Friday, December 20, 2002
It's a tempting answer. It seems to let us off the evolutionary hook. If most of our modern behaviour is a product of our unique culture then we’ve reassumed control: humans created their own culture, therefore we created ourselves, and hence the majority of our behaviour today.
But there’s a problem: who were the humans that created this civilising culture in the first place… other than the ‘barbarian’ creations of evolution? We have to accept that the humans that created culture didn’t have the civilising influence of culture to teach them to become cultured - which means that whatever urges made them ‘cultured’ could only have been the urges programmed into them by millions of years of natural selection.
- Natural selection created the humans that created culture.
Culture must be just another evolutionary tool...
Precisely in the same way that our arms and legs help us to spread our genes, the culture and society that our ancestors created must have helped our ancestors spread their genes. Evolution must be responsible for creating the civilised, art-loving, generous, charitable people that we are today.
And why not?
Since we've had culture we've become the most successful genetic-spreading devices the planet has ever seen. In the last few thousand years we’ve spread our genes to every corner of the globe.
Indeed, human culture may indeed be evolution's most powerful weapon. The very things that we assume make us ‘more than the beasts’ were the very things that gave us the ultimate dominance. Our ability to learn and teach and our desire to 'save lives and help each other' gave us the medicines and vaccines to defeat the diseases that were our biggest killers. The desire to create a better life for our children gave us the farming methods that allow us to feed the billions of new mouths.
And just because we can't see what reality TV has go to do with survival of the fittest, doesn't mean that it doesn't.
Because it has to. It's the only possible answer.
Next: href="http://consciousrobots.blogspot.com/2002/12/most-of-things-i-do-have-nothing-to-do.html">But most of the things I do have nothing to do with evolution!
Thursday, December 19, 2002
It must come true, sometime soon somehow…
Misery and suffering will be words to be forgotten, forever
- Johnny Mathis, When a Child is Born
The Future: a movie synopsis
Our hero - dishevelled but ruggedly handsome - emerges from the sewers of New York where he’s spent 20 years living with mutant rats.
He discovers a world of horror - machines have taken over the world. The entire population of humans are lying in tiny boxes, electrodes sticking out of their heads, wired up to silent computers. At first sight, and to the un-heroic eye, they appear to be enjoying their incarceration; the unearthly noise hanging over the city is the sound of a million people quietly chuckling to themselves. As our dismayed hero moves swiftly from one tortured individual to the next, the chuckles escalate into uncontrolled giggles, culminating in bloodcurdling gales of laughter.
Our hero - his rugged brow creased with the burden of being humanity’s last hope - struggles to turn off the machines and free his fellow citizens. Tearfully, he greets his weakened comrades who seize him passionately.
But to his surprise, our conquering hero isn't born aloft in gratitude. Instead, his new friends seem upset with him. They grab him, shave his head and pin him down inside his own little box. He struggles, he fights… but he is but one and they are many. As the electrodes bite into his skull, he grits his teeth and steels his mind to repel the horrific brainwashing he's about to experience.
And it's working! A triumph! His mental strength is too much for this simple machine. Suddenly the thrill of success courses through his body, a thrill like he's never felt before. He's at one with himself, a goddamn hero after all! He can do anything. Anything he bloody well likes - he is all-powerful. And he chuckles with the joy of it all. As the chuckles escalate into delighted giggles, he realises he's free! Free from the dark forces! Free from the tyranny! Finally content, finally at the end of his journey, he barks with laughter as he discovers what it is to be truly alive.
His fellow citizens shake their heads in affectionate amusement. ”Well, most of us had to try it before we believed it…" they sigh as they hurry back to their cubicles, quickly plugging the electrodes back into their heads and cranking the power up to 10.
The Times, London: 3rd September 2049
Businessman becomes first to take "happy pill".
Yesterday, Jake McClure, Chairman of Genasoft and one of the world's richest men, announced that he would be "retiring from ordinary life" and consigning himself to the so-called 'Happiness Bed'. Although others are believed to have experienced 'The Bed of Roses' for short periods, McClure is thought to be the first to commit for the rest of his life, and is certainly the first to talk openly to the world's press. McClure, along with 'a dozen or so' of the world's wealthiest individuals, is said to have been a heavy investor in the research for the last 10 years.
