Coders

Coders

The Making of A New Tribe and the Remaking of the World

eBook - 2019
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Hello, world.Facebook's algorithms shaping the news. Self-driving cars roaming the streets. Revolution on Twitter and romance on Tinder. We live in a world constructed of code—and coders are the ones who built it for us. From acclaimed tech writer Clive Thompson comes a brilliant anthropological reckoning with the most powerful tribe in the world today, computer programmers, in a book that interrogates who they are, how they think, what qualifies as greatness in their world, and what should give us pause. They are the most quietly influential people on the planet, and Coders shines a light on their culture.In pop culture and media, the people who create the code that rules our world are regularly portrayed in hackneyed, simplified terms, as ciphers in hoodies. Thompson goes far deeper, dramatizing the psychology of the invisible architects of the culture, exploring their passions and their values, as well as their messy history. In nuanced portraits, Coders takes us close to some of the great programmers of our time, including the creators of Facebook's News Feed, Instagram, Google's cutting-edge AI, and more. Speaking to everyone from revered "10X" elites to neophytes, back-end engineers and front-end designers, Thompson explores the distinctive psychology of this vocation—which combines a love of logic, an obsession with efficiency, the joy of puzzle-solving, and a superhuman tolerance for mind-bending frustration. Along the way, Coders thoughtfully ponders the morality and politics of code, including its implications for civic life and the economy. Programmers shape our everyday behavior: When they make something easy to do, we do more of it. When they make it hard or impossible, we do less of it. Thompson wrestles with the major controversies of our era, from the "disruption" fetish of Silicon Valley to the struggle for inclusion by marginalized groups.In his accessible, erudite style, Thompson unpacks the surprising history of the field, beginning with the first coders — brilliant and pioneering women, who, despite crafting some of the earliest personal computers and programming languages, were later written out of history. Coders introduces modern crypto-hackers fighting for your privacy, AI engineers building eerie new forms of machine cognition, teenage girls losing sleep at 24/7 hackathons, and unemployed Kentucky coal-miners learning a new career. At the same time, the book deftly illustrates how programming has become a marvelous new art form—a source of delight and creativity, not merely danger. To get as close to his subject as possible, Thompson picks up the thread of his own long-abandoned coding skills as he reckons, in his signature, highly personal style, with what superb programming looks like. To understand the world today, we need to understand code and its consequences. With Coders, Thompson gives a definitive look into the heart of the machine.
Publisher: 2019
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Reproduction: Electronic reproduction. New York : Penguin Press, 2019. Requires OverDrive Read (file size: N/A KB) or Adobe Digital Editions (file size: 1171 KB) or Kobo app or compatible Kobo device (file size: N/A KB) or Amazon Kindle (file size: N/A KB)
ISBN: 9780735220577

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r
ranXerox
Dec 05, 2019

A very good and very broad appraisal of the industry, its participants and the culture of computing. I'd go so far to say that it's one of the very best of its kind and certainly the most ambitious in its scope - where it succeeds admirably. No preconceptions are tolerated and the author does an excellent job of deflating both those that exist inside the field and those that exist about the field.
Highly recommended for its scope and timeliness as humanity sits at the cusp of a genuine AI revolution.

c
CICarlier
Nov 06, 2019

A very good book to get a sense of the coding world. Some good perspectives and questions. Thompson sometimes falls a little bit in the cliché (not all coders are weirdos, but sure thing if you are driven you can do wonders) but still gives a good sense of the reality.
Although the book focused on Silicon Valley IT and unicorn founders, it also digs a little in other aspects of IT history and perspective for the future. Very good read and well written!

d
Datschie
Sep 04, 2019

The editor could have condensed the book to a 100 page essay and renamed it "Perceived Hiring Inequalities in Silicon Valley". The book was somewhat rambling and unfocussed to this reader.

s
sandraperkins
Aug 18, 2019

Mr. Thompson is an entertaining writer, and this book is both fascinating and readable. If you want to understand what is going on behind the scenes in the world of technology, this book is a great place to start.

Mr. Thompson makes the argument that programmers are among the most influential people on the planet. All of us interact with software constantly, at work and in our personal lives. (This is especially true for those who spend hours on their smartphones and/or looking at social media, but we are all affected.) Programmers wrote the software that we use to run our lives; their work changes our behavior, and in many cases actually rewires our brains. Programmers, and the tech companies that employ them, and the rich people who invest in them, are controlling our lives. This book explains how that happened.

