Uncanny Valley
The prescient, page-turning account of a journey in Silicon Valley: a defining memoir of our digital ageIn 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.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.

Uncanny Valley Details

TitleUncanny Valley
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJan 14th, 2020
PublisherMCD
ISBN-139780374278014
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Biography, Science, Technology

Uncanny Valley Review

  • Michael
    January 1, 1970
    In her debut memoir, Uncanny Valley, Anna Wiener recounts how, at age 25, she abandoned her drab job at a New York literary agency for a high-paying customer support role at a Silicon Valley start-up. In compulsively readable prose the writer describes how the excitement she first felt toward working in the tech industry soon soured, after repeated encounters with her white male peers’ sexism, racism, and disregard for user privacy. As she recounts her story she adroitly links her In her debut memoir, Uncanny Valley, Anna Wiener recounts how, at age 25, she abandoned her drab job at a New York literary agency for a high-paying customer support role at a Silicon Valley start-up. In compulsively readable prose the writer describes how the excitement she first felt toward working in the tech industry soon soured, after repeated encounters with her white male peers’ sexism, racism, and disregard for user privacy. As she recounts her story she adroitly links her disillusionment to the nation’s growing disgust with the amorality and arrogance of Big Tech and Big Data. The work’s swift and easy to digest, but there’s not much reportage or analysis here and Wiener’s critique of Silicon Valley’s culture of privilege is solid but offers little that’s new.
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  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    I thought I was burnt out on reading about tech, but many parts of this excerpt made me laugh out loud:Job listings are an excellent place to get sprayed with HR’s idea of fun and a 23-year-old’s idea of work-life balance.Also, this!!!!!!To solve our problem, management arranges for a team-building exercise. They schedule it on a weeknight evening, and we pretend not to mind. Our team-building begins with beers in the office, and then we travel en masse to a tiny event space at the mouth of the I thought I was burnt out on reading about tech, but many parts of this excerpt made me laugh out loud:Job listings are an excellent place to get sprayed with HR’s idea of fun and a 23-year-old’s idea of work-life balance.Also, this!!!!!!To solve our problem, management arranges for a team-building exercise. They schedule it on a weeknight evening, and we pretend not to mind. Our team-building begins with beers in the office, and then we travel en masse to a tiny event space at the mouth of the Stockton Tunnel, where two energetic blondes give us sweatbands and shots.https://nplusonemag.com/issue-25/on-t...
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  • Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
    January 1, 1970
    Anna Wiener left behind NYC and a job in publishing for a position at a Silicon Valley startup. With no experience in tech, her position in customer service / data analytics isn't valued by the industry.It's a boy's club supported by venture capitalists and dripping in extravagance. There are ski vacations, open bars at the office, and flexible schedules while demanding corporate fealty above the personal lives of employees.The lifestyle perks and salary lure Wiener in to the bubble but not Anna Wiener left behind NYC and a job in publishing for a position at a Silicon Valley startup.  With no experience in tech, her position in customer service / data analytics isn't valued by the industry.It's a boy's club supported by venture capitalists and dripping in extravagance.  There are ski vacations, open bars at the office, and flexible schedules while demanding corporate fealty above the personal lives of employees.The lifestyle perks and salary lure Wiener in to the bubble but not without eventually understanding the culture created by the industry, which she isn't afraid to discuss in detail.Wiener expertly weaves her personal story into the rise of Silicon Valley and the problems it has created (most notably in data security) while calling out the extreme bro culture, rampant sexism, and absurd arrogance she observed regularly.I recommend Uncanny Valley to readers who enjoy tech/memoir.Thanks to MCD and Edelweiss for providing me with a DRC in exchange for my honest review.  Uncanny Valley will be released tomorrow, January 14, 2020.For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com
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  • Lou
    January 1, 1970
    Silicon Valley, a place in which Anna Wiener was overwhelmingly outnumbered by men in the technological sphere, is still as dominated by white males as it was decades ago. Minorities and female workers are present but not as often as you might believe. Wiener certainly has some mettle to overlook these issues and decide to add at least one more woman to the Silicon Valley workforce. She details some important topics and discusses just how prevalent sexism, unwanted sexual advances and sexual Silicon Valley, a place in which Anna Wiener was overwhelmingly outnumbered by men in the technological sphere, is still as dominated by white males as it was decades ago. Minorities and female workers are present but not as often as you might believe. Wiener certainly has some mettle to overlook these issues and decide to add at least one more woman to the Silicon Valley workforce. She details some important topics and discusses just how prevalent sexism, unwanted sexual advances and sexual harassment were during her employment at a tech start-up. At its heart, it is a feminist coming of age tale and instead of telling the sugar-coated version of events she courageously tells it exactly how it was. She calls for more women to be employed in these type of corporations to at least try to give some semblance of equality.It makes you think with the thought-provoking and important topics it touches on but it also is highly readable; I don’t usually read biographies but this one caught my attention and I am so glad I decided to pick it up. I am full of admiration for her but certainly do not envy what she experienced. Every so often we need reminding of the issues still faced by women in the workplace, and this book does a superb job in broaching topics that absolutely need addressing. It's an inspiring, intelligent read with a fierce female telling not just her story but the story of so many other women; the me too movement has certainly started the ball rolling and people feel they are now able to talk about such harmful problems. This is a fascinating book that sheds light on the male-dominated workforce but it's high time this changed. Many thanks to Fourth Estate for an ARC.