McClure, 43, answered questions from the press:
Aren't you be sad to be leaving your wife and children?
Yes, indeed I am very sad. But I know that the feeling of sadness will not be with me tomorrow. Tomorrow, and for the rest of my life, I'll know only joy, delight and satisfaction."
Won't you be bored?
If you're serious about that question, you perhaps don't have a clear understanding of how our brains are wired up, or how The Bed rewires the brain. Boredom is a device of the subconscious brain designed to influence the choices made by the conscious mind. I won't be bored, simply because the circuits that would make me feel bored will be disabled.
Don't good feelings in life come from overcoming difficulties?
Indeed they do. That's absolutely the way it works in 'normal' life: our brains only give us satisfaction when we overcome difficulties. But these feelings that we crave are nothing more than neurological events - particular patterns of neurones firing in particular ways. Currently, our brains are wired up by millions of years of natural selection so that we only experience these feelings when we improve our genetic survival chances. But that's just wiring. It can be rewired, just like a light bulb can be rewired. We've simply put in a new switch at the other end of the room... only this time it's going to be permanently in the 'on' position.
Isn't your life pretty good anyway?
Yes it is. But it's nowhere near as perfect as you might imagine. We all assume that great success, a wonderful relationship and huge wealth will elevate our lives to a degree of satisfaction and delight not experienced by so-called 'normal' people. We assume such a life will be free of fear, free of pain, free of worry. But it isn't. My brain is programmed always to want more than i already have, and that's what i experience: I cannot free myself from the desire for more, or a feeling that the grass is greener. Besides, even if my life were significantly more wonderful than yours, you have to understand that the intensity of the feelings that i will be experiencing tomorrow will be way beyond what is normally available to a human being: feelings that in our normal lives are rarely glimpsed and very brief will be my minute-by-minute reality. I can't wait.
Could you tell us about the research project that has lead to this possibility?
Well, that's quite confidential. I've been a contributor for the last ten years, but the project has been operational in various forms for more than fifty years. Many of the top scientists are involved, forsaking publicity because they believe that such research is the only thing worth studying.
Aren't you concerned about the impact on society?
That's two questions. Am i concerned? Yes, i am concerned, but i won't be concerned tomorrow. Second question: Will society break down? Well, maybe. Certainly when the technology becomes more affordable there will be profound changes to society in general, profound changes in people's priorities. The impact on the economy will be interesting to see... but I won't be around to see it, because it won't be as interesting as actually being on The Bed.
Aren't you being a bit selfish?
Absolutely. But I've discovered that my fear of being regarded as selfish isn't a sufficiently powerful feeling to forego a life of barely-conceivable bliss for.
Are you indeed the first?
I'm the first to publicise, yes.
But not the first?
At this final question, Mr Mclure smiled and turned away from the reporters.
Indeed, Dawkins uses something like this argument in the last paragraph of the second edition of The Selfish Gene (the endnotes to Chapter 11). He says 'We, that is our brains, are separate and independent enough from our genes to rebel against them'.
But he doesn't explain how our brains became independent of the genes that built them.
But an explanation is needed.
If Dawkins is suggesting that our brains are independent, he needs to give an explanation of the mechanism of change that took our brains from being devices that maximised the survival chances of our genes into 'free-willed' brains that could stop doing what they're told to do and start doing something else.
Dawkins accepts that we are born as survival machines - ie the brain at birth will only make decisions that will maximise the survival chances of our genes. But somehow by adulthood, it's 'free'. He also accepts that if you go back far enough, we had ancestors whose brains were not capable of being independent from their genes. Also, he says that we alone can overcome the tyranny, so presumably its just the human brain that has this independence. No other animal, no other evolutionary creation.
So how did the human brain alone achieve this independence? What would motivate our brains to desire any other outcome?
