aim of the letter undergirds some of Facebook's current aims, such as connecting the entire world to the Internet, bypassing wired delivery systems and beaming signals from solar-powered drones, for example. Here is an excerpt from the letter:

"Many of the greatest opportunities for your generation will come from giving everyone access to the Internet. People often think of the Internet as just for entertainment or communication. But for the majority of people in the world, the Internet can be a lifeline. It provides education if you don't live near a good school. It provides health information on how to avoid diseases or raise healthy children if you don't live near a doctor. It provides financial services if you don't live near a bank. It provides access to jobs and opportunities if you don't live in a good economy."

The birth of Max is notable for other reasons. Chan has been public about her difficulties coming to term. Prior to Max, she had two miscarriages but her openness about it ignited a discussion over social taboos and women's health issues. 
And while funneling more money in the direction of socially positive goals is unquestionably good, that this money comes from Zuckerberg's company raises important questions. The degree to which we praise Zuckerberg acknowledges the power of concentrated wealth. He has already joined forces with Bill Gates, as The New York Times explains: 
"Earlier this week, Mr. Zuckerberg was one of the billionaires who signed on to the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a group organized by the Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates to contribute toward a multibillion-dollar clean energy fund. The announcement coincided with a Paris summit meeting intended to forge a global accord to cut planet-warming emissions."

Image: Mark Zuckerberg, Chairman and CEO of Facebook and his wife, Priscilla Chan, arrive for a State Dinner hosted by US President Barack Obama for Chinese President Xi Jinping at the White House in Washington, DC, September 25, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MOLLY RILEY (Photo credit should read MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)

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