Uncanny Valley

Uncanny Valley

A Memoir

Book - 2020 | First edition
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"In her mid-twenties, at the height of tech industry idealism, Anna Wiener--stuck, broke, and looking for meaning in her work, like any good millennial--left a job in book publishing for the promise of the new digital economy. She moved from New York to San Francisco, where she landed at a big-data startup in the heart of the Silicon Valley bubble: a world of surreal extravagance, dubious success, and fresh-faced entrepreneurs hell-bent on domination, glory, and, of course, progress. Anna arrived amidst a massive cultural shift, as the tech industry rapidly transformed into a locus of wealth and power rivaling Wall Street. But amid the company ski vacations and in-office speakeasies, boyish camaraderie and ride-or-die corporate fealty, a new Silicon Valley began to emerge: one in far over its head, one that enriched itself at the expense of the idyllic future it claimed to be building. Part coming-age-story, part portrait of an already-bygone era, Anna Wiener's memoir is a rare first-person glimpse into high-flying, reckless startup culture at a time of unchecked ambition, unregulated surveillance, wild fortune, and accelerating political power. With wit, candor, and heart, Anna deftly charts the tech industry's shift from self-appointed world savior to democracy-endangering liability, alongside a personal narrative of aspiration, ambivalence, and disillusionment. ...A cautionary tale, and a revelatory interrogation of a world reckoning with consequences its unwitting designers are only beginning to understand."-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : MCD, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2020
ISBN: 9780374278014
Branch Call Number: 338.4760979473 WIE 2020
Characteristics: 279 pages ; 22 cm

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There were some philosophical questions posed in the book that made me really think about the tech I consume on a daily basis


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ArapahoeJulia Oct 16, 2020

This book was fascinating! There were so many quotes I found myself pondering and I felt both intrigued and agitated at the overwhelming role Silicon Valley has played in our lives.

Uncanny Valley is a memoir about Anna Wiener's experience moving from the world of publishing into the newest craze of startup culture in San Francisco. Success is being doled out to the hungriest and most curious, leaving those with experience and expertise to catch up to the hype.

This "coming-of-age-story" is an inside look into the world often elusive to those outside of it, and yet the impact of which is unavoidable to all. Wiener touches on the excitement of building new things, the reality of being a woman in tech, and the disillusionment of a new era pushing out an older, and often richer, one.

I loved the style of writing in this memoir. Wiener did a fabulous job describing not only her personal experiences, but the setting and environment of the new tech-topia she found herself in. She captured the essence of culture in the way she described her experiences. While the story lacked a clear arc and climax, her commentary was well done and consistent from first page to last. Overall, I highly recommend!

r
renee37
Sep 17, 2020

The author wanted to tell this story about what is going on. However, she was an outsider and observing everything. I think that is the point of view Anna Wiener should have stayed with.

I enjoyed the funny, but tired, insights of the excesses of start-up parties and off sights. It seemed to show the west coast as shallow and materialistic. I didn't think that was fair since she represented part of the elites that came from all over the US, like those in the gold rush.

The ending left me feeling very unsettled. Nothing was tidy about how it ended. It was worse than the Sopranos ending!
The book got a 4 out of 5 for me. Pandemic reading automatically gets a bonus star. In better times, it would have received a 3.

h
hrtzgod314
Aug 20, 2020

A bit sobering, but often hilarious and insightful. I am amazed at how neutral the author could be in situations where I think I would scream.... Anyone interested in technology should read this, it flows well! A great read.

k
kwsmith
Aug 02, 2020

Young millennial liberal arts college graduate Anna Wiener works in a low-paying dead end job in the troubled New York publishing industry. Eventually, she moves to San Francisco to join a tech startup. This is a memoir of a young woman's journey from disillusionment with the New York publishing industry to disillusionment with the Silicon Valley tech industry. Throughout this compelling book, Anna avoids mentioning companies or people by name, which conveys the dramatic sense of lonely isolation that Anna must have felt while working in the Valley. The writing flows well and her phrasing is very clever. The last half of the book issues the usual damning criticisms of the tech industry: too white, too male, too focused on money. Regrettably, Anna posits few solutions to these well-known problems. And rather than stay and be part of a solution, Anna cheerfully cashes out and returns to a traditional job as a writer outside the tech industry. It's a good ending for Anna (I'm sure she's a much better writer than she was a tech worker), but it seems like she spent her twenties as just another bitter millennial sniping from the sidelines. [For those curious enough to wonder, I believe the unnamed startups that she worked for were Oyster, Mixpanel, and Github.]