I think it comes down to an argument of 'can i learn a desire that isn't going to maximise the survival chances of my genes'. If i can, or I can be taught such a desire, then possibly my brain can be free of its genetic programming.
But is this a 'level of programming' that can be altered in our minds?
Here's one way to think about this problem:
A baby is born. It pops out of the womb, opens its mouth, takes a deep breath… and screams at the top of its lungs.
But how does it know whether to scream... or to give a gurgly smile?
Clearly it’s too early for our baby to have learnt anything from its doting parents. It must, therefore, be responding to some automatic, ‘pre-program’ present in its brain before it was born. (ie the first decision is 100% nature.)
It’s still making a decision; responding to the light, the temperature, the size of the nurse… but the criteria it uses to judge these factors must already be present in its brain - it’s had no time to learn
Thereafter, learning begins. The baby builds up experiences of the world, and these experiences have a profound affect on the choices it then makes.
What the baby learns is “What reaction did I get to my first decision?” If the scream achieved a “good” result, the chances are that the baby will repeat the scream. And hence 'nurture' begins to affect the choices made by the baby.
But here's the crucial point:
What decides whether that first result was “good”?
Obviously, if the mother gave the baby something to eat, it's a good result for the baby’s first decision.
But who taught the baby that eating is good... ?
Clearly, it already knew that. Silly point, but crucial: because, although the baby has learned something about its environment, it's only learned what it has to do to satisfy its preprogrammed desires.
And if you follow this reasoning through, that's all it ever can learn. It can only ever learn what's the best way of getting the things that it's pre-programmed to want.
Third decision, fourth decision… last decision before you die… You can only ever build on past experiences, you can only ever judge an experience on a combination of pre-programmed criteria and personal experiences that have themselves only ever been judged on the basis of pre-programmed criteria.
However much you try, you can't alter a baby's primary goals.
- you can teach it that screaming isn't the best way to get what it wants, but you can't change what it wants.
“Nurture” is just a way of working out how to get what we want from the environment. That’s how nurture affects us. And it’s the only way nurture affects us.
So how does the confusion arise in the minds of the parents? Why do parents think they can mould the behaviour of a child so much?
A parent wants a smiling baby not a screaming baby.
But the parent can’t just tell the baby to smile. The parent has to learn what to do to get the baby to smile. So who’s teaching whom? In fact, it’s the baby that’s teaching the parent; the mother modifies her own behaviour to find what it is that the baby is pre-programmed to smile about.
And then, a bit later, when the baby learns that the mother is the source of nice things, it starts to learn how to modify its own behaviour in order to modify the behaviour of its mother. It learns that if it moves its mouth in a particular way - and says ‘mama’ - it gets good food and lots of attention.
If mummy says to her child 'Eat this broccoli, it's good for you', the child will almost certainly give it a try. And then it will find out that it hates the broccoli and it will spit it out again. The child’s pre-program has said 'no way - not enough fat and sugar in that - scream like hell and you'll get some ice-cream like you did last time'.
But although the child might get ice-cream that time, Mummy will start to apply some subtle pressure. And one day she'll say 'If you don't eat this broccoli, you wont get any ice cream at all'. And the child will learn that sometimes you’ve got to suffer some short-term pain in order to get the long term pleasure of the ice-cream. And it will eat the broccoli.
The beautiful scene of a mother teaching her baby is just two machines trying to manipulate each other for the benefit of their genes.
Next: href="http://consciousrobots.blogspot.com/2002/12/couldnt-free-will-have-evolved.html">Couldn't Free will have evolved?
- how can most of the things we do today have anything to do with survival of the fittest?
It's seems to be easy to pick holes in the idea that all our choices are attempts to maximise the survival chances of our genes - all you have to do is point to a few things that we do that appear to have nothing to do with our genes. Such as watching TV.
I've explained at length why making such a statement implies that there must be another mechanism of creation other (or in addition to) evolution.
But now I'm going to try to tackle those 'things that we do' that appear to have nothing to do with spreading our genes.
So here goes.
First of all, let's look at the totality of the results of human choices. Humans dominate the planet. (Ok, maybe there are more insects, but we have the capacity to wipe out the insects if we really wanted to.) The reality is that over the last two hundred years (ie the time during which humans have presumably been most 'free') we have gone forth and multiplied to an absolutely staggering extent. We have never been better at achieving the job of 'maximising the survival chances of our genes'. So if your argument is that we're 'more than our genes', then I don't think our genes are complaining too much.
Even though all those little choices you make might not look like you're improving the survival chances of your genes, you can't deny that the overall result of all the human lives over the last two hundred years is a big result for the genes.
Still not convinced? Ok, let's look at those little decisions you make every day.
First, a reminder that evolution isn't just about "survival of the fittest".
Simply picking the animals that survive is rather a crude way of selecting the best: it’s a negative selection - a way of weeding out of the worst. But wouldn't natural selection be so much more effective if you could actually pick the best individuals, rather than just getting rid of the worst?
Which is were sexual selection comes in. Sexual selection gives individuals the chance to make a positive choice about who to mate with:
Why is one person good looking? Why do we instinctively find one person more attractive than another? Because we're all trying to give our children the best chance of surviving. When we have children we're mixing our genes with someone else's genes and creating a new individual, which will, on average, have half our characteristics and have our partner's characteristics. And these characteristics will determine our children's chances of survival. Once again, we can compare it to business: if you're looking for a partner to start a business with, just about the most important thing you can do to ensure the success of that business is pick the best partner you can.
And once you start thinking of evolution in terms of sexual selection rather than survival of the fittest, it becomes a lot easier to see why evolution is still guiding all our actions today. If you combine sexual with the desire to see your own children successfully surviving and spreading their genes into your grandchildren, you’ve got almost all human motivation included.
Firstly, you’ve got to get together with the best quality mate you possibly can. It’s absolutely essential for us to get the best mate we possibly can. And this doesn’t just mean you choosing… the most difficult job is to get them to choose you. You’ve got a continual battle to make yourself as attractive and desirable as possible: how you look, your fitness, your clothes, how big your house is, how nice your garden and your car, how well you play the piano, how much you donate to charity... these are all very clear indicators to potential mates of your suitability to be the parent to their genes.
You're in a strange town where no one knows you. You're in a steady relationship and you've no intention of getting involved with anyone else.... and you're still worried about what you look like? Rational? Free will? Or something programmed into you by millions of years of evolution?
We need a few more categories:
Learning and educating - learning how to earn more money, learning what other people are up to, all give you clues about how to survive and how to increase your sexual selection chances
Gossip - learn who's sleeping with who, who's wearing what: information about targets and potential competition: what do they like, what is their genetic value...
Resting - conserving energy - but even then, you're active - thinking, learning, dreaming - laziness is good for you. It's often a tough decision - use up valuable energy or sit around waiting for something to happen?
Cooperating with others
Getting on with friends is one of the best ways to survive - many animals cannot survive on their own. From ants to most wolves and monkeys, most animals have learned to work in social groups. Your survival chances are increased the more help you get from others.
Play? just learning. Lion cubs do it. big deal
Music?- it's tricky to understand why on earth humans like music. But we'll ask the birds, maybe they've got free will too.
But these are no more than 'Just So' Stories
- These ideas might be possible explanations... but that doesn't mean they are the correct explanations - there's no evidence that we play the piano because it will increase our chances of sexual selection...
Rudyard Kipling wrote children's stories to explain such things as 'why the camel has a hump' and 'how the elephant got its trunk' - which was because an elephant with an ordinary-length nose had that nose bitten by a crocodile, who held on to the nose and used it to try to drag the elephant into the river. But because both animals were so big and strong, the only thing to give way was the nose itself, which stretched out to the length of a trunk.
Objecters to evolutionary explanations of modern-day behaviour often use phrases like 'that's just a Just So story' - in other words, 'it might be a possible explanation, but that doesn't make it the right explanation'.
And they are right. There's no proof at all that we play the piano to show off for sexual selection purposes.
If you don't believe that evolution is responsible for all our behaviour, a legitimate tactic to prove that it isn't is to point out various things that we do that couldn't possibly be explained by evolution... because then you've disproved the evolution explanation. (You don't have to prove your own alternative theory to disprove the evolutionary theory.)
Which is where the Just-So stories are useful:
If you come up with such an example, and I can come up with an evolutionary Just So story I've successfully defended the 'evolution is everything claim'. I don't have to prove that it's the right theory, just that it fits the available evidence for the way evolution works.
You, however, still have to come up with your alternative / additional theory to Darwin's. And when you've done that, maybe you'll get your face on the Great British Ten Pound note as well.
Next: href="http://consciousrobots.blogspot.com/2002/12/genes-build-our-brains-but-then-our.html">Genes build our brains - but surely our brains then take over?
Only if your definition of free will means 'doing precisely what I can to maximise the survival chances of my genes'. This explains the only free will worth having.
Evolution is a two-stage process:
- firstly, there are random changes
- chance mutations in the DNA that create absolutely random and unplanned changes in the genes, and hence in the way that animals either look or behave. Some of these changes make no difference at all, and some of them are so disastrous that the animal doesn't even get born... but, very occasionally, something happens that actually improves an individual's chances of surviving in the world.
- secondly, there is 'natural selection'
- this is the point at which all those random changes get judged to see if they're any good or not. If any of them turn out to be improvements, then those new, ‘improved’, genes get passed on to the next generation.
Now, lets say it would have been possible for 'free will' to have appeared by random chance -
....but for it to then have been selected doesn't make any sense at all:
"Free will" is just about the last thing that would ever have been selected by natural selection:
The world is a ruthless place. A baby antelope born with the free will to do 'whatever it likes' isn't going to last very long out there under the gaze of a pride of hungry lions. If you want to survive, if you want to live long enough to have children of your own, you've got to be doing precisely what evolution tells you to do in order to survive - no more, no less. Not a moment, not a single unit of energy to be wasted 'doing your own thing'.
But what if free will arose by chance...
- and it was never enough of a cost to be selected out...
Let's say free will arose by chance and then didn't get selected out because it was of insufficient burden to the individual - in other words, we humans were so successful that the cost of doing what we want was insufficient to affect the survival chances of our genes.
Compare 'survival' to 'running a business':
Businesses when they are starting out tend to be lean and mean: not a penny wasted, everything working with maximum efficiency.
Then, if the business gets to be successful, it starts to get a bit inefficient - the more staff, the more difficult it becomes for the owner to keep everyone motivated, the more the procedures become rigid and inflexible. But as long as the business is basically strong and successful, it can carry these small inefficiencies without going bust.
But 'free will' is not a small cost.
Free will is a devastation. (If you use it, of course.) Doing what you want all day isn’t like carrying round the remnants of an appendix.. it’s like your staff coming in a playing cards all day when they should be packing parcels and phoning customers.
And there's another problem:
The idea that Free will could arise by chance is a lot more complicated than it seems:
- if we do things that we like doing, and they aren't things that evolution has decided we should like doing... then how did our brains get wired up so that we would actually like doing these things? Free will isn't just 'doing things at random'... it's actually wanting something. Something specific. So how did our brains get wired up to want all these things that we like doing in the 21st Century? How do you program a machine to have free will? It’s a lot harder than it sounds.
How do you write a computer program to have free will?
It's a common plot component of science fiction films: the robot is created by humans to do what humans want it to... and then it becomes 'self aware' like Frankenstein or the computers in the Terminator films, and starts to do what it wants to do rather than what its programmers want it to do.
But how does it decide for itself what it likes?
Let's say you were trying on purpose to build a robot that did what it wanted, that had free will.
is capable of wandering around the world looking for good food.
You can't say to your robot 'Get out there and do things - see if you like them'. How would it know what it liked, if you didn't tell it what felt good? It would need some criteria to judge what 'felt good' and what 'felt bad'. It's impossible. It can’t want anything that you haven’t told it to want. It can’t create its own criteria for what is good and what is bad, for what it ‘likes’ and it doesn’t like.
The closest you could get would be to give it some sort of randomness device. “Go and find anything.” Then it would go out and look very busy until its power run out.