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  • Meborn
    January 1, 1970
    Wiener is a very good writer, and I really liked the original essay that inspired the book. But this felt too much like a long-form essay extended into a book, with little narrative arc. I never felt that invested in the narrator (Weiner), or what would happen in the broader world she's inhabiting. Just when you think a subplot is developing it peters out, or is muted by a lack of elaboration (eg Pizzagate).The narration felt very distant, like someone who's chipping away at a core truth, but Wiener is a very good writer, and I really liked the original essay that inspired the book. But this felt too much like a long-form essay extended into a book, with little narrative arc. I never felt that invested in the narrator (Weiner), or what would happen in the broader world she's inhabiting. Just when you think a subplot is developing it peters out, or is muted by a lack of elaboration (eg Pizzagate).The narration felt very distant, like someone who's chipping away at a core truth, but can't quite get at it. For example, almost all the characters are reduced to tech bro archetypes. Everyone thinks they're crushing it, they don't ever think about the consequences. But these are people, too. Why are they this way? Why does the tech ecosystem reinforce such insular behavior? Wiener seems more interested in condemning tech than understanding the underlying psychology. For a non-fiction book, I wanted more nuance. Instead, this felt to me like watching a Hollywood movie caricaturing Wall Street. That said, Wiener has a sharp wit, with some good turns of phrase.
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  • Doon
    January 1, 1970
    This book is badged as an inside look into the world of tech bro’s by a woman who was there. However, the books main insights, that the men who work in Silicon Valley are mainly white, middle-class and supremely confident men who think that every idea they have has value, are nothing you didn’t already know. I kept on reading, expecting that there would be a ‘gotcha’ moment, an insight into a well-known public occurrence, but it never came. It felt like it was written for people who don’t follow This book is badged as an inside look into the world of tech bro’s by a woman who was there. However, the books main insights, that the men who work in Silicon Valley are mainly white, middle-class and supremely confident men who think that every idea they have has value, are nothing you didn’t already know. I kept on reading, expecting that there would be a ‘gotcha’ moment, an insight into a well-known public occurrence, but it never came. It felt like it was written for people who don’t follow the online world at all. I’ve never worked in tech but there are so many articles about Silicon Valley culture that give you the same insights without subjecting you to excruciatingly detailed descriptions of awful sounding parties. The author was often negging herself while humble bragging. An odd, but not unenjoyable read.
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    DNF. I tried and tried again but my interest in start ups and the excessive money they draw is just not there. For the most part this is garnering good reviews, but it's just not for me.
  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    Debut author Anna Wiener shares her engaging professional story of her move from a small Brooklyn, N.Y. literary agency to an exciting new tech start-up: “Uncanny Valley: A Memoir” highlights the big money, big deals, contracts of big business, the big talent and big egos of the male staff that dominated the Silicon Valley tech industry. Fifty men and six women worked at the (unnamed) tech start-up where Weiner was first employed.While living in her North Brooklyn apartment --furnished with Debut author Anna Wiener shares her engaging professional story of her move from a small Brooklyn, N.Y. literary agency to an exciting new tech start-up: “Uncanny Valley: A Memoir” highlights the big money, big deals, contracts of big business, the big talent and big egos of the male staff that dominated the Silicon Valley tech industry. Fifty men and six women worked at the (unnamed) tech start-up where Weiner was first employed.While living in her North Brooklyn apartment --furnished with second hand furniture, a roommate she barely knew, Wiener’s position as an assistant editor at a NYC literary agency had run its course. There was no room for advancement except to marry rich, inherit money, wait for colleagues to transfer or die. Wiener’s $31,000 annual salary (no benefits) wasn’t enough to live on—even with no credit card or educational debt and no dependents. Wiener loved the free hardback books, and the rapidly shrinking book world as she knew it— still, she interviewed for a non-tech position for an e-book start up: she got the job. “Hello, San Francisco!”The $65,000 annual salary with company dental and medical benefits was almost too good to be true. Wiener treats readers to amazing descriptions not only of the tech industry, but of San Francisco: the Castro and Mission districts (where she lived) the hippies, freaks, weirdos, leather daddies, the rambunctious homeless population, the paid company group ski trip and various company sponsored retreats. Wiener’s new job was similar to providing customer support to a small team of (boy-men) software developers: “like immersion therapy for internalized misogyny”. Wiener soothed, cheered them up, affirmed, advocated for success and ordered them pizza. One colleague had a PhD in Biology and wanted to be known as the doctor. The 25 year old CEO was “ambitious and awkward”; she appreciated his “hard-won praise”, and he reminded her of her high school classmates at a Manhattan math science school. Often the storyline was hard to follow. Wiener seldom named names and never identified start-ups or tech companies she wrote about. Rereading the story doesn’t help. Her boyfriend Ian, worked in robotics and very little was revealed about their relationship. I wondered if they had broken up a few times. Noah, a trusted co-worker, was fired from her team and was (likely) very successful in tech. Now “Patrick”, I think, may have been the man himself—though, we have no way of knowing. Still, Wiener is a marvelous storyteller, and I wouldn’t want to miss anything she might write in the future. ** With thanks and appreciation to Farrar, Straus, Giroux, via NetGalley for the DDC for the purpose of review.
