📖 Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener
With a critical eye, Anna Wiener brings us along her experience entering Silicon Valley's tech world where an underlying uncanniness raises cause for concern.
What struck me about this book is how much I related to Anna Wiener's falling out of love with Silicon Valley. This book is full of passages where I felt she was pulling words from my mouth in the way she so accurately phrased the disillusionment I also feel towards the tech industry.
This book is an engaging memoir of jumping on the tech wagon with the original excitement we all felt at some point towards its promising potential. A potential that many of us held above suspicion until the inevitable disappointment of realizing that tech had largely been reduced to a mere data refinery.
Wiener left New York city's publishing industry to join San Francisco's startup scene with the fresh eyes of a non-technical person who "[...] envied their sense of entitlement to the future."
Along her journey of meeting cofounders, hackers and venture capitalists who showed her the ins and outs of the Silicon Valley bubble, the truth starts bursting out. We get to accompany the author in her first encounters with insubstancial hustle-porn listicles, summer camp-like employee perks and San Francisco's baffling socioeconomic gap.
In the micro, Wiener witnesses first-hand the cult-like exclusiveness of parties and raves, the psychedelics microdosing trend, and the tech bros' boys club opinions on why you shouldn't cry in the office bathroom.
From a macro perspective, the author reproaches tech's obsession with unfettered growth, its unhealthy desire to disrupt, scale, and dominate. Silicon Valley has an unquenchable thirst to optimize and monetize human behaviour. This unsustainable north star dooms tech with an aggressively shallowed lens through which to view the world; as nothing but data and actionable insights.
And all this for what?
To accomplish the frictionless ultimation? "Fetishized life without friction: What was it like? An unending shuttle between meetings and bodily needs? A continuous, productive loop? Charts and data sets. It wasn’t, to me, an aspiration. It was not a prize."
To help make more billionaires? According to Wiener, the very possibility for individuals to gather such wealth is "the mark of a sick society". And I couldn't agree more. Just as Wendy Liu said in her book Abolish Silicon Valley "Profit should be treated as a sign that the system is in need of correction."
"There was so much potential in Silicon Valley, and so much of it just pooled around ad tech, the spillway of the internet economy."
If you’re curious to read more, consider borrowing this book from your local library or buying it from a local bookstore. Here are some suggestions:
- 📍 For Montreal folks, you can borrow it from BAnQ
- 🇨🇦 Try this Google Map of Canadian Indie Bookstores Who Deliver (New Books)
- 🇺🇸 Search for your ZipCode and find it locally on IndieBound
- 🇪🇺 Free worldwide delivery shipped from the UK at Book Depository