Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology by Ellen Ullman

Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology

The never-more-necessary return of one of our most vital and eloquent voices on technology and culture, from the author of the seminal Close to the Machine.When Ellen Ullman moved to San Francisco and became a computer programmer in the late 1970s, she was joining an idealistic, exclusive, and almost exclusively male cadre that had dreams and aspirations to change the worl...

Title:Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology
Author:
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ISBN:0374534519
Number of Pages:288 pages

Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology Reviews

  • Jenny GB

    A great series of essays that look at the evolution of technology from the 90's to now. Ullman gives a very personal look at her experiences and thoughts on the changing state of our world through the eyes of technology.

  • Marks54

    This is a very thoughtful book of essays by a woman who has long experience as a software engineer while morphing into a career as a novelist and essayist. The book comprises chapters that span Ullman's career from the 1990s up through 2017. She remembers her life in programming and the toxic environment that still prevails for women in technology careers. In the middle of this, she also talks about artificial intelligence, philosophy, government policy and the future of the Internet, the perver

    This is a very thoughtful book of essays by a woman who has long experience as a software engineer while morphing into a career as a novelist and essayist. The book comprises chapters that span Ullman's career from the 1990s up through 2017. She remembers her life in programming and the toxic environment that still prevails for women in technology careers. In the middle of this, she also talks about artificial intelligence, philosophy, government policy and the future of the Internet, the perverse development of her neighborhood in San Francisco, and a bunch of other topics. She even signs up for and comments on a number of popular MOOCs in high technology topics and provides a sharp assessment of how these courses could be beneficial for those unable to afford top tier university training. She is a fierce critic of how technology and the Internet have evolved (as well as who has been left behind) from its beginnings and she is insightful about how the technology workplace has evolved as well. This is mixed in with her personal experiences from her college days up through the present.

    What makes the book especially good is the superb writing. This is a very unusual book and hard to put down. With so much written about technology, it is valuable to read an informed, wise, and witty critic who argues that everyone deserves a place at the technology table, not just the stereotypical bros of popular lore and legend.

  • Rowena

    ~3.5

    An insightful, inspiring, warily hopeful and deftly written memoir. Parts I and II were most engaging, synthesizing technical details and personal moments into thoughtful conclusions on the clean edge of a penetrating style. The second half was not as well connected to Ullman's actual experiences with technology, sometimes being only tangentially related, and felt a bit more like proselytizing (though this may be appropriate given the larger societal topics).

    A reprise of the AI section, give

    ~3.5

    An insightful, inspiring, warily hopeful and deftly written memoir. Parts I and II were most engaging, synthesizing technical details and personal moments into thoughtful conclusions on the clean edge of a penetrating style. The second half was not as well connected to Ullman's actual experiences with technology, sometimes being only tangentially related, and felt a bit more like proselytizing (though this may be appropriate given the larger societal topics).

    A reprise of the AI section, given its current mainstream surge, would have been a great read; I'm sure she could have expounded elegantly on the issue of bias in deep learning. I also think she could have mentioned an increased focus on human-centered design (though, admittedly, maybe this doesn't get to the root of the issue she points out, that more often than not, the goal is to build something new and disruptive, which ignores systems/structures already in place).

    Overall a worthy and supremely topical read; I especially appreciate Ullman's perspective as a woman who started her career in the toddler age of tech, despite initial lack of intention.

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