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  • Kasa Cotugno
    January 1, 1970
    In this her first book, Anna Wiener has nailed the world of tech culture from her vantage point of being an insider yet feeling like an outsider. She moves to San Francisco after being a Brooklynite for most of her 25 years and experiences the dislocation blues acutely like most people. For those of us on the outside, it's not really clear what her high paying job entails or what the startup produces. For that matter, what do any of the startups she eventually works for do to amass the enormous In this her first book, Anna Wiener has nailed the world of tech culture from her vantage point of being an insider yet feeling like an outsider. She moves to San Francisco after being a Brooklynite for most of her 25 years and experiences the dislocation blues acutely like most people. For those of us on the outside, it's not really clear what her high paying job entails or what the startup produces. For that matter, what do any of the startups she eventually works for do to amass the enormous paydays and perks that their employees enjoy. What this reader got from this book was not a deeper understanding of those roles, but of what it meant for a book loving person finding herself working for an industry that is attempting to dismantle that industry, and what it means to be a woman in a mostly male-driven industry. I have been a resident of the Bay Area for over 35 years and found her depiction of San Francisco to be dead on. Two friends who have lived here since the early 70's pointed out that it wasn't their city any more, thanks to the impassable streets, the endless construction, the disappearance of businesses that had occupied the same locations for decades. "The city, trapped in nostalgia for its own mythology, stuck in a hallucination of a halcyon past, had not caught up to the newfound momentum...". Making way for housing, restaurants, and bike stands that cater to the tech community -- "... I was stuck in an industry that was chipping away at so many things I cared about." Weidner's insecurity in never quite feeling a part of this world doesn't keep her from being a solid observer.
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  • Siobhan
    January 1, 1970
    Uncanny Valley is a memoir about Silicon Valley, about being a woman there, and about the changing tech landscape. Anna Wiener left being an assistant in New York City publishing to work in a startup and soon ended up in Silicon Valley, working in data analytics. The memoir charts her time there and then at an open source repository company, as she looks at how she became deeply embedded in some of the mindsets of Silicon Valley and still felt like an outsider in others, particularly as someone Uncanny Valley is a memoir about Silicon Valley, about being a woman there, and about the changing tech landscape. Anna Wiener left being an assistant in New York City publishing to work in a startup and soon ended up in Silicon Valley, working in data analytics. The memoir charts her time there and then at an open source repository company, as she looks at how she became deeply embedded in some of the mindsets of Silicon Valley and still felt like an outsider in others, particularly as someone in non-technical roles in those companies.The memoir is unsurprising in its content, but interesting in the chance to think about the workplace culture at startups and other tech companies. The writing style is like a long-read article, with similar long sections of detail followed by time jumps, and the style suits the book: it feels like this kind of article made longer. Wiener's careful skirting of names—both personal and company—in most cases (even for pop culture references at times) may make the book harder to read for some people, particularly as her use of job titles can make people forgettable. In some ways, it is the story of someone who was pretty lucky, and though she uses this to discuss some of the issues in the culture in Silicon Valley, there could be more reflection.Uncanny Valley is an interesting look at one person's experience in Silicon Valley, but though the tech company quirks such as endless wearing of company merchandise is good to roll your eyes at, the book doesn't quite say much that a shorter article on her experience couldn't.
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    mmmm bleh. i enjoyed the first half way more than the second half. i just really wanted the book to end differently, in a more confronting-complicity-in-tech kind of way but this really wasn’t that kind of book unfortunately. i thought i’d read this and feel a little better about some of the ppl in tech and the state of san francisco but i really fooled myself! lol anna is a good writer but i just wanted more complicated FEELINGS. my only notable thing to take with me is this little passage i mmmm bleh. i enjoyed the first half way more than the second half. i just really wanted the book to end differently, in a more confronting-complicity-in-tech kind of way but this really wasn’t that kind of book unfortunately. i thought i’d read this and feel a little better about some of the ppl in tech and the state of san francisco but i really fooled myself! lol anna is a good writer but i just wanted more complicated FEELINGS. my only notable thing to take with me is this little passage i loved on liking an inefficient life, contrary to tech’s profiting off convenience and efficiencies. my goal is to lean in to joyful inefficiencies and the spontaneity of human living. “unfortunately for me, i like my inefficient life. i liked listening to the radio and cooking with excessive utensils; slivering onions, defanging wet herbs. wringing out warm sponges. i liked riding public transportation: watching strangers talk to their children; watching strangers stare out the window at the sunset, and at photos of the sunset on their phones. i liked taking long walks to purchase onigiri in japantown, or taking long walks with no destination at all. folding the laundry. copying keys. filling out forms. phone calls. i even liked the post office, the predictable discontent of bureaucracy. i liked fill albums, flipping the record. long novels with minimal plot; minimalist novels with minimal plot. engaging with strangers.”also, on working at an ad tech/data analytics startup:“the surveillance apparatus was larger and more complex than originally reported, and silicon valley was deeply implicated. “i didn’t think about it while i was working there, because the product was so business oriented. i didn’t necessarily see it as a problem for society. plus, i don’t think i had the information that all the money from the internet comes from surveillance.”
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    Anna Wiener's memoir follows her departure from the New York publishing circle and change of career where she takes up a position in a tech start-up in of Silicon Valley.This suffered from unrealistic expectations on my part: I've seen the book billed as a number of things - comparable to Joan Didion, a brutal expose on the sexist bro culture of the tech start-up business - and while, yes, the writing is good, companions to Didion are going a bit far. I don't know much about start-ups and while Anna Wiener's memoir follows her departure from the New York publishing circle and change of career where she takes up a position in a tech start-up in of Silicon Valley.This suffered from unrealistic expectations on my part: I've seen the book billed as a number of things - comparable to Joan Didion, a brutal expose on the sexist bro culture of the tech start-up business - and while, yes, the writing is good, companions to Didion are going a bit far. I don't know much about start-ups and while I don't wish to devalue the not so great experience Wiener had I just didn't find her revelations all that mind-blowing or revelatory.An easy breezy read (due to the solid writing) which I wouldn't discourage others from reading... I think I'm just burnt out on tech memoirs!Thank you Netgalley and 4th Estate for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Andrew Smith
    January 1, 1970
    This is the third audiobook I’ve listened to in the past few months that is focused on Silicon Valley. The first two concentrated on the development and life of specific companies, namely Yahoo and Google, whereas this book takes a look at the culture of technology start-ups. Having previously worked in publishing and at a literary agency in New York, Anna Wiener joined a four-person start-up who were developing an eBook reader app. She was to be the person who knew books amongst this small This is the third audiobook I’ve listened to in the past few months that is focused on Silicon Valley. The first two concentrated on the development and life of specific companies, namely Yahoo and Google, whereas this book takes a look at the culture of technology start-ups. Having previously worked in publishing and at a literary agency in New York, Anna Wiener joined a four-person start-up who were developing an eBook reader app. She was to be the person who knew books amongst this small group of techies. This experience turned out to be short lived, however, as she was soon tempted out to San Francisco where she worked at a data analytics company for the next 18 months. Her third job in a technology start-up, also in the Bay Area, was at an open source software development company – essentially a company that develops software for software developers. I’d observed from the Yahoo and Google books that a clear distinction exists between technical staff (typically computer engineers or coders) and non-technical staff (sales people, administrators and others in customer facing roles). In short, the technical staff are valued the most. Anna finds this out quite quickly and though it clearly rankles she also finds enough interest and reward to keep her working in this industry for a number of years. She walks us through her various roles, her interactions with people inside the companies and her mindset as she wrestled with elements of her work that clearly don’t sit easily with her. One element here that I found frustrating is that Wiener seems to have an aversion to names: the people she comes across are simply labelled entrepreneur, technologist, CEO, venture capitalist etc. And the same goes for the companies she works for, uses or simply expresses an opinion upon, these being designated as the Seattle software conglomerate or the social media platform everybody hates. Is there a reason for this or is it simply a style choice? I’m not sure, but I didn’t like it. I did manage to work out some of the companies touched on (I think), with my list including Amazon, Google, Uber, eBay and Facebook. But of course I may be wrong.The other key thing here – and I found it to be the main thrust of the book – is that in Wiener’s opinion Silicon Valley is run by men, and usually men she doesn’t like very much. She particularly dislikes the way that these men treat the women in their employ. The author, a self confessed feminist, does go some way to explaining how she formed this view and the examples she gives are reasonably persuasive. But for me what fights against this is her obvious antipathy toward the male species in general. Others may disagree but I found it to be a pervasive flavour throughout. Overall I enjoyed the insight this book provided into how things work in a technology start-up. I also admired the author’s ability to string sentences together, often using obscure words and phrases. But Wiener herself came across as a royal pain in the arse. I know I'll be an outlier here but I'm afraid I found the whole thing to be way too annoying and for this reason I can only award it two stars.
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  • Sonya
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to NetGalley for an advance review copy of this book, which I received in exchange for an honest assessment.Anna Wiener is a young woman with an English degree and no technical experience. Her memoir starts as she enters the heady and often overly optimistic world of start-ups. Sky high budgets, charismatic founders, lots of misogyny and non-diverse hiring make for a work bubble that glorifies the technological boom and downplays the downsides of the new world.Wiener is good at Thanks to NetGalley for an advance review copy of this book, which I received in exchange for an honest assessment.Anna Wiener is a young woman with an English degree and no technical experience. Her memoir starts as she enters the heady and often overly optimistic world of start-ups. Sky high budgets, charismatic founders, lots of misogyny and non-diverse hiring make for a work bubble that glorifies the technological boom and downplays the downsides of the new world.Wiener is good at evaluating her own process and beliefs as she moves from job to job as a support person, a role that doesn't garner a lot of respect even though she refuses to hide in the background of the companies where she works. She discusses with care and detail how the tech economy can isolate people and push out the middle class in cities where tech takes over.This is book is compulsively readable and asks readers to consider whether a predominantly online life has value or instead leaches life from our lives.Highly recommended.
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  • Jenee Rager
    January 1, 1970
    Try as I might I could not get into this book. I think the story itself was informative, and it could have been interesting had it been written in a different style. I really struggled with the lack of names. Instead of just calling her co-workers "John" or "Mary" or whatever name she felt like, the author referred to them by their job description, making it impossible for me to connect with any of them. This was a goodreads giveaway and I appreciate the opportunity to try reading something new Try as I might I could not get into this book. I think the story itself was informative, and it could have been interesting had it been written in a different style. I really struggled with the lack of names. Instead of just calling her co-workers "John" or "Mary" or whatever name she felt like, the author referred to them by their job description, making it impossible for me to connect with any of them. This was a goodreads giveaway and I appreciate the opportunity to try reading something new and different, but it was not my cup of tea.
