David Auerbach

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David Auerbach
  • Writer
  • technologist
  • software engineer
Alma materYale University

David Auerbach is an American writer and former Microsoft and Google software engineer.[1][2][3] He has written on a variety of subjects, including social issues and popular culture, the environment, computer games, philosophy and literature. His 2018 book Bitwise: A Life in Code was well received, and chosen by Popular Mechanics as one of its 30 "Best Sci/Tech Books of 2018".[2]


A graduate of Yale University,[4] Auerbach worked on Microsoft's Messenger Service after college in the late 1990s – he is credited in The New York Times as having introduced smiley face emoticons to America during this time – before moving on to Google, where he stayed until 2008.[1][2][5] He was a columnist for Slate magazine from 2013 to 2016,[6][7] and has also been a contributor to Reuters,[8] The American Reader,[9] MIT Technology Review, The Nation, The Daily Beast, n+1 and Tablet.[10]

In an article for Slate, Auerbach expressed criticism of facilitated communication, referring to it as a pseudoscience.[11][12][13] Auerbach has also written on what he calls "A-culture", associated with anonymous online forums like Encyclopedia Dramatica and 4chan.[14][15]

In 2017, BuzzFeed published screenshots of correspondence between Auerbach and Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos in which Auerbach appeared to provide Yiannopoulos with tips on topics such as Wikipedia controversies and the relationship status of Anita Sarkeesian, a Gamergate target at the time.[16][17][14][18] Auerbach disputed the BuzzFeed article's statements about him.[7][18] Speaking to The New Republic writer Jo Livingstone in 2018, he said he had checked the screenshots against his own account and found they didn't match; he called Yiannopoulos a "harmful troll", but said he had been in contact with him on "a Wikipedia-related scandal".[6]

Bitwise: A Life in Code[edit]

In 2018, Auerbach published Bitwise: A Life in Code, a book described by The New York Times as a "thoughtful meditation on technology and its place in society".[1] The book – part memoir, part historical review of the relationship between computer programming and the human being – contains anecdotes on such topics as the early rivalry between MSN Messenger Service (which Auerbach worked on) and AOL Instant Messenger, and garnered positive reviews.[6][19] The Times Literary Supplement said that Auerbach discusses the consequences of Facebook's codifications of gender and race – which in part serve as tools for the targeting of advertisements – "with a degree of level-headedness that is seldom seen, especially when these issues are discussed online."[5] The New Republic noted an at times "unfeeling tone", but concluded Bitwise was a "valuable resource for readers seeking to understand themselves in this new universe of algorithms, as data points and as human beings."[6]

Kirkus Reviews described Auerbach as "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", and called the book an "eye-opening look at computer technology and its discontents and limitations".[20] Publishers Weekly said Auerbach is a "natural teacher, translating complex computing concepts into understandable layman's terms", characterizing Bitwise as an "enjoyable look inside the point where computers and human life join".[19]

Meganets: How Digital Forces Beyond Our Control Commandeer Our Daily Lives and Inner Realities[edit]

Auerbach published his second book in March 2023 titled Meganets: How Digital Forces Beyond Our Control Commandeer Our Daily Lives and Inner Realities.[21] Andrew Anthony from The Guardian interviewed Auerbach and explored several key themes.[22]

Auerbach defines a meganet as a "persistent, evolving and opaque data network that heavily influences how people see the world", that necessarily involves constant interaction between services provided by big tech and the millions of users that use and influence those services. Auerbach opines that meganets are contributing to a "severe fracturing of society" as users split into "like‑minded self‑policing groups that enforce unanimity and uniformity, and prevent any larger‑scale societal consensus", a process also inherently self‑reinforcing.[22]

Auerbach suggests that one solution to the current problems that meganets generate is to intentionally impair the algorithms that "track people demographically and pair like with like" so that local homogeneity and the accompanying doctrinaire attitudes are hindered. Anthony described this strategy as "fight[ing] chaos with chaos" during his questioning.[22]





