The book has its climax in November 2016, with the failure of Wiener’s own efforts to prevent the rise of Donald Trump. In theory, it is the end of tech’s innocence, and a belated reckoning for its sunny conviction that “networks, humming along at scale” have the fate of the world in hand. Wiener isn’t so sure.
The networks are still humming, the money is still flowing, and the data is still being extracted. In the end, Uncanny Valley’s conclusions are sadder, more personal, reflecting back on any reader who has ever allowed themselves to swallow a whole belief system alongside a paycheck.
What did Wiener hope to find in California? What do any of us hope to find here? What, indeed, drives us to spend so long looking at our smartphones? We come here, or go there, chasing something important without necessarily knowing what it is.
Wiener, “committed to the idea of vulnerability”, spends years searching for an answer, for some kind of humanity, at the core of her corporate superiors, trying to be a “girlfriend, sister, mother” to the alleged lost boys who become millionaires before they have become adults. For some of them, these may be profound questions; for many, though, the answers are depressingly simple.