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  • Wendy Liu
    January 1, 1970
    Dazzling and brutal at the same time. If you're disillusioned with Silicon Valley, you'll want to read this book. If you're not, you won't want to read this book, but you should.
  • Sarah at Sarah's Book Shelves
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to MCD for an advanced copy of this book.Wiener has the unique perspective of joining the tech industry (first at a data analytics start-up, followed by an open-source software company) from publishing (an old-school culture that couldn’t be more different from tech), so I enjoyed her quasi-outsider’s perspective on the cult-like, all-encompassing, over-the-top, child’s playground culture of Silicon Valley. She railed on what you’d expect (i.e. the male and youth dominated culture, the Thanks to MCD for an advanced copy of this book.Wiener has the unique perspective of joining the tech industry (first at a data analytics start-up, followed by an open-source software company) from publishing (an old-school culture that couldn’t be more different from tech), so I enjoyed her quasi-outsider’s perspective on the cult-like, all-encompassing, over-the-top, child’s playground culture of Silicon Valley. She railed on what you’d expect (i.e. the male and youth dominated culture, the wild overspending) and she thoughtfully shared her moral struggle with what the data analytics company was doing (if you’re worried about “big data” tracking you online…you should be). Unfortunately, the second half of the book got boring and repetitive…it felt like a long diatribe of Wiener working out her conflicted feelings about Silicon Valley and tech in general. It felt like what should have been an essay was stretched into a full length book and the writing style was over-the-top at times. Though I enjoyed the first half, I kept wanting to be done with it in the second half.Visit https://www.sarahsbookshelves.com for more reviews.
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  • jasmine sun
    January 1, 1970
    uncanny valley was a weirdly intimate look into a bubble i know all too well. i congratulated myself for understanding wiener's references to both dead french theorists and viral vc tweets, remembered my own first encounters with cowen-style rationalists and custom slack reacts, then wondered whether it was self-indulgent to read a 200 page inside joke. but so what? i've grown to expect every tech piece i read to be either a how-to guide or an investigative take-down. at its core, uncanny valley uncanny valley was a weirdly intimate look into a bubble i know all too well. i congratulated myself for understanding wiener's references to both dead french theorists and viral vc tweets, remembered my own first encounters with cowen-style rationalists and custom slack reacts, then wondered whether it was self-indulgent to read a 200 page inside joke. but so what? i've grown to expect every tech piece i read to be either a how-to guide or an investigative take-down. at its core, uncanny valley is neither of the above. instead, it had the primary effect of making me feel a little less alone, arranging my intuitions into beautiful words and familiar representations. so the systems-level message remains implicit, concealed in snapshots of people she (and we) have known and places she (and we) have been. technology - like politics, religion, media, and other industries trying to Change The World - will always come with a certain dose of surrealism. reality is twisted to fit a theory of change that always makes room for our sustenance, where there are sometimes missteps but always agency. wiener doesn't completely condemn that self-importance: it's all too human. through her own story, she shows how a worldview that forefronts jobs and companies can make us forget our subjectivity - that there are options beyond the kool-aid - that there's always an option to power off.
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  • Amar Pai
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed this, disturbing as it is. Every veiled reference in this book is immediately recognizable to someone working and living in tech SF during the 2nd dot com boom. For better or for worse. She nails the time and place. Wiener is scathing, precise; her writing is top notch as you'd expect from a New Yorker contributor. Part of the draw of the book is that she isn't above it all; she's seduced by the scene even as she recognizes how gross it is. So many tech bros in dot com shirts, I really enjoyed this, disturbing as it is. Every veiled reference in this book is immediately recognizable to someone working and living in tech SF during the 2nd dot com boom. For better or for worse. She nails the time and place. Wiener is scathing, precise; her writing is top notch as you'd expect from a New Yorker contributor. Part of the draw of the book is that she isn't above it all; she's seduced by the scene even as she recognizes how gross it is. So many tech bros in dot com shirts, so much optimizing and growth hacking. But also a genuine historical moment, in a city that remains beautiful even as it becomes a playground for the rich. Anyone who worked at Goodreads (one of the less gross dot coms of the era, if you ask me) needs to read this. I felt like she was describing our original office at one point. Irregular bucket drumming. And then our next office near the Gold Club. She also goes on the same scavenger hunt team building thing that we all did!! LOL Ettore do you remember that one?Shout out to everyone who worked at Goodreads. I have a lot of affection for that place and the people who were there, even if the surrounding city and atmosphere was already becoming the capitalist hellscape it is now.
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  • Laura
    January 1, 1970
    Anna Weiner’s Uncanny Valley is a memoir of working in Silicon Valley in her mid-twenties; for me, it felt like a good online article that had been stretched out into more than three hundred pages. Weiner has nothing especially insightful to say about tech, and rehearses familiar critiques: the dominance of young white men, the lack of concern for data security, the distance from the ‘real world’. I also found the way Weiner presents herself as totally unrelatable; she seems to think it’s a Anna Weiner’s Uncanny Valley is a memoir of working in Silicon Valley in her mid-twenties; for me, it felt like a good online article that had been stretched out into more than three hundred pages. Weiner has nothing especially insightful to say about tech, and rehearses familiar critiques: the dominance of young white men, the lack of concern for data security, the distance from the ‘real world’. I also found the way Weiner presents herself as totally unrelatable; she seems to think it’s a classic example of millennial drift, but there’s no solid core to anything about this version of her self, and she comes across as unbearably obtuse. You’re probably better off reading her online output; I stopped reading this around the halfway mark.I received a free proof copy of this memoir from the publisher for review.
