Uncanny Valley, by Anna Wiener
One of the New York Times’s 10 best books of 2020
Now out in paperback!
“Extraordinary . . . Wiener’s storytelling mode is keen and dry, her sentences spare—perfectly suited to let a steady thrum of dread emerge.” —Jennifer Szalai, New York Times
Adapted from Anna Wiener’s widely read and celebrated essay in n+1 Issue 25, Uncanny Valley is a rare first-person glimpse into Silicon Valley’s reckless startup culture at a time of unchecked ambition, rapacious greed, unregulated surveillance, and accelerating political power. With wit, candor, and heart, Wiener deftly charts the tech industry’s shift from idealistic self-appointed world savior to democracy-endangering liability, alongside a personal narrative of aspiration, ambivalence, and disillusionment. Unsparing, darkly incisive, and haunting, Uncanny Valley is a revelatory interrogation of a world reckoning with consequences its designers are only beginning to understand.
Praise for Uncanny Valley
“I’ve never read anything like Uncanny Valley, which is both a searching bird’s-eye study of an industry and a generation, as well as an intimate, microscopic portrait of ambition and hope and dread. Anna Wiener writes about the promise and the decay of Silicon Valley with the impossibly pleasurable combination of a precise, razored intellect and a soft, incandescent heart. Her memoir is diagnostic and exhilarating, a definitive document of a world in transition: I won’t be alone in returning to Uncanny Valley for clarity and consolation for many years to come.” —Jia Tolentino
“Like Joan Didion at a startup.” —Rebecca Solnit
“A rare mix of acute, funny, up-to-the-minute social observation, dead-serious contemplation of the tech industry’s annexation of our lives, and a sincere first-person search for meaningful work and connection.” —William Finnegan
“Uncanny Valley is a sentimental education for our accelerated times, a memoir so good it will make you slow down. Is it too much to say that every sculpted page will be studied by future generations? (No.) Anna Wiener is the Joan Didion of start-up culture and then some.” —Ed Park
“Equal parts bildungsroman and insider report, this book reveals not just excesses of the tech-startup landscape, but also the Faustian bargains and hidden political agendas embedded in the so-called ‘inspiration culture’ underlying a too-powerful industry. A funny, highly informative, and terrifying read.” —Kirkus (starred review)