Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World

Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World

From acclaimed tech writer Clive Thompson, a brilliant and immersive anthropological reckoning with the most powerful tribe in the world today, computer programmers - where they come from, how they think, what makes for greatness in their world, and what should give us pause.You use software nearly every instant you're awake. And this may sound weirdly obvious, but every s...

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Title:Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World
Author:Clive Thompson
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Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World Reviews

  • Magali

    As someone that is joining a coding bootcamp in less than a week, I am really happy I found that book and decided to read it. As someone that just likes to read, I am even more happy to have read that book.

    I decided to read that book because it was supposed to draw an in-depth portrait of that "new" world of coders and it is exactly what it did. And it was full of very interesting informations and facts and studies... History, sociology, gender studies... All the angles of that "tribe" are cove

    As someone that is joining a coding bootcamp in less than a week, I am really happy I found that book and decided to read it. As someone that just likes to read, I am even more happy to have read that book.

    I decided to read that book because it was supposed to draw an in-depth portrait of that "new" world of coders and it is exactly what it did. And it was full of very interesting informations and facts and studies... History, sociology, gender studies... All the angles of that "tribe" are covered, and it is done in a very interesting way, well-written and (at times) really fun.

    I feel like I have a good idea of what a coder is, what that world looks like, and how we got there, which is exactly what I wanted to get from that book. I did not expect how much emphasis the author puts on sexism, racism and classism in the coders' world, but it was eye opening and much needed.

    I did not know anything about Clive Thompson before reading this book, I am definitely keeping an eye on him now.

  • Sallar

    This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I would definitely recommend reading this, especially if you’re a Software Engineer or somehow work in IT, or even if your partner is.

    I enjoyed every page of the book, but I especially liked the chapters about mental health, sexism and blue collar coding. The author remains fair and unbiased throughout the story and he has interviewed a ridiculously high number of people to write this book. The book never gets boring or too far fetched fro

    This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I would definitely recommend reading this, especially if you’re a Software Engineer or somehow work in IT, or even if your partner is.

    I enjoyed every page of the book, but I especially liked the chapters about mental health, sexism and blue collar coding. The author remains fair and unbiased throughout the story and he has interviewed a ridiculously high number of people to write this book. The book never gets boring or too far fetched from reality. As a software engineer I wholeheartedly agree with every single word of it. A strong five stars!

  • Mal Warwick

    The first computer programmer was a woman. Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron's daughter, wrote code in 1842-43 for Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine, a computer that was never built. And a century later, when the first digital computers finally came into existence, the programmers were predominantly female. In fact, women continued to dominate the field well into the 1960s. Only then did men begin to find the job attractive. Today, of course, coding—a trendier name for computer programming—is overwhelm

    The first computer programmer was a woman. Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron's daughter, wrote code in 1842-43 for Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine, a computer that was never built. And a century later, when the first digital computers finally came into existence, the programmers were predominantly female. In fact, women continued to dominate the field well into the 1960s. Only then did men begin to find the job attractive. Today, of course, coding—a trendier name for computer programming—is overwhelmingly male. And some men even make the outrageous and easily refuted claim that women are genetically unsuited to the field.

    The shifting roles of women and men in the software industry

    In his riveting new book, Coders, journalist Clive Thompson traces the history of the computer industry and reviews the shifting roles of the women and men who write the instructions that govern the machines. He also examines the industry's heavily skewed ethnic mix, with white and Asian men now holding the overwhelming majority of the jobs. The picture Thompson paints is unflattering, to say the least.

    When women programmers dominated, "the coding back then was harder than today's programming"

    "[I]f women's biology made them temperamentally unsuited to coding—and uninterested in it," Thompson writes, "it's difficult to explain why they were so prominent in the early years of American programming. After all, the coding back then was, if anything, harder than today's programming." And the logic, or rather the lack of it, that keeps larger numbers of African Americans and Latinos out of the field is even less persuasive. So, why is the industry so heavily skewed toward young white males? Thompson attributes this, in part, to the "frat-like nature of tech start-ups." And he notes, quoting the former head of the Wikimedia Foundation, "'it's not that women are excluded. It's that practically everyone is excluded if you're not a young white man who's single.'"

    A cold, hard look at the software industry

    Given this reality, why should we care? Thompson's explanation is compelling. "Programmers are . . . among the most quietly influential people on the planet. As we live in a world made of software, they're the architects." And their biases work their way willy-nilly into their work, which sometimes leads to tragic consequences. For example, the artificial-intelligence-based software used today in many court systems to screen prisoners for bail, probation, or diversionary treatment has been well-documented to discriminate against prisoners of color. Why? Because the limited data on which its decisions are based simply reflect the racist outcomes of the past. ("ProPublica found that [the software] was almost twice as likely to label a black defendant as getting a high-risk recidivist score than a white defendant, even when they controlled for these defendants' prior crimes, age, and gender.") And because the programmers who created and tweak this software weren't sensitive enough to this problem to find ways around it.