But that's not what we humans do. We're not random. We’re extremely specific about what we want.
You can’t program a computer - or a human brain - to decide for itself the criteria by which it decides whether something is ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
This problem of ‘how do you create free will’ brings us neatly back to our Ancient Greeks and the determinism problem: if we are comprised entirely of ‘automatic’ atoms, all
The criteria we have for what we like, must have come from some where, following automatically from what came before. And this is precisely what evolution is. EVolution is simply a very complicated serious of chemical reactions, each determined by the previous and by the circumstances of the environment... and the circumstances of the environment like the temperature of the sun and the direction of the wind themselves determined by what happened previously... right back the big bang. Evolution is simply determinism physics in action just like the light waves reaching us from distant stars are determinism in action.
Determinism must exist because free will could never have been programmed, never created. You always need criteria to judge a decision: and those criteria must always be dependent on something that has come before. The only way to take the criteria out of the problem is to introduce randomness: but randomness is no more freedom than following someone else’s criteria.
What we've done by understanding our feelings is to understand how our perception of our lives and our perception that we are choosing fits into this deterministic viewof the world.
Evolution is the laws of physics in action in the wet, sticky world of amino acids and DNA. 'Life' and our perception of 'free will' are nothing more than the movement of molecules.
It has been suggested confidently that 'evolution' is entirely responsible for whether something makes us feel good or not: that our brains have been programmed by millions of years of natural selection so that the only time we ever feel 'good' is when there's been an increase in the survival chances of our genes.
How can 'survival of the fittest' be responsible for all of our behaviour today - like listening to music, watching football, donating to charity? How can the pleasure we get from relaxing in front of the soaps or a reality TV programme have any effect at all on our genetic fitness?
It seems highly unlikely. Ridiculous, even.
But the problem is this: if not evolution, then what? If it wasn't evolution that programmed our brains to like Reality TV, then what was it? And remember that 'I'm the one that chooses what I like' isn't an option. We can't reprogram our own brains and tell ourselves what feels good, otherwise we'd all be blissfully happy, regardless of what was on TV or who was holding the remote.
If not evolution... then what?
When we talk about animal behaviour, there's never an assumption that animals have developed beyond their evolutionary origins: biologists accept that every behaviour of an animal has to be understood in terms of its evolutionary advantage.
Equally, if we go back far enough, there is no doubt that our ancestors were no more ‘free’ than the animals that are alive today. It’s up to you how far down our evolutionary tree you go, but at some point you’re going to reach an organism that was less complicated and intelligent than a common garden slug. So, if it’s safe to assume that today’s slug has no freedom of choice other than to carry out its genetically programmed purpose, then it’s safe to assume that our distant ancestors were similarly restricted.
So the question is, if we evolved from such a creature, how did we change from being that creature without free will to a modern human being with the ability to do what it likes? What method of change gave us this free will, if it wasn’t evolution?
Surprisingly, this is quite a difficult question to answer. Because science hasn't yet come up with an alternative mechanism of change other than 'evolution by natural selection'. We simply don’t know of any way that humans could have stopped being ‘just evolution’ and started being 'us'.
What could have reprogrammed our brain so that we stopped liking the things that evolution programmed us to like, and started to like the things that we ourselves decide to like?
Next: href="http://consciousrobots.blogspot.com/2002/12/what-about-culture-and-society.html">What about culture, society, our upbringing?
Saturday, December 14, 2002
How Happy does Evolution want us to be?
If we’re controlled by the feelings we experience… what does that say for our chances of living happy lives?
If we’re slaves, working hard to satisfy our genetic masters… will they ever allow us to be particularly happy?
Part 2 is an attempt to get a better understanding of happiness....
- the nature of happiness.
Not - ‘How do I get to be more successful?’ Or “What are tonight’s winning lottery numbers?”
But more like “How does happiness work? What’s the purpose of happiness?”
- If we can get a better understanding of how happiness works from a biological point of view, will it give us a better chance of understanding whether we’re going the right way about trying to get happier?
