This is a masterpiece. Anna uses terrifically beautiful language to describe the tech scene in San Francisco in lucid colors. Mixed with her own observations and insights, it is truly educational and funny. Even if you might not agree with her observations, they are well worth a read if only just for the language.
I didn’t want to read this because I’m fifth generation San Franciscan and I’ve recently moved away and suffering from a slight case of “Why did I ever think that was a good idea?” San Francisco isn’t like it was even ten years ago. Even five years ago. It’s hard to live there. If you’re in the middle of the gold rush the author beautifully describes here, it’s probably great. Or at least you’re too self absorbed to experience life like the rest of us. For the rest of us, it’s difficult. And I don’t even want to return to visit family and friends. It’s just too much. Too much young white entitled tech bros throwing so much money around a cup of coffee and toast is $20, not to mention getting in everybody’s way, driving in their own lanes, following their own rules (like sleeping and drunk driving is fine! It’s a Tesla!).
It was far, far better than anything coming out of San Francisco recently and so much more refined and polished and lush than anything else having to do with tech. This is such a brilliant journey through a window of time where all things seemed possible, all young white boys seemed like the next billionaire, and civilization slowly crumbles all around.
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.
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.
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.
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.]
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.
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.
👍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?
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