BITWISE: A Life in Code

I am a writer and software engineer, trying to bridge the two realms. My book BITWISE: A LIFE IN CODE, published by Pantheon, is a memoir of my own time in tech and an insider’s view of how tech has changed society over the last generation.

Praise for Bitwise

“[Auerbach] writes well about databases and servers, but what’s really distinctive about this book is his ability to dissect Joyce and Wittgenstein as easily as C++ code.”
The New York Times Book Review

“A profound memoir, a manifesto, and warning about the digital world…Auerbach spins out the secret history of the computational universe we all live in now, filtering insider technical knowhow through a profoundly humanistic point of view like no book since Godel Escher Bach.”
—Jordan Ellenberg, author of How Not to Be Wrong

“David Auerbach artfully combines a personal and professional narrative with a philosophical examination of the way the real and digital worlds contrast and intertwine. It is a subject that will take on ever more importance as algorithms continue to gain dramatically more power and influence throughout our world.”
—Martin Ford, author of Rise of the Robots

“Very attractive (in all senses). The sentences resemble…something both plain and clear, like a Shaker desk–a kind of generous transparency, and about things that are not transparent at all.”
—John Crowley, author of Little, Big

Bitwise is a delightful journey through the history of personal computing. It succeeds brilliantly at conveying what it’s like to be a coder and exploding common stereotypes. I couldn’t stop reading.”
—Scott Aaronson, David J. Bruton Centennial Professor of Computer Science, University of Texas at Austin

“We don’t think right for our world today,” writes programmer and technology writer Auerbach—and putting computers to work solving that fundamental problem is not a panacea. Computers are tools, and while they may one day outthink us, inaugurating what futurists call the singularity, they’re still tools that can reinforce our human limitations even as they help us to work around them: “if we feed them our prejudices, computers will happily recite those prejudices back to us in quantitative and seemingly objective form,” even making our prejudices seem rational. An early employee at both Microsoft and Google, Auerbach is the rare engineer who is also conversant with literature and philosophy, both of which he brings to bear on interpreting his experiences as a builder of these thinking machines and the heuristics and languages that guide them. An eye-opening look at computer technology and its discontents and limitations.
Kirkus Reviews

This is a book I’m highly looking forward to. David is among the greatest and most lucid public intellectuals we have, at once informed by the history of philosophy and computer science.
—Reza Negarestani, author of Cyclonopedia and Intelligence and Spirit

With wit and technical insight, former Microsoft and Google engineer Auerbach explains how his knowledge of coding helped form him as a person, at the same time showing how coding has influenced aspects of culture such as personality tests and child-rearing. Auerbach is a natural teacher, translating complex computing concepts into understandable layman’s terms. The anecdotes from the engineering front lines are some of the most entertaining sections, especially when he recounts the rivalry between MSN Messenger Service (which he worked on) and AOL Instant Messenger, and considers Google’s evolution (“Everything was bigger at Google than it had been at Microsoft”). His observations on child-raising are written with such charm that they’ll resonate with readers (he would play “Flight of the Valkyries” when his daughter tried walking because “her struggle and determination reminded me of the triumph I felt on getting a particularly thorny piece of code to work correctly”). This book is an enjoyable look inside the point where computers and human life join.
Publisher’s Weekly

Bitwise is a valuable resource for readers seeking to understand themselves in this new universe of algorithms, as data points and as human beings.
The New Republic


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Please see Publications for my other writings. Also, my theory of Twin Peaks: The Return may interest Lynch fans.