From revolution on Twitter to romance on Tinder, we live in a world constructed of code – and coders are the ones who built it for us.
In Coders, acclaimed tech writer Clive Thompson offers an illuminating reckoning with the most powerful tribe in the world today, computer programmers, asking who they are, how they think, and what should give us pause. Along the way, Thompson ponders the morality and politics of code, including its implications for civic life and the economy, and unpacks the surprising history of the field, beginning with the first coders – brilliant and pioneering women, who were later written out of history. To understand the world today, we need to understand code and its consequences. With Coders, Thompson offers a crucial insight into the heart of the machine.
‘By breaking down what the actual world of coding looks like . . . [Thompson] removes the mystery and brings it into the legible world for the rest of us to debate.’
New York Times
‘Masterful . . . [Thompson] illuminates both the fascinating coders and the bewildering technological forces that are transforming the world in which we live.’
David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z
In this revealing exploration of programming, programmers, and their far-reaching influence, Wired columnist Thompson (Smarter Than You Think) opens up an insular world and explores its design philosophy's consequences, some of them unintended. Through interviews and anecdotes, Thompson expertly plumbs the temperament and motivations of programmers. Thompson explains how an avowedly meritocratic profession nevertheless tends to sideline those who are not white male graduates of prestigious university computer science programs, tracing this male-dominated culture back to 1960s and early '70s MIT, where the "hacker ethic" was first born. Remarkably, though, he makes clear that programming is an unusual field in that successful practitioners are often self-taught, many having started out with only simple tools, such as a Commodore computer running the BASIC programming language. This book contains possibly the best argument yet for how social media maneuvers users into more extreme political positions, since "any ranking system based partly on tallying up the reactions to posts will wind up favoring intense material." Impressive in its clarity and thoroughness, Thompson's survey shines a much-needed light on a group of people who have exerted a powerful effect on almost every aspect of the modern world.