Or, indeed, whether it's possible to be any happier….
** Happiness doesn't work the way we think it does
We've all got a list of things that would make us happy:
Call it our Happiness Wish List:
- more money
- a good relationship
- world peace
- better hair...
Of course, making a list is never the problem...
... the problem is making the list happen: the world, after all, is a difficult place to control.
But the reason we keep going, the reason we keep trying every day, is the firm belief that if we really could get all the things in our list, we 'd end up being substantially happier than we are now.
And what's more, we'd stay happy...
- we'd remain at that elevated state of happiness until something in our circumstances changed... like we lost our job, got cancer or our mum died.
But what if happiness doesn’t work like that...?
So if happiness is a mechanism, rather than an automatic result... where does that leave our happiness wish-list?
We’re all brought up with the idea that happiness is achievable. We’re taught that if we work hard at school, if we have a great family, if we earn money and the respect of the community…we’ll be happy. It’s what ‘happily ever after’ is all about: every book and film is based on this simple assumption.
And yet, one of the world’s greatest religions was formed 2500 years ago by a man that wasn’t convinced.
Buddha was an Indian prince. According to legend, he was a wealthy and important person. He had money, power, popularity. But he still wasn’t content.
In search of ‘more’ out of life, he sat down under a tree and tried to work out what was going wrong. He sat under that tree for a long time, before finally came to the conclusion:
“Life is inherently unsatisfactory.”
- Whatever you achieve, whatever you have in life - be it material possessions, a loving family, respect of people around you - it 's never going to be enough to make you content.
This is bit shocking to the 21st Century Western mind: the thought that millions of people base their spiritual beliefs on the idea that being rich, successful and loved won't actually improve your life seems bizarre.
Being born 2500 years ago, Buddha had very little science. Although he had an observation, he didn’t have an explanation. So what can 2500 years of scientific knowledge add to Buddha's observation? Could it be human nature that we're never satisfied…? Not in an “old wives’ tale” kind of way, but in a biological way? Could it be “human nature” in the same way that it’s a lion’s nature to kill antelopes? Could there be a scientific explanation why the grass is always greener? A scientific explanation why life is inherently unsatisfactory?
How our instincts mislead us about happiness.
Personal experience Number 1: The Pleasure Fader
The Man with one music album
There's a man in Halifax, Nova Scotia, who owns just one music album. It's by Johnny Cash... but that’s not important. What is important is that, unlike the rest of us, this man doesn't get bored with this one recording. He just plays it over and over again.
His friends say to him "How can you possibly play those same tunes over and over again, Bill?"
And Bill just smiles, and says "How come you can't?"
OK - he's fictional. And he'd have to be, wouldn't he? After all, that's frankly inhuman. However good the music, however talented the performer - to be able to listen to just one album, over and over forever - it’s not normal.
But why do we get bored? Why is it that we can play a record ten, maybe even twenty times over, loving it every time.... and then, ever so gradually, the songs become too familiar, and we start to get bored?
- Nothing changes in the music: we don't wear it out by overplaying it, like we might wear out a pair of our favourite shoes.
- Nothing changes in the outside world: the sound waves don't hit our eardrums in a different way…
And yet... we get bored. For some reason, our own brain decides to take the pleasure away from us and make us go out and buy another record.
And, it all seems so normal.
"That's just the way it is."
Personal Experience Number 2: The expectation-adjuster
The Christmas Bonus
Two employees receive a $5000 end-of-the-year bonus. One of them flips burgers for a living, and the other works on Wall Street. Mr Burger Flipper is delighted with his $5000… while Mr Wall Street is mortified. Last year, Mr Wall Street made $200,000 in bonuses, and he was expecting pretty much the same this year.
These two men’s reactions are entirely dependent on their expectations of life.
They both experience exactly the same event – a $5000 bonus… but one brain converts the information into “delight” while the other brain converts the information into “misery”. And once again it all seems so normal… of course the Wall Street man should be upset with his $5000 - he’s worth much more, he’s capable of much more…
But hold on - surely success should make us happier?