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  • Yong Hoon
    January 1, 1970
    - I didn't like how all private entities were described and not named; it was kind of funny and then felt more like a gimmick.- I also found that I didn't connect very well to the depictions of startup culture; it felt like I had heard those stories before, though they were still terrible.- That said, this was a book that captured my feelings at this moment in time fairly well, with all the quirks and privilege and misgivings and everything else.- If a movie like Funny Ha Ha is a slice-of-life - I didn't like how all private entities were described and not named; it was kind of funny and then felt more like a gimmick.- I also found that I didn't connect very well to the depictions of startup culture; it felt like I had heard those stories before, though they were still terrible.- That said, this was a book that captured my feelings at this moment in time fairly well, with all the quirks and privilege and misgivings and everything else.- If a movie like Funny Ha Ha is a slice-of-life depiction of a certain type of twentysomething at a certain time and place, this book is a damn good representation of the people I know, the person I am, the places we inhabit.- I expect a ton more of this kind of book to come out as more and more people from this background follow her path, but I suspect this will be a blueprint for those to come.- I guess ultimately this was a book more about description than analysis. Of course, an easy solution to the problems described probably doesn't exist, but it worked more as a snapshot than a reflection.
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  • Aaron
    January 1, 1970
    I often felt teased here. There are moments of the life being shared that I felt connected to. But, a lot of that was drowned out by generalities in the experience and in the disparagement of that world. Admitting their own part in it all feels much like the person saying 'no offense', before insulting you: as if they're mostly trying to assuage their own guilt. Probably I'm being defensively triggered.
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  • Alex
    January 1, 1970
    This book was an incredible take on the craziness that is Silicon Valley- the money, the technology, the Bay Area... But I think it was particularly poignant to me because I'm going through almost exactly what Anna Wiener went through. I'm living it, working at a startup where the co-founders are 20 and 23. (I'm 23).Anna left her low-paying job at a publishing company in New York to check out the start up scene. On the outside, it is pretty impressive. Companies that grow and become valued at a This book was an incredible take on the craziness that is Silicon Valley- the money, the technology, the Bay Area... But I think it was particularly poignant to me because I'm going through almost exactly what Anna Wiener went through. I'm living it, working at a startup where the co-founders are 20 and 23. (I'm 23).Anna left her low-paying job at a publishing company in New York to check out the start up scene. On the outside, it is pretty impressive. Companies that grow and become valued at a billion dollars practically overnight. CEOs that are 24 years old. Everything is new- it's technology, the way of the future."...all the one-hit wonders who had dropped out of school and become their own bosses and thought they knew how the world worked, thought they knew how to fix everything."Anna starts at a small start up in NYC- and her situation is strikingly similar to mine. She works for people younger than her (and she's 25). They all work in the same room (there's only 5 of them) but still communicate primarily via text. There are broad, random meetings about strategy but nothing is really implemented. She questions her self worth- why was she here? She didn't really have the qualifications- she was an assistant at a publishing company.Anna soon finds that there's a hierarchy: those that code and those that don't. Business sense isn't really a thing when CEOs are fresh young men out of college given 20 million dollars by investors to start a company. I related to this so much- I had "soft" skills (although how much of a soft skill financial modeling is is debatable). I was eager to learn and put my business studies to test, just to have no one really care. Basic things like primary revenue streams, pricing, and costs are irrelevant compared to gaining market share. The company I've been working at has been functioning for 7 months now and there is not one financial model in sight. This can't be right, can it? But alas, I'm not the only one with these feelings- Anna had this same experience. So... if you don't care about the business side of things- only care about coding product and sales... then what am I being paid for?“The hierarchy was pervasive at the analytics startup, ingrained in the CEO’s dismissal of marketing and insistence that a good product would sell itself.”And Anna shared a lot of these fears and feelings. Feelings of inadequacy, of her skills not really being valued. Plus there's the fact that Silicon Valley is a man's world. In fact, SF is the most obviously male dominated city I've ever been too- and I mean that in the most basic way. There are just tons of men. Going out to bars, there are groups of men with their corporate backpacks. The work place is dominated by the confident young CEO and the socially awkward coder that works for 24 hours then sleeps for 12, drinking Red Bull and taking Adderall. I could understand a lot to her feelings of misogynism (not that I've experienced it), but I have in certain ways felt like the tech-bros have a club that I'm not exactly wanted in. Then she mentions the income inequality- how stark it is with these wealthy young people and the people shooting up in the streets. It's bad. It's not an overreaction. Is it a fixable problem? Not anytime soon, unfortunately. She also goes into detail about sort of losing happiness in life when we surrender to technology- the constant checking of social media, glazing over tabs on our computer, flitting back and forth. In a way, I think that technology can definitely be worrisome- privacy is becoming harder to come by. Data is being collected about you all the time. Is it as scary as people think? Yes and no. I didn't agree with all of her points, but I don't read books just so I could read an echo chamber of my own thoughts. I felt that the issue she had with technology was a lot because she put herself in a position to never be offline. She didn't seek out what was meaningful to her, but an abstract version of success. And worse, it seemed like instead of getting inspired by the potential herself, in many parts of the book she admits that she wants to be liked by these enigmatic CEOs, she wants them to think her smart, she wants to feel validated by these young, white men. Instead of finding validation internally, she was desperate for it in other ways, which I think caused a lot of her unhappiness. I find it exciting to see young people with so much success. It's cool- I use it to push myself, but Anna seemed instead to just join someone else's ride. I loved this book because it made me think of my own life. After just moving a couple months ago to SF, it was scarily accurate to certain things I was experiencing. It was a great book to read so I don't fall into the same pitfalls as she did. But I also think that I'm quite different. I didn't come to the Bay Area to seek external validation or get rich quick. I didn't want to do a corporate job and I don't feel "stuck". So I don't have the fear of turning 29, and not really knowing what I did for the past 6 years. Anyway, I talked a lot about myself because I think I enjoyed this book immensely because it was so relatable to my situation. It isn't perfect, and I think she frames things in a way that are a bit "end of the world" ish and she has her internal bias really feed into the narrative, but still, this was her experience, and in many ways, I can see where she's coming from.