LPL_DirectorBrad Mar 19, 2020

Great reporting from inside the Silicon Valley delusion that tech is the answer to everything. Perhaps the greatest insight I took from this book as a white male is that no matter the good intentions (if they actually exist in the first place), without diversity of experience and thought, there will be large gaps in the way in which an organizations does it work and the products it develops.

It's especially weird reading this book during the coronavirus pandemic! Highly recommended.

w
writermala
Mar 10, 2020

I am a fan of Silicon Valley and expected a lot from "Uncanny Valley." To say the least I was disappointed. Anna Wiener repeats herself ad-nausea when she says the hi tech industry is dominated by young, white males. Also she exhibits a degree of ambivalence when she cannot decide whether she is happy to be working in the valley - albeit in a non-technical role or whether she misses her job in publishing. All in all I got the feeling this was a good essay turned into a bad book.

g
gabriellempow
Mar 10, 2020

👍Pick it: If you need another reason to disable spyware, or better yet!, dismantle every device you own.
👎Skip it: If you still genuinely think of Zuck as post-breakup Jessie Eisenberg, and “TheFacebook” an innocent vehicle for his sorrow.

Uncanny Valley is a work of genre-stretching bounds: a Silicon Valley exposé, a cautionary tech-bro tale, a coming-of-age-in-the-startup-age memoir.

And while whistleblowing is all the rage, Wiener’s narrative is distinctly refreshing. She makes no attempt to escape complicit involvement in and infatuation for the (promise of the) Promise Land forged by the hands of 21-year-old billionaires.

She does not feign aloof nor claims to be early-bird woke to Silicon toxicity. Instead, her experience reads like a concession. She drank the nootropic-spiked Koolaid, minimized the malignant behaviors simmering within startup culture, scrolled and scrolled and scrolled, addicted like the rest of us, and made an easy, six-figure salary promoting the narrative.

Despite Wiener’s techno-skeptic position, Uncanny Valley will not read like your aunt’s snarky, uneducated, rant on 'the social network everyone hated'. She’s clever. She’s linguistically-versed. She’s an empathetic-forward analyst, attempting to find the heartbeat within the Valley’s shallowest characters.

Uncanny Valley is a blatant warning about the implications of our tech-hunger. But Wiener is asking readers to meditate on much weightier concepts than the consequences should they choose to swipe right, like:

Why does screen-free stillness actually feel ominous?
When did disconnect become sacrilegious?
Am I paying attention?
Is my identity my own?
Or have we all merely become data-generated humanoids, predictable algorithms feeding the Big Brother beast?

k
klnelson
Feb 29, 2020

This book is just an entitled judgemental millennial trying to make a fast buck. Not worth the read,. And FYI I'm a tech developer from that era.

l
laphampeak
Feb 26, 2020

Wiener takes us deep into the world of start-up culture. Her personal account is not just a perception or opinion, it's the juxtaposition of that culture and the tradition of what's normal in business and culture of age demographic and geographical demographic. Her description of situations is so "uncanny". "At a party I met a man....His Tshirt was creased geometrically, as if he'd had it same-day delivered and only unfolded it an hour ago: artful dishevelment in the age of on-demand......" Also, new to the jargon, I was in awe of the language.."The ecosystem's fetish for optimization culture and productivity hacking - distraction blockers task timers, hermit mode, batch emailing, timeboxing - had expanded into biohacking.." This book is great for so many reasons.

r
redtayres
Feb 26, 2020

Such a smart author. She engaged me with her perspective on a changing (changed) San Francisco and opened the door wide to Silicon Valley culture and careers. It sounds like that might not be interesting but it is/was. This author has a certain style which works well for this debut memoir. She made me interested in Silicon Valley and the start-up life. I particularly enjoyed the fact that she seemed to really like all of these smart people she worked beside, regardless of how they might be ruining our world. Uncanny Valley is a very good and thought provoking read which will let you into a world you might only think you know. Anna Weiner (the author) knows it far better.

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