A technology journalist puts a spotlight on the people who create the code that rules our computerized world, exploring their psychology, passions, values, and messy history. Individual portraits put readers closer 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.
One of the many fine things about the work of Clive Thompson, on the other hand, is his gusty pleasure in our moment ... He likes coders—people who create computer code for a living—and is fascinated by their stories of how they discovered coding, what it’s like to code, and the wonderfully weird and weirdly wonderful world they have helped build ... Anthropologist Clifford Geertz would have admired his thick description of the conditions and structures within which people and machines interact. Never, however, does Thompson lose the personal touch. An avalanche of profiles, stories, quips, and anecdotes in this beautifully reported book returns us constantly to people, their stories, their hopes and thrills and disappointments ... the technical aspect never overwhelms Coders. Rather, it’s the background program for the book, a productive global purr that lets everything happen ... All is not light. Everyone should read Chapter 8, 'Hackers, Crackers, and Freedom Fighters,' which tackles the ambiguous moral and ethical areas where coders, often outright and proudly, run afoul of the law. It’s superb ... Fun to read, this book knows its stuff and makes it fun to learn.
With an anthropologist’s eye, [Thompson] outlines [coders'] different personality traits, their history and cultural touchstones ... By breaking down what the actual work of coding looks like—often pretty simple, rote, done in teams rather than by loner geniuses—he removes the mystery and brings it into the legible world for the rest of us to debate. Human beings and their foibles are the reason the internet is how it is—for better and often, as this book shows, for worse ... It’s pleasing as he picks up each Silicon Valley cliché, each canard rarely questioned, and dumps it into this wood chip machine ... The new Brahmins lose their power if everyone knows what’s behind the curtain, and that seems to be Thompson’s goal with this book. Algorithms are human tools, not magical spells.
Thompson provides an informative, insightful, accessible and judicious examination of the profession, the characteristics and values of computer programmers, and the opportunities and challenges America’s four million digital architects (and the Big Tech companies that employ them) present to our culture, economy and politics. Drawing on dozens of interviews, Thompson gets inside the heads of coders.