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  • Jay Gabler
    January 1, 1970
    Uncanny Valley is literally a memoir insofar as it recounts the author’s lived experiences, but never quite connects the dots between her personal journey and the environment it moves through.It’s understandable, of course, that Wiener might want to hold herself at a distance even in the pages of her own book, since a recurring motif of her account is the commodification of personal information. One of the author’s tech jobs is at a company that helps other companies analyze their users’ Uncanny Valley is literally a memoir insofar as it recounts the author’s lived experiences, but never quite connects the dots between her personal journey and the environment it moves through.It’s understandable, of course, that Wiener might want to hold herself at a distance even in the pages of her own book, since a recurring motif of her account is the commodification of personal information. One of the author’s tech jobs is at a company that helps other companies analyze their users’ behavior so as to best exploit it for profit. In perhaps the book’s most chilling moment, she reveals just how easy it was not just for those companies to peer into their users’ lives, but for employees of her own third-party company to do so.“It was assumed,” she writes, “we would only look at our customers’ data sets out of necessity, and only when requested by customers themselves; that we would not, under any circumstances, look up individual profiles of our lovers and family members and coworkers in the databases belonging to dating apps and shopping services and fitness trackers and travel sites.” For an author who came from, and subsequently returned to, the New York writerly world, that kind of experience is bound to give a new meaning to “omniscient third-person.”The result, though, is an account that feels coolly distanced from both its author and its subject. I reviewed Uncanny Valley for The Tangential.
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  • Agnese
    January 1, 1970
    It was a quick read, but, ultimately, I don't feel like I learned anything new from this book about the ego-centric and cultish world of Silicon Valley's startup culture. This could have easily just been a longer magazine piece.
  • KarnagesMistress
    January 1, 1970
    I need to start a new Goodreads shelf: books that make me glad to be a poor, white trash, introvert. Of course, this is all said tongue-in-cheek. Although my experience would have been different, being Generation X, I was offered the chance to become a computer programmer. Coming out of my first two years of college, with some kind of skill for higher levels of theoretical math and science, I was actively recruited by my college's math department for their computer programming degree program. I I need to start a new Goodreads shelf: books that make me glad to be a poor, white trash, introvert. Of course, this is all said tongue-in-cheek. Although my experience would have been different, being Generation X, I was offered the chance to become a computer programmer. Coming out of my first two years of college, with some kind of skill for higher levels of theoretical math and science, I was actively recruited by my college's math department for their computer programming degree program. I turned it down because I knew myself enough to know that, based on my earlier forays into programming, it didn't take much to drive me skin-crawlingly miserable. Anyway, this was more dot-com bubble time, not Wiener's Web 2.0. I had two female high school classmates that wound up becoming computer programmers, not because they wanted to, per se, but because they were told that they were smart enough to, and it would be a good, reliable, responsible career path. Both of them now live in Midwestern capital city metro areas with arguably middle-class families and, from what I can tell, make decent enough money to be the primary breadwinners, but don't exactly look forward to getting up in the morning. (See Fleishman Is in Trouble) They are not the women that Anna Wiener was and writes about, and I don't think I would've been, either. But, I couldn't help feeling the lingering sense of "what if" while reading this book. Time and time again, my response to that feeling was, "ewww. I don't want it." Oh, Gods, that kind of money would be NICE. (So would the stocked company fridges and free meals. But, as Dean Wormer said, “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”) So, to Anna Wiener, I am sorry that your journey through your valley brought you no peace. I do thank you wholeheartedly for reminding me that my life isn't so bad, though. This book will also satisfy the 2019 Watauga County Public Library Reading Challenge categories: A book with a pun in the title, A book you would recommend to someone else, A book that ends unhappily ever after, A book about culture, A book with a great title, A book about technology, A book about a skill you'd like to learn, A nonfiction book published in the last five years. I received this book for free on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 through Goodreads Giveaways. It is an advance reader's copy, and came with a cloud stress ball.