  • Bitwise: A Life in Code. New York: Pantheon Books, 2018. ISBN 9781101871294, OCLC 994517802
  • Meganets: How Digital Forces Beyond Our Control Commandeer Our Daily Lives and Inner Realities. PublicAffairs, 2023.[21]


  1. ^ a b c Kapur, Akash (28 August 2018). "Attempting the Impossible: A Thoughtful Meditation on Technology". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d Tribble, Robin (25 December 2018). "The Best Sci/Tech Books of 2018 – 19 of 30: Bitwise". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  3. ^ Staff (12 February 2014). ""Robot Odyssey", le jeu d'ordinateur le plus difficile de tous les temps" ["Robot Odyssey," the most difficult computer game of all time]. Atlantico (in French). Archived from the original on 2016-04-14. C'est l'opinion de l'Américain David Auerbach, écrivain et ingénieur logiciel.
  4. ^ a b "David B. Auerbach". New America.
  5. ^ a b "Shooting the messenger - Book Review - Technology". The Times Literary Supplement. 22 May 2019. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d Livingstone, Jo (9 August 2018). "Our Algorithms, Ourselves". The New Republic. Retrieved 30 August 2021.
  7. ^ a b Shane, Ryan (6 October 2017). "Former Slate Writer David Auerbach, Alleged Breitbart Ratfink, Teaches Us the Worst Possible Way to Handle Valid Criticism". Paste Magazine. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  8. ^ Auerbach, David. "A child born today may live to see humanity's end, unless..." Reuters Blogs. Archived from the original on 2016-04-14. Retrieved 2015-11-04.
  9. ^ Auerbach, David. "Review: Thomas Pynchon's "Bleeding Edge"". The American Reader. Archived from the original on 2016-09-09. Retrieved 2016-04-24.
  10. ^ "David Auerbach". Tablet. 19 March 2020. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  11. ^ Auerbach, David (12 November 2015). "Facilitated communication pseudoscience harms people with disabilities". Slate.com. Archived from the original on 2015-11-12. Retrieved 16 April 2016.
  12. ^ Singal, Jesse (16 Nov 2015). "A Sad, Enraging Story About the Pseudoscience of Facilitated Communication". New York. Archived from the original on 2016-09-09. facilitated communication, the subject of a long, must-read article by David Auerbach
  13. ^ Elliott, James (20 Jul 2016). "The Battle Over a Controversial Method for Autism Communication". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on 2016-09-09. Retrieved 23 August 2016. SWIFT, which includes recommended materials that some, including the Slate columnist David Auerbach, allege are almost indistinguishable from FC
  14. ^ a b Spencer, Keith A. (October 6, 2017). "Liberal journalists reportedly sent tips to Breitbart now they're scrambling". Salon. Retrieved October 6, 2017.
  15. ^ Auerbach, David. "Anonymity as Culture - Treatise". Triple Canopy.
  16. ^ Golshan, Tara (5 October 2017). "2 big takeways from a scandalous report on internal Breitbart documents". Vox. Retrieved 2019-07-20.
  17. ^ Hughes, William (5 October 2017). "Read This: How Milo Yiannopoulos served as a bridge between pissed-off tech bros and white supremacists". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2019-07-20.
  18. ^ a b Bernstein, Joseph (5 October 2017). "Alt-White: How the Breitbart Machine laundered Racist Hate". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  19. ^ a b "Bitwise: A Life in Code by David Auerbach. Pantheon, $27.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-101-87129-4". Publishers Weekly. 17 August 2018. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  20. ^ McNamee, Gregory (14 August 2018). "BITWISE". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  21. ^ a b Auerbach, David B (March 2023). Meganets: how digital forces beyond our control commandeer our daily lives and inner realities. New York, USA: PublicAffairs. ISBN 978-1-5417-7444-5. Hardback edition.
  22. ^ a b c Anthony, Andrew (12 March 2023). "Software engineer David Auerbach: 'Big tech is in denial about not being in control'". The Guardian. London, United Kingdom. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 2023-03-12.
  23. ^ McGeveran, Tom. "Controversy! Disruption! Mossian magnificence! Your 2014 ASME award nominees". Politico. Retrieved 25 April 2020.

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