Uncanny Valley: A Memoir

Anna Wiener

Uncanny Valley: A Memoir
  • Format
  • Publisher
  • Country
  • Published
  • Pages
  • ISBN

Uncanny Valley: A Memoir

Anna Wiener

At twenty-five years old, Anna Wiener was beginning to tire of her assistant job in New York publishing. There was no room to grow, and the voyeuristic thrill of answering someone else’s phone had worn thin. Within a year she had moved to San Francisco to take up a job at a data analytics start-up in Silicon Valley. Leaving her business casual skirts and shirts in the wardrobe, she began working in company-branded T-shirts and hoodies. She had a healthy income for the first time in her life. She felt like part of the future.

But a tide was beginning to turn. People were speaking of tech start-ups as surveillance companies. Out of sixty employees, only eight of her colleagues were women. Casual sexism was rife. Sexual harassment cases were proliferating. And soon, like everyone else, she was addicted to the internet, refreshing the news, refreshing social media, scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. Slowly, she began to realise that her blind faith in ambitious, arrogant young men from America’s soft suburbs wasn’t just her own personal pathology. It had become a global affliction.

Uncanny Valley is a coming of age story set against the backdrop of our generation’s very own gold rush. It’s a story about the tension between old and new, between art and tech, between the quest for money and the quest for meaning - about how our world is changing for ever.

Review

At twenty five, Anna Wiener quit her job as an assistant in New York publishing for the gold rush of Silicon Valley. Entrepreneurial start-ups were filled with optimism and a sense of possibility. A new style of workplace culture offered onsite yoga, cafés, matching branded hoodies, and equity shares. Wiener was able to earn a healthy income for the first time in her career.

Silicon Valley was filled with CEOs in their twenties who were seeded by investors to fulfil the promise of new apps and ideals. Perceptions of work in the Valley changed from a transaction of labour to a ‘lifestyle’. Extended working hours became proof of commitment and loyalty, even as corporate loneliness and the threat of burnout began to rise.

Uncanny Valley is a coming-of-age memoir set in gentrifying San Francisco. Wiener questions her values and changing identity as her optimism in the tech industry starts to decay. She explores the tech sector’s growing burden of responsibility regarding companies’ unrestricted access to personal data and monitoring of what’s appropriate for social media, examining how these companies attempt to navigate the complexities of ‘free speech’. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in delving into these issues in an industry where free services and apps are seen as a fair exchange for certain kinds of exploitation, Wiener also finds similarities between state surveillance and advertising technology, ultimately painting a bleak picture of the future.

Being a nontechnical woman in a technology field meant Wiener was constantly determining whether it was worth picking battles against sexism, misogyny and objectification. Working in a male-dominated field that verbally stressed the importance of hiring more women, she was struck by the widespread failure in the industry to implement any changes to hiring practices or work culture.

Uncanny Valley offers first-hand knowledge of the growing tech field from a woman’s perspective. In an age of scrolling addiction, this assessment of the other side of the internet is both illuminating and frightening.


Cindy Morris works as a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

This item is in-stock and will ship in 2-3 business days

We are currently experiencing delays in processing and delivering online orders. Click here for more information.

Please note, our stock data is updated overnight, and availability may change throughout the day. Prices are subject to change without notice.

Sign in or become a Readings Member to add this title to a wishlist.