Today in the US the world of coding is dominated by young white males (many of whom graduated from Stanford). This was not historically the case. In the early days of computer science, men thought that engineering the hardware was the “cool” masculine part, and that software was menial, secretarial work best left to women. So the early coders were women, and they were great at it! Coding in the early days was much harder than it is today, as it was all new and computer languages were in their infancy. So this was an intellectually challenging job available to women long before women entered the professions in any significant numbers. (One of the early brilliant coders, Mary Allen Wilkes, ultimately left coding to become a very successful trial attorney and Harvard law professor.)

The fact that most coders are privileged young white males is a problem. This leads to tremendous blind spots which might not be important to privileged young white males, but are important to the rest of us. For example, one reason that social media has become a tool of harassment used by trolls and people spreading hate is that privileged young white males are less likely to be the targets of harassment and hate, so it did not occur to them to anticipate this malevolent behavior and head it off at the pass. It may also explain why so much coding effort was put into startup businesses that would do errands and chores that young white males find tedious.

So what kind of person is attracted to coding? Traditionally, these characteristics were most common: People who love to solve problems and puzzles; people who love to learn new things (and who hate repetitive work); and people who are not especially interested in other people (they like machines better than other people). Some of the stories about how coders dealt with personal relationships were bizarre and almost funny (reminding me of The Rosie Project and sequels).

Interesting point: One huge benefit to hiring employees from nontraditional fields is that you gain their broader perspective. Eager computer science students fresh out of school have little life experience. They think they can solve any problem, but they fail to even notice real life problems because they have never encountered them. “And if they have studied very little of the humanities—history, sociology, literature—they often have what Northrop Frye might have called an ‘uneducated imagination’: They have little ability to envision what motivates the users of their software. They’re great at grasping the binary soul of the machine but not the quantum weirdness of human psychology.” One CEO of a tech company notes that his most productive developers had all studied humanities, such as philosophy or political science. He argues that the software industry should be hiring those who have studied broadly, and then either taught themselves to code on the side or retrained later.

There is so much more in this book, including a discussion of the rise of Artificial Intelligence. Enjoy!

a
Altamera
Jun 22, 2019

In his desperation to prove how woke he is, the misandrist Clive Thompson loses focus. What begins as a nice text on the history of coding, interesting milestones, and impressive achievements devolves into a cesspit of politically correct, virtue-signalling dross. Gender activism runs amok and Clive places his progressive halo of wokeness just so upon his virtuous brow.

s
StarGladiator
Jun 13, 2019

Scatterbrained. I suspect this author believes he has something profound to say, but keeps losing his train of thought?!
Hmmm . . . several times he makes the point - - his point - - that a small group of youngish white males are influencing stuff, but . . . the CEO of Google is an Indian; the CEO of Microsoft also comes from India; the owners and managers of Facebook are a Jewish-American male and his Chinese-American wife; the CEO at Apple is an older, gay dude.
Say what? ? ? ? ?
The author cherry picks to a tremendous degree; sidestepping massive data to convey a false narrative/thesis.
____________________________________________________________________________
TO REPEAT: In 1990 Silicon Valley, 30% of programmers were American women. Presently, less than 5% are women, and I'm uncertain as to how many of those are American?!
Why? Well, a USA Today business article back in 2002 detailed how a group of female IT workers filed an EOE complaint against their Silicon Valley employer because, after he had replaced all the American male IT workers with foreign visa workers - - foreign nationals - - said employer moved on to replace all the remaining American women IT employees.
The complaint was rejected, of course, as the employer was replacing Americans without regard to gender - - which is why SOLIDARITY is the best strategy, but unfortunately divide and conquer tends to succeed!
Also, it annoys the holy hell out of me when the author infers that derogatory Twitter/tweets directed at females originate from American males - - it's the Internet, stupid! ! !
They originated from all over the planet! [And many aren't human, but foreign chatbots!]
Do your homework, buckaroo!
_______________________________________________________________
[Sidebar: Clive Thompson and Emily Chang are pushing an agenda not based in reality; are they doing this by chance, or paid to do so? It was only years later - - after listening to Tom Braden on the radio - - that I found out he was bankrolled by the CIA. It was years later - - after reading Cleveland Amory's columns - - that I learned that his brother was deputy director of the CIA. It was years later - - after reading articles by the Alsop brothers - - that I learned of their two cousins and uncle who were high-level CIA types! Lewis Lapham, long at Harper's - - and his brother at the CIA? Just how many PuppetMedia - - and book authors - - are connected to the CIA???]
Hate to post an RT, but if that's the only place we can hear Jesse Ventura . . . .
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6J7OkjKESo&feature=youtu.be

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