Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Man of Steel.. And the Third Wave?

Changes that happen organically, as most big changes do, can make their effect be seen, felt, sensed beforehand, to a certain degree, through various channels in human activity. I believe we are already seeing this subliminal ripples of the Third Wave in many places. Most prominently in art.

Which should not be surprising. Art, being a free form, the channel for free expression, would be the perfect place for humanity's vision to consciously or subconsciously come out. And of course by art, I don't necessarily mean some pompous art, painting, classical music what not. By art, I mean, movies and TV shows.

Check out Smallville for example. Nothing more than 30s Superman story acted out in 2000 context - right? Not quite. Let's ask this question.. What makes this story still so compelling? OK, now let's look at the bad guy... Lex Luthor.

What is he? A rich man. He owns a corporation. He wants power. Money. He doesn't exactly enjoy his work. He was driven to it by necessity, environment, his father, etc. But he is part of a SYSTEM. Ladies and gents who have read Toffler's work.. What does that sound like?

Yes. The bad guy in Superman story is a Second Wave industrialist.

http://smallville-cz.com/photos/screenshots1/408-13.jpg

There are million other clues that he is painted this way. Check this out. He lives in a mansion (industrialist European style), he plays the piano, enjoys classical works which, we know by now, are perfect vehicles for an "industrialist" take on art. In a symphony orchestra, there are work divisions (instruments), a chain of command (conductor, instrument lead, instrument) where the music is played to a precise specification which is the perfect recipe for an industrialist. So Lex Luthor is a solid Second Waver.

And then, look at Superman. Yes, granted that he embodies all the abilities that Second Waver would salivate for... Strong, fast, smart. But, look carefully to his daytime persona: Clark Kent is a reporter which means he is a seeks, stores and manipulates information. That is, he is a knowledge worker. This works perfectly for Superman persona too in fact, because even with all his powers Sman still lacks the ability to be everywhere at once - hence he needs to prioritize, choose, and that's where information comes in.

Clark Kent as Third Waver knowledge worker view is even more true for the modern reincarnation of the Superman story, Smallville, where we are now accustomed seeing Clark in regular clothes, dealing with computers, "borrowing" them for at superspeed, talking on cell phone with his band of energetic technophile/hacker/photographer friends while trying to take down Lex Luther's next evil plan for humanity... and doing this using mostly information. In a typical Smallville story, the use of a superpower is usually the last thing that happens.

It is my belief that that's exactly why this particular story can still capture our imagination at this day and age. Because setting aside all the childhood fantasies where we want to be a man of steel, run faster than a speeding bullet, story of Superman and the universe it resides in still contains the most basic ingredients that we find similar in our longings for a better future. We don't want to be Second Waver industrialists and we would like to move on to the Third Wave.

In short, we would like to be Third Wave Supermen.

Labels: