Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tech World's Youthful Myths Laid Bare in Brilliant Movie: The Social Network is Chilling ...

Andrew Garfield and Jesse Eisenberg

What a challenging thematic transition -- having, only a few hours ago, glanced at Steve and Ryan's blog and feeling a certain romantic respect for youthful dreams, talent and ambition; and then, a few hours later, watching from Netflix The Social Network. This is one riveting film about Facebook, the incredibly successful website founded by Mark Zuckerberg, who comes across as a thoroughly amoral genius. The word "monster" fits perfectly.

So loathsome is the movie's early depiction of Zuckerberg, during his nerdy Harvard days where he virtually steals the idea for Facebook from two brothers, leading them to believe they were forming a partnership with him, that, not many minutes into the film, I wondered if I would soon be shutting down the damn DVD and defaulting to Judge Judy. I couldn't stand the character.

But then, with the entrance of a truly decent young business major and highly sympathetic figure, Eduardo Saverin, callously set up by Zuckerberg to be used as a convenient funding source and quasi "founding partner," I was soon hooked. Just how far might Zuckerberg go in his Machiavellian manipulation of Saverin and others?

No need to describe the story; you must watch it. We tend to praise in idyllic terms the tremendous creativity of those young and carefree, innocently non-greedy "entrepreneurs" who have made the internet such a phenomenon. But they, I'm afraid, often prove to be no different form the railroad tycoons of yesteryear. From the Bernie Madoffs of Wall Street. 'Twas ever thus; Microsoft's Bill Gates, who made a fortune ripping off Steve Jobs and others, is now -- we must, I suppose, thank him -- supporting and pouring millions of dollars into "worthy ventures" aimed at righting environmental harms to the earth and other various evils, ironically much of them caused by the manufacturing operations conducted for years by the likes of Microsoft itself and and other such global behemoths .

The Social Network is chilling. Absolutely brilliant in its relentless dramatic spine -- assuming it to be accurate. Yes, there is much debate about the long-term implications of our increasing deference to cyber society as virtual reality. Are we losing a more vital in-person contact with each other?

Moreover, have I been suckered by a grossly distorted work of cinematic fiction? This we learn at the film's end: The brothers who sued Zuckerbeg for theft of their idea settled for $65 million. Saverin received an "unknown settlement," and his name was restored to the masthead as co-founder.

How apt that the man who turned himself into "the youngest billionaire in the world" by linking "friends" together largely in front of solitary computer screens -- had, himself, not a single friend in the world.


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