    The politics of Silicon Valley is widely misunderstood

    In Coders, Thompson also explores the political attitudes prevailing in Silicon Valley's leadership. It's widely believed, of course, that libertarian sentiment is widespread in those quarters, and that's certainly true of some of the Valley's wealthiest entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Ironically, however, the impulse to oppose all government influence on the computer industry is far off base. "When R&D magazine surveyed the top innovations from 1971 to 2006," Thompson reports, "they found 88 percent had been funded by federal research dollars." Even the Internet itself was a product of government funding—decades of it. And, despite the widespread belief that libertarianism is dominant in Silicon Valley, Thompson relates the findings of several studies that show the industry is overwhelmingly liberal and Democratic.

    A wealth of insight about the software industry

    Coders offers a wealth of information and insight about the world that software is building for us. For instance:

    ** Thompson briefly explores the history of artificial intelligence. He debunks the most extreme fears AI has engendered ("'Worrying about killer AI,'" one expert told him, "'is like worrying about overpopulation on Mars.") But there are far more serious problems emerging. Among them are the inability of facial-recognition software to recognize the faces of people of color. Why? Again, because the dataset on which the programs's decisions are based is far too limited.

    Like people in any profession, Silicon Valley's top coders mystify their work, implying that only those with peculiar genius and uniquely adapted personalities can handle the job. In refuting this assumption, Thompson reports on a program in Lexington, Kentucky, that is successfully retraining coal miners as coders. "'Coal miners are really technology workers that get dirty,'" the program's founder insists. And Thompson sees much more broadly the emergence of "blue-collar coding."

    Women programmers, blue-collar coders, and the world they're building

    This development is emblematic of the growing divide between the elite coders in the major tech firms, who often earn high six-figure incomes, and those who work in ever-increasing numbers on the routine maintenance of software in industry and commerce throughout the country. The work pays well enough, promising "a middle-class stability of the sort that has increasingly vanished from the American economic landscape." But those "blue-collar coders" are, like others in blue-collar jobs, a class set apart. And, Thompson believes, it's only the beginning: "Blue-collar code will emerge, it seems; but so will pink- and white-collar."

  • Marks54

    This is a brand new business trade about the coding frenzy that has been around in recent years. It is well informed and well written. What I found most attractive about it was its intelligent discussion of coding and programming as an occupational structure and not just a passing fancy of coding academies and proprietary trade schools. It also provides an intelligent history of the fields and some good commentary on some of the less desirable aspects of coding (unfriendliness to minorities and

    This is a brand new business trade about the coding frenzy that has been around in recent years. It is well informed and well written. What I found most attractive about it was its intelligent discussion of coding and programming as an occupational structure and not just a passing fancy of coding academies and proprietary trade schools. It also provides an intelligent history of the fields and some good commentary on some of the less desirable aspects of coding (unfriendliness to minorities and women, brogramming bad habits, pay issues, etc.). Mr. Thompson presents the good and the bad and does not seem to have too much of a particular axe to grind. This is not a specialized book on coding but it will be informative and entertaining to anyone wanting to learn about the area.

  • Ken Hamner

    Very good book. Highly recommended.

  • Sope Williamson

    Being a newbie, I think this book motivated me a lot to really like software engineering. It showed the past and present of how computer programming has evolved, who and what was responsible for technologies and featured that changed the way the world interacts.. this is a great read!

  • Mehrsa

    This is a really interesting anthropological account of coder culture--but actually, more broadly of tech culture. What I loved was his account of how these stereotypes of coders get made up and then they self-perpetuate because companies start to hire a certain profile. And then this insular community of awkward, egotistical, monoculture of white men end up creating all our entertainment, tech, and shape our culture. I was glad this was not a veneration of these iconic men, but it also wasn't a

    This is a really interesting anthropological account of coder culture--but actually, more broadly of tech culture. What I loved was his account of how these stereotypes of coders get made up and then they self-perpetuate because companies start to hire a certain profile. And then this insular community of awkward, egotistical, monoculture of white men end up creating all our entertainment, tech, and shape our culture. I was glad this was not a veneration of these iconic men, but it also wasn't a polemic takedown. I thought it was a really fair portrayal of the culture

  • peg

    Interesting to read but I realize I made the right decision when I decided to go into another branch of technology for a career! Coders work so many hours there would have been practically NO time for me to read my beloved novels!📚📚

  • Sree Harsha Ramesh

    An engaging read, and a neat packaging of the current topics in the mainstream discourse about technology. But, couldn't stop but get a feeling of

    , as I follow the author's work on Wired, and the book seems more like a collection of opinion pieces in the same vein.

  • David Ward

    by Clive Thompson (Penguin Press 2019) (005.1092). “Coders” are those who create computer software code, and they are among the most influential people on the planet. We use and depend on software every minute of every day, every stroke of which was crafted by a coder. It is said that being proficient at coding is the twenty-first century equivalent of being able to read and write during the Middle Ages. The esoteric knowledge and a

    by Clive Thompson (Penguin Press 2019) (005.1092). “Coders” are those who create computer software code, and they are among the most influential people on the planet. We use and depend on software every minute of every day, every stroke of which was crafted by a coder. It is said that being proficient at coding is the twenty-first century equivalent of being able to read and write during the Middle Ages. The esoteric knowledge and ability shared by the select few who can communicate in the new “language” of coding makes today's computer programmers as rare and as unique as the cloistered monks who were among the very few humans who possessed the magical power to read and write.

    Author Clive Thompson does a thorough job of introducing and describing the coding culture. It's a fascinating look at a subculture which will have enormous influence in today's society. My rating: 7/10, finished 4/29/19.

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