Canny and Uncanny

I’ve never seen anybody use the word canny, but uncanny makes regular appearance here and there. However this is the first time I see a book with such a title, “Uncanny Valley”. My interest is piqued. After reading the Amazon reviews, I know I have to read it. It’s about Silicon Valley, which would be a pleasant continuation for me after watching the TV show “Silicon Valley”.

When I watched the TV show, I felt that it would be hard to be a woman working and living in that kind of environment. And the book further confirms it. The author is a young and well educated and highly paid professional. No woman would have fit in there better than her. However she feels alienated, unsettled, unsatisfied. Throughout the book I can feel her desire to come back to New York City.

I read an article on “Wire” which laments the archaic and stereotypical view on minority in the show. Negativity follows minority characters like a shadow. Dinesh envies Gilfoyle who’s more creative; Jian-Yang is cunning and deceptive in business, ruthless in emulation, rude in a straightforward (and stereotypical) way that’s laughable and absurd, while Erlich and Richard are aspiring in their pursuit, ambitious in non-emulation and uniqueness, only rude and arrogant in an acceptable way or in a border line unacceptable way but outrageously funny. I first agree with such a diagnose. However after reading the book, I somehow feel that Dinesh and Jian-Yang at least are depicted with characters, ambitions, dreams. The women characters, on the other hand, fare much worse. Monica only exists for the sake of Richard. I don’t see Monica’s temperament, temper, working style, or anything that can distinguish her. Her habit of smoking is probably her only unique feature. Carla, the woman engineer, is more fortunate to be offered a bit of character, but one just knows that she wouldn’t last more than three episodes. Also Carla doesn’t seem to enjoy her own attitude and her own prank on her male colleagues. She does it as a reaction rather than a personal pleasure, which somehow makes people feel that she’s just angry. Laurie is given a character of being emotionless and robot like. She fares better than Monica–at least she’s got something of her own. Since the show is making deliberate attempts to make her more unpleasant than any other persons in position of money and power, I expected that she would fare badly. And just as I expected, Laurie is considered so vile that she goes to prison eventually. And the show didn’t even bother to provide a reason why she goes to prison.

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