Monday, October 04, 2010

Lawrence Lessig on 'The Social Network'

You will see this movie, and you should. As a film, visually and rhythmically, and as a story, dramatically, the work earns its place in the history of the field.

But as a story about Facebook, it is deeply, deeply flawed.
Do you understand why the internet is so different from technologies of the past, and why it is in danger of losing its greatness? Lawrence Lessig explains in this review of "The Social Network" on The New Republic.

Update: Ezra Klein makes another interesting narrative based on The Social Network:
Much like a Facebook profile, "The Social Network" is made more appealing through some artful lies, well-chosen omissions and careful shading.

Co-founder Eduardo Saverin's ejection from the company, for instance, is turned from a story of inattentive financial management into a senseless betrayal of a friend. And though the movie portrays Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as a pining loner, he has actually dated the same girl since 2003.

But it's not the details of Zuckerberg's life that mislead so much as the decision to focus on Zuckerberg at all. The movie recasts a story of inevitable technological change as the saga of a socially inept genius, two or three of his most important relationships and the social pressures of Harvard University. That makes for a better film, of course. But it misses the richer drama behind transformative innovations like Facebook, and it's part and parcel of the way we misunderstand, and thus impede, innovation.

"The idea of the lone genius who has the eureka moment where they suddenly get a great idea that changes the world is not just the exception," says Steven Johnson, author of "Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation," "but almost nonexistent."

And that's because innovation isn't really about individuals.
The article reinforces my view that software patents are bad both for society and for innovative software developers, because a patent grants a monopoly to just one individual or company at a time when multiple other individuals are developing the very same idea.