And the Oscar for Best Movie About Disruptive Technology Goes To….

For those interested in technology, this was an excellent year in film. The first and most obvious film about technology was The Social Network. However, the film that best captured the disruptive nature of technology was The King’s Speech.

The King’s Speech is set in pre-War War II England and the focal character is the stuttering Prince Albert, who eventually becomes King George VI (Colin Firth). In previous times, a stutter would not have affected a member of the Royal Family; George could have commanded from on high using letters and personal diplomats. Prince Albert’s father, King George V, who was the first post-radio king, summarizes the situation perfectly: “In the past all a King had to do was look respectable in uniform and not fall off his horse. Now we must invade people’s homes and ingratiate ourselves with them. This family is reduced to those lowest, basest of all creatures….we’ve become…actors!”

And that is the definition of disruptive technology: the advent of a technology that dramatically and permanently changes people’s lives. The King’s Speech superbly captures this with just a few lines.

In contrast, The Social Network did not capture the disruptive nature of Facebook. At no point does the film depict the ways in which Facebook has changed the way people stay connected, make buying decisions, organize politically and entertain themselves. In short, if you knew nothing about Facebook and watched The Social Network, you would think that it is a service on your computer that a lot of people use — but you would not know how or why they were using Facebook.

Aaron Sorkin, who wrote the screenplay, clearly stated that the movie wasn’t about Facebook, but rather the “themes as old as storytelling itself…Themes of friendship and loyalty, and of class and jealously and power.” That’s his choice. But by failing to capture the personal and societal changes brought about by Facebook, it is difficult to understand why the company is worth $50 billion and why it’s worth fighting for.

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