Uncanny Valley|Anna Wiener
Uncanny Valley : A Memoir
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Named one of the Best Books of 2020 by The Washington Post, The Atlantic, NPR, the Los Angeles Times, ELLE, Esquire, Parade, Teen Vogue, The Boston Globe, Forbes, The Times (UK), Fortune, Chicago Tribune, Glamour, The A.V. Club, Vox, Jezebel, Town & Country, OneZero, Apartment Therapy, Good Housekeeping, PopMatters, Electric Literature, Self, The Week (UK) and BookPage. 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.


  • ISBN-13: 9780374278014
  • ISBN-10: 0374278016
  • Publisher: MCD
  • Publish Date: January 2020
  • Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.88 pounds
  • Page Count: 288

Uncanny Valley

Chances are, you know someone who has misgivings about technology. Perhaps this person quit Facebook or downgraded from a smartphone. In Uncanny Valley: A Memoir, these same misgivings are voiced by a former Silicon Valley foot soldier.

Anna Wiener, now a writer for The New Yorker, draws on her anxiety-addled experiences working at several startups during her mid-20s. Her bosses were very young, hoodie-clad men. They ran companies fattened up with venture capital, eager to “disrupt” something, anything. They were encouraged to “move fast and break things,” to “ask forgiveness, not permission.” Recklessness in the name of “optimization” was seen as noble. 

But Uncanny Valley is not a Devil Wears Prada-style takedown of any company or CEO. Instead, Wiener focuses on the startup climate as a whole—giving an insider’s view of San Francisco and the tech-​Manifest-Destiny-minded brogrammers who inhabit it.

She portrays tech as a field for people who want to be taken seriously, even though most of them have not yet proven themselves as good leaders or even good human beings. Wiener wonders how she came to earn a salary over $100,000 to essentially answer emails. Her questioning who earns that kind of money, and why, feels pertinent to the current political climate.

Wiener sipped the Kool-Aid but never quite drank it. She became skeptical about whether tech contributes positively to society, let alone fixes anything in it (which is often the stated goal). In each of her workplaces, she was one of only a few women, an experience she likens to “immersion therapy for internalized misogyny.” Surveillance of tech users was—and still is—rampant, and unchecked greed turns out to be a big elephant in the room. “What were we doing, anyway, helping people become billionaires?” she writes toward the book’s end. The reader will have long been wondering the same thing. 

Wiener’s eventual exit from startups is publishing’s gain: She is an extremely gifted writer and cultural critic. Uncanny Valley may be a defining memoir of the 2020s, and it’s one that will send a massive chill down your spine.