Malcolm Harris on Palo Alto, brain optimization, and fighting back against our tech overlords
“how much can you augment yourself?” is such a great question in a culture that makes you feel like if you aren't constantly growing and improving you are somehow failing.
Does this tie into the No Child Left Behind Act, I wonder? I would love to read more about how children in that era were constantly taught to self-optimise, then, BAM instagram. And who knows how younger generations are now with the absolute invasion of social media
“But there could be a third thing that is causing both of them to happen at the same time, and that’s a disregard for the welfare of people.”
I think this goes hand in hand, right? The more kids are online and obsessed with social media the less they’re interacting with real life human beings. The less you interact with people in real time the easier it is to see them as not fully human. This explains our current addiction to outrage, right? We’d never talk to people in real life the way we do online. That’s because you’re not arguing with a full human being; you’re arguing with an idea behind a screen.
‘The Incompatibility of Being Alive’
ooh, I went to high school here! The high suicide rates were from years ago and things are mostly fine now. There are a lot of required classes that we have to take that try to teach mental health related stuff. Except they talk about everything in the most shallow, reductionist way possible so no one is too enthusiastic about it. They never challenge the status quo, so it gives off neoliberal co-optation vibes. It's almost funny because in two or three of the classes I take, the material is sometimes reused. Also, it's a bit morbid that the school happens to be right next to a cemetery. How convenient...!
I know this place is notorious for putting a lot of pressure on kids, but I lived most of my life in the most asian town in nj and there is actually more pressure there compared to Palo Alto. The math levels we could take were higher, but afaik the town I was born in did not have insane suicide rates. It's definitely not good for anyone's health, though.
Suicide rates and high pressure aren't the only bad things at these schools. Special ed is as much of a nightmare as in any other school. I've been abused by queer and neurodivergent teachers here, and a non-zero amount of them are still here. *Insert rainbow plane meme*
If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask!
Is this article open to the public? I’d love to share it!
This interview and Harris’ star turn on the Time to Say Goodbye podcast have left me very interested in the book (though I have a hard time reading anything over 200 pages).
Does it also address how many folks are living in improvised and shamefully insufficient housing in the region and how many, often young, people are fatally addicted to opioids, drugs that are much older than LSD and promise suicide through long term sedation rather than any attempt at augmentation?
It seems that sorting us into tranches and disposing of those regarded as surplus (a framing I’ve come to from listening to many, many episodes of the Death Panel podcast) goes hand in hand with creating “‘skilled’ individuals able to impact the world at a larger and larger scale” (and enjoy its spoils at exponentially greater levels). Both are part of the eugenic project of “human optimization” and both rely heavily on a “structural disregard for the welfare of people.”