I’ve been getting into memoirs lately. Like Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, the daughter of Steve Jobs, about the difficult relationship with her father. Or Educated by Tara Westover who grew up in a strict Mormon family and, at age 17, discovered the transformative power of education before eventually completing a PhD. And, of course, Becoming by Michelle Obama. All highly recommended.
A nice genre, I think, that effortlessly takes you to an unknown world. And often easier to get through than an autobiography. I also recently read Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener, about the time she worked in Silicon Valley.
In her mid-20s, Wiener quit her job at a publishing house in New York and moved to San Francisco. Off to the world of disruption, of "move fast and break things", of ‘‘men who said K instead of thousand".
Through her rather naive lens we get to know the startup culture. First she worked at an ebook startup, then at a data analysis company, and finally at GitHub (a company that provides hosting for software development version control).
But she doesn’t mention any company by name. She calls Facebook "the social network that everyone hated". GitHub manages "a public platform with millions of open-source software projects, which anyone could contribute to or download for free". She was probably bound by non-disclosure agreements, but it also makes her book more timeless.
Whatever the case, Wiener has a fine pen and touches on all the major themes surrounding tech – albeit sometimes briefly. Privacy, content moderation, addiction, surveillance, efficiency, sexism, young billionaires ... She does not come up with solutions but shines a light on the problems.
The whole time she’s part of the world she admires and hates at the same time, where she both belongs and is looked down upon as a non-engineer. In the end, the book leaves you with an unpleasant feeling: are these millennials really the people who dominate our world?
If you’d like a taster before diving into the book: Wiener previously published this essay in N+1 magazine , which she eventually turned into her memoir. Do you have a nice recommendation for a memoir? Don’t hesitate to pass it on to me!
Before you go...
...the Italian translation of my book is available in stores now: Il più grande bestseller di tutti i tempi (con questo titolo). Sounds very chic, I think.