Thursday, March 26, 2009

Everything Is Amazing, But Nobody Is Happy

If you like this, also read Countless Wonders by Don Boudreaux.


thinking said...

Excellent points...but I wonder if these are not the 2 sides of the same coin?

Namely, both the amazing progress and the discontent are products of our consumer society, and one fuels the other.

Let's face it: what drives the creation of all of these new marvels is the desire for people to have more, but that's also the root of discontent. Also, as people see this constant stream of newer, better products, it only makes them feel worse about what they currently have.

As advertisers have noted, their job is largely to create discontent with what people currently have so that they will want to purchase something else.

At any point in our progress, we could all just decide that enough was enough, and that what we have is pretty amazing. But then that would mean that we would mostly stop buying the newer, better stuff.

To use the point from the comic, when he talks about the progression from rotary phones to cell phones...even the rotary phone was a major progression from the past. People could have just stopped there and marveled. As cell phones developed, at any point people could have decided what was invented at the moment was pretty marvelous and stopped buying the newer, smaller, more powerful devices.

So unfortunately, we've got to learn to progress without creating this type of discontent. But until then, I do think that the one provides fuel for the other.

Nic "RedWord" Smith said...


For what it's worth, I draw a distinction between being satisfied with something and being happy with it. I'm quite happy, indeed, amazed with many things in my life, but I make an effort to avoid being satisfied with them. Simply by virtue of being here now, I'm one of the richest people that have ever lived, and I have dozens of gadgets that, just three or four decades ago, would have seemed almost magical to most people. Why shouldn't the world be even better, even more amazing?

I think that I picked this idea up from The Happiness Project, but wouldn't swear by it. A search shows that idea of satisfaction and happiness being different from one another has popped up on Overcoming Bias from time to time.