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  • Clare
    January 1, 1970
    DNF - got bored and stopped about halfway through.The memoir is unfocused and uncompelling. There are many stories out there about sexism and naked ambition in Silicon Valley but, unfortunately, this one doesn't contribute anything to those dialogues. There's a lot of telling and not much showing. Wiener pops the word sexism in every now and then as if she forgot that it was supposed to be a proper topic of conversation in her memoir. Or maybe it's not and it's the blurb's fault for being DNF - got bored and stopped about halfway through.The memoir is unfocused and uncompelling. There are many stories out there about sexism and naked ambition in Silicon Valley but, unfortunately, this one doesn't contribute anything to those dialogues. There's a lot of telling and not much showing. Wiener pops the word sexism in every now and then as if she forgot that it was supposed to be a proper topic of conversation in her memoir. Or maybe it's not and it's the blurb's fault for being inaccurate. The memoir is in fact at its most interesting when she's talking about data harvesting and surveillance. Also, I really dislike it when people push sexism as a cover for a hit to their self-esteem. This happens about 100 pages and it annoyed the heck out of me to such an extent that it tainted the rest of the pages I read. Wiener goes to a party with her computer engineering partner that is filled with other male engineers and feels left out, at one point, of a conversation about self-driving cars. She boldly decides to intrude and offers her own opinion only to get patronised by the others. I understand the effect she was trying to produce but it was an ill-chosen narrative to demonstrate it. The opinion she in fact offered was, by her own account, spoken for the mere sake of speaking. I am a non-technical person too but the opinion she proffered was clearly designed to be provocative. The author then goes on to write: 'What unfettered sexists, I said. How dare they be so dismissive, just because I was a woman—just because I did customer support and was considered nontechnical. Their lives were no better than my life. Their opinions were no more valid than mine.'I'm sorry but: (1) her opinions, though no less valid, can be less valuable and (2) no sexism was conveyed in the way the men spoke back to her. It was patronising AF, yes. But it appeared to be wholly on account of her having spoken out of, in their opinion, ignorance. And if there were sexist undertones or more to the story, Wiener did not bother to write it in. Good God, I too am guilty of rolling my eyes when someone offers an unsubstantiated opinion in an area of study I've specialised in. I get particularly ticked if it's clear the person opining has no interest in the subject area anyway and Wiener herself professes elsewhere in the book to have no interest in learning more about coding or thinking about the value and implications of the products her industry is producing. If you converse with me on a bad day in this manner, I might be curt in my reply. Just because it happens to be a man doing it to you does not automatically make it sexist. I am a feminist. I am a woman of colour. I've been on the receiving end of casual racism and sexism. And nothing makes me more annoyed than having accusations of sexism flung around; it dilutes the power of the word and distracts from real incidences when they occur.
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  • Andrea Laurion
    January 1, 1970
    To sum up: A lit world person goes to work for several years in Silicon Valley in customer support roles. It's the type of book that's written for a very particular audience on two separate sides of the country. Whether anyone outside of that will be interested, I'm not so sure. The writing is solid and the humor is dark. The anecdotes are bonkers, which is what you want in a tech world memoir (the more dirt, the better, imho). Still, I think it would have been a stronger book if it was written To sum up: A lit world person goes to work for several years in Silicon Valley in customer support roles. It's the type of book that's written for a very particular audience on two separate sides of the country. Whether anyone outside of that will be interested, I'm not so sure. The writing is solid and the humor is dark. The anecdotes are bonkers, which is what you want in a tech world memoir (the more dirt, the better, imho). Still, I think it would have been a stronger book if it was written five years from now, allowing for further reflection on the effects of that industry to both the Bay Area and the rest of the country. Lacking that, particularly since it took until two-thirds of the way through to go deeply into the homelessness problem in San Francisco, it comes across as a bit shallow and privileged. It also drags a bit in some parts. I'm familiar with the essay in n+1 that lead to this book and that might be to my detriment because I couldn't help but think that it was better as just an essay. Ultimately, it's well-written and interesting, but not groundbreaking.Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Jen Ryland
    January 1, 1970
    I was a big fan of Silicon Valley (the HBO show) and like memoirs so decided to try this out.As the book opens, the author is working as assistant in NY publishing. She's overworked, underpaid and not getting promoted, so she decides to take a (non-tech) job at a Silicon Valley start-up. I liked the writing and found the author's observations sharp and insightful. But the book felt long for something that's really just a LOT of observation. I kept wishing for more structure. It felt too long for I was a big fan of Silicon Valley (the HBO show) and like memoirs so decided to try this out.As the book opens, the author is working as assistant in NY publishing. She's overworked, underpaid and not getting promoted, so she decides to take a (non-tech) job at a Silicon Valley start-up. I liked the writing and found the author's observations sharp and insightful. But the book felt long for something that's really just a LOT of observation. I kept wishing for more structure. It felt too long for what it was. In the end, this is a book about being in your 20s, having a job you hate, living in a city (after reading this I could never live in San Francisco), feeling like there must be more to life. The portrait of the tech industry is also not great (a misogynstic industry that pretends it's improving our lives while being obsessed with a) collecting big data, b) getting us addicted to their technology and c) spying on us under the guise of improving their products. Yikes.)
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  • Fran
    January 1, 1970
    riveting! couldn't put it down. I will be thinking about this one for a while, and then probably forcing my dad or my brother to read it.
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