Saturday, June 12, 2021

Review: Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener

This wasn't a deep or profound book. It didn't change my perspective on the ethics or sociology of Silicon Valley and 21st century capitalism. But it was a very cathartic read. 

Like Wiener, I moved from the East Coast to the Bay Area around 2012. I also joined a <20 person business-to-business software start-up in a non-software engineering role. Wiener relates few anecdotes that I couldn't have also lifted from my own life. She responded emotionally in many of the same ways I do or did. Reading her memoir helped me contextualize my own experiences.

The book, which is a longer form version of her n+1 article and her Atlantic article, is at its best when describing the weird cult(ure) unique and endemic to Silicon Valley. It's a bit of a miss for me when decrying "very online" culture. It was a little limited in its analysis of the forces at work that created surveillance capitalism, disgusting amounts of inequality, efficiency hacking, monopolies and oligarchies, and disdain for art and empathy that she describes. (For example, she briefly recounts getting excited about Marx and unionization, only to be shrugged off by some worldly SWE brought up in a blue collar family who tells her that software engineers already have enough privilege and bargaining power—what would they ask for? The topic is not revisited.) It's a "safe" read, but still a recognizably "insiders perspective."

No comments:

Post a Comment