Few of us give much thought to computer code or how it comes to be. The very word “code” makes it sound immutable or even inevitable. “You Are Not Expected to Understand This” demonstrates that, far from being preordained, computer code is the result of very human decisions, ones we all live with when we use social media, take photos, drive our cars, and engage in a host of other activities.
Everything from law enforcement to space exploration relies on code written by people who, at the time, made choices and assumptions that would have long-lasting, profound implications for society. Torie Bosch brings together many of today’s leading technology experts to provide new perspectives on the code that shapes our lives. Contributors discuss a host of topics, such as how university databases were programmed long ago to accept only two genders, what the person who programmed the very first pop-up ad was thinking at the time, the first computer worm, the Bitcoin white paper, and perhaps the most famous seven words in Unix history: “You are not expected to understand this.”
This compelling book tells the human stories behind programming, enabling those of us who don’t think much about code to recognize its importance, and those who work with it every day to better understand the long-term effects of the decisions they make.
With an introduction by Ellen Ullman and contributions by Mahsa Alimardani, Elena Botella, Meredith Broussard, David Cassel, Arthur Daemmrich, Charles Duan, Quinn DuPont, Claire L. Evans, Hany Farid, James Grimmelmann, Katie Hafner, Susan C. Herring, Syeda Gulshan Ferdous Jana, Lowen Liu, John MacCormick, Brian McCullough, Charlton McIlwain, Lily Hay Newman, Margaret O’Mara, Will Oremus, Nick Partridge, Benjamin Pope, Joy Lisi Rankin, Afsaneh Rigot, Ellen R. Stofan, Lee Vinsel, Josephine Wolff, and Ethan Zuckerman.
Torie Bosch is editor of Future Tense, a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that explores the intersection of technology, policy, and society. She lives outside of Philadelphia. Kelly Chudler is a multidisciplinary artist and musician and the illustrator of Neuropedia (Princeton), Brain Bytes, and Worried?