I recently watched a film that dramatically evoked the disruption caused by geeky inventors, the difficulties they have getting funded, and the forces that combine to oppose them in the name of the status quo.
The Social Network has zinging dialogue, tilt-shift rowing at Henley, and has lawyers as its most sympathetic characters. Most of its humour comes from heavy-handed prefiguring of Facebook's eventual success; clearly you can't spoil the ending, so the trailer just recaps the whole film:
The opening hacking scene, dramatized almost verbatim from Zuckerberg's blog at the time, is perhaps the best 'using a computer' scene in a movie yet - Mark should get a screenwriting credit. But the mythical girlfriend who dumped him and his reactions to that - 'cyberbullying', seeking fame, plaintively hitting refresh on the friend request - that frame the film are a disappointing narrative touch that duck the chance to try to explain his real motivation. Apart from the lawyer, all the women in this film are purely sex objects - when Zuck is asked 'What are the girls going to do?' and replies 'Nothing', that's clearly Sorkin talking.
In contrast, The Man in the White Suit has Alec Guinness inventing a monomolecular fibre that can't break and naturally repels dirt. To do this he has to get to work into labs at textile factories under false pretenses, and when he eventually succeeds, provokes a hostile reaction from both the factory owners and the unionized employees, who want to suppress his work. If you haven't seen it, Amazon and Netflix have it.
Here, the motivation to invent something new and exciting is expressed well, and the technology behind it is plausibly explained. Guinness inspires Joan Greenwood with his idea, and she researches it and champions him to get his work funded. The women in this sixty-year-old film are well-drawn characters, with motivations of their own. They are peers and colleagues to Guinness's Stanley, not sex objects; indeed that is directly challenged. The film is stronger and more emotionally powerful for it.
Both films capture the ascetic geek intensity and focus well, but Sorkin and Fincher want to tear it down, whereas MacDougal and MacKendrick see the Innovators Dilemma clearly 45 years before Christensen did. As Lessig says, The Social Network portrays a legal system that preys on invention, not supporting it; the Man in the White Suit has the inventor's notebooks establishing rights that he needs to be paid for.
Conversely, to get his invention out to people, Stanley needs to convince the very industry he is disrupting to adopt it, whereas the existence of the Internet and it's open protocols mean that Zuckerberg was able to get his idea adopted by thousands with a small loan from a friend.
Technology has made a lot of progress in 60 years, but judging by this new film, law and women's roles have gone backwards.