The Efficiency Obsession

In order to understand our rapidly changing world, we must first understand the humans who code it.

Photo: Liz Maney

Coders love efficiency, automating repetitive parts of human life in order to speed things up. Silicon Valley has taught us that today, the complexities of 21st-century computer programming are reserved for the few, mastermind humans able to understand the code. The notion of the introvert, hoodie-wearing, white, male nerd has manifested itself as society’s stereotypical vision of coders. But who are the actual humans designing the algorithms of our lives?

This year, Clive Thompson is joining Techfestival to show us that something is rotten in Silicon Valley. And in order to fix it, we must scrutinise the coder’s obsession with efficiency. By looking at this core aspect of coding culture, Clive will present an endearing examination into how the pursuit of a ‘frictionless’, automated world has begun to cause civic and economic challenges.

What rules guide them when coding our world? And what parts of society get worse when they’re sped up?

Clive Thompson is of generation C64 (Commodore 64), and would most likely have become a programmer had his mom not put a ban on video games. Today, Clive has switched out the complex code with idioms and syllables as a contributing writer for The New York Times and Wired. Clive has also authored several books linking tech changes with civic and economic challenges, putting the average human face to face with complex technological development.


Clive Thompson at Commonwealth Club, California, talking about his latest book “Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World” and the history and politics of coding culture in America.

May 29, 2019

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