Uncanny Valley: A Memoir
ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES'S 10 BEST BOOKS OF 2020.
Named one of the Best Books of 2020 by The Washington Post, NPR, the Los Angeles Times, ELLE, Esquire, Parade, Teen Vogue, The Times (UK), Fortune, Chicago Tribune, Glamour, The A.V. Club, Vox, Town & Country, OneZero, Apartment Therapy, Good Housekeeping, PopMatters, Electric Literature, Self, The Week (UK) and BookPage. One of Amazon's Best 100 Books of 2020. A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice and a January 2020 IndieNext Pick.
"A definitive document of a world in transition: I won't be alone in returning to it for clarity and consolation for many years to come." --Jia Tolentino, author of Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion
The prescient, page-turning account of a journey in Silicon Valley: a defining memoir of our digital age
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-of-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.
Unsparing and incisive, Uncanny Valley is a cautionary tale, and a revelatory interrogation of a world reckoning with consequences its unwitting designers are only beginning to understand
Extraordinary . . . Wiener’s storytelling mode is keen and dry, her sentences spare―perfectly suited to let a steady thrum of dread emerge." --Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times
"[Wiener] is here to fill out our worst-case scenarios with shrewd insight and literary detail . . . Wiener is a droll yet gentle guide . . . The real strength of Uncanny Valley comes from her careful parsing of the complex motivations and implications that fortify this new surreality at every level, from the individual body to the body politic." --Lauren Oyler, The New York Times Book Review (cover review)
"[Uncanny Valley] defamiliarize[s] us with the Internet as we now know it, reminding us of the human desires and ambitions that have shaped its evolution . . . Wiener’s book is studded with sharp assessments." --Sophia Nguyen, The Washington Post
"[An] excellent memoir . . . what makes Uncanny Valley so valuable is the way it humanizes the tech industry without letting it off the hook. The book allows us to see the way that flawed technology is made and marketed." --Charlie Warzel, The New York Times Privacy Project
"Uncanny Valley is a different sort of Silicon Valley narrative, a literary-minded outsider’s insider account of an insulated world that isn’t as insular or distinctive as it and we assume . . . Through [Wiener's] story, we begin to perceive how much tech owes its power, and the problems that come with it, to contented ignorance." --Ismail Muhammad, The Atlantic