Anna Wiener is an American writer, best known for her 2020 memoir Uncanny Valley. Wiener currently writes for The New Yorker as a tech correspondent.
Wiener, who grew up in Brooklyn, began working in tech in New York City, later moving to San Francisco. She chose the tech sector in an attempt to find a career path with more "momentum" than the book publishing industry, where she was previously employed.
Wiener was likewise deeply interested in data, particularly the way in which it could be used to tell stories. In San Francisco, she ended up working for an analytics startup and GitHub, and befriending Stripe CEO Patrick Collison. Her book, Uncanny Valley, never mentions the names of the companies she worked at or interacted with, though she often describes their products and corporate cultures in sufficient detail for the reader to deduce what they are.
Uncanny Valley is a memoir about Wiener’s journey through start-up culture during its most bullish and self-aggrandizing era, and how her idealism gives way to disappointment and horror as society starts to suffer the consequences of tech’s unchecked fetish for growth. Initially, much like everyone else, she is excited about the industry’s promise and naïve about its shortcomings. As she moves from a successful e-book start-up to a successful data-analytics start-up to a successful open-source start-up (the software-development giant GitHub), her main focus is doing a good job and appeasing the powerful men she works for.
As she strives to find her place in the industry, she finds herself turning a blind eye to some of its greatest moral failings: the proliferation of hate speech, the erosion of privacy, the housing crisis in San Francisco, and, eventually, Trump’s ascension to the White House amid a tsunami of fake news and Russian propaganda. The book is written using vague descriptions instead of company names Facebook is “the social network everyone hated,” for example giving the sense that the specifics of Wiener’s life matter less than the ecosystem they represent.
After several years in San Francisco, she chose to leave the tech industry for several reasons, including its lack of response to the classified information released by Edward Snowden and a wider disillusionment with the corporate culture and sexism present therein.