- The Wall Street trader is "successful". He’s the one that people on a lower wage are supposed to aspire to be. And yet, he's the one that's unhappy.
If happiness works the way we think it does, shouldn’t we be happy if we do well - regardless of what we already have? If happiness is a reward for “success” in life, 'how good we feel' shouldn’t depend on our expectations of our success... it should depend on our success. Full stop.
- Mr Wall Street should feel equally happy with the $5000 bonus as Mr Burger Flipper does.
- And if he gets the $200,000 he was expecting, then he can be even more happy.
But of course it doesn’t work that way. If we think we’re capable of a big bonus, we get upset if we don’t get it.
We know the Pleasure Fader and the Expectation Adjuster so well, that we don’t even question them. They are so much a part of our lives that we blame the world we live in, not the world inside our heads.
And yet, without them, how wonderful - how perfect - our lives would be.
The explanation for the pleasure fader and the expectation adjuster
Until we realise that we're genetic slaves, we don't even look for an explanation. We’re content to blame the world we live in or our inability to perform as well as we’d like to in that world. But as we now realise, the world we live in isn't responsible for how we feel at all: our evolutionary-programmed minds are responsible for how we feel: entirely responsible. They have complete power to choose.
So, is there an evolutionary reason for the pleasure fadaer and the expectation adjuster? Would it make sense that our brains manipulate us so that we are continually pushing to be the best, continually trying to improve our situation in life… and we’ll never be satisfied, regardless of how much we've already achieved?
Would evolution have wired our brains up that way?
Imagine you’re evolution....
You've been working hard for the last few billion years, and recently launched your greatest creation so far, Mr Homo Sapiens…
Things are going well. Your new machine is beginning to throw its weight around the planet to great effect:
- with his new agriculture project, food shortages are rarely a problem any more; with his new tools, he's successfully defending himself against all the nasty animals that are trying to eat him; and with his new-found ability to harness fire, it's warm and cosy at night and he's learning how to cook.
Indeed, your new creation is becoming so successful that his circuits are overloading with feel-good chemicals. It's one great big holiday for Homo Sapiens. He's working an hour or two a day, and the rest is just... well, sitting around smiling.
He's gone from wanting… to having. And it's changed everything. The state of mind that made him get things done, take risks, push for results... has gone. He's lost his motivation.
Which means there are problems coming.
Surviving in the natural world is like surviving in business: however successful you might already be, there's always someone trying to steal your market. If you sit back, holding on to your old methods, your old prices and your old technology, pretty soon some young upstart is going to start offering a cheaper, faster, greener service.
In business, you don't have time to enjoy your past successes. And it's the same in the natural world. There's always some other animal trying to take your food, there's always some distant relative trying to steal your mate.
So, if you’re evolution, and you’re trying to program your machine to be as successful as possible, it looks like you need a rethink:
You’ve motivated your new machine so that it would work hard in pursuit of happiness....
...but you didn't work out what was going to happen when it got happy.
How do you make sure that your favourite creation is always pushing for more? How do you make sure that happiness doesn’t take away his desire to succeed, his desire to improve things...? And how do you program the machine so that it will always achieve the maximum that it's capable of achieving?
Firstly, you've got to make the pleasure fade.
And secondly, and just as importantly, you've got to make sure those little dog biscuits of pleasure are relative to previous achievements: you can’t be congratulating a child that’s just crawled across the room… if it’s already capable of walking.
Your machine can't feel good whenever the situation is 'good'...
... it can only feel good when the situation gets better.
And how do we experience such a mechanism? As an adjustment of our expectations.
Every time we achieve something… our expectations increase with it.
** The Expectation-Adjuster
… in golf…
What makes a sport such as golf endlessly entertaining is that you’ve always got the chance to improve. It’s a continual challenge: no matter how good you are, there’s always an opportunity to get better. Which is, of course, where the satisfaction comes from: when you play better than you thought you were capable of.
And even though you keep thinking “If I could just sort out my putting… I’d have this game mastered…” the truth is that ‘fantastic’ golfers don’t get any more satisfaction from the game than ‘good’ golfers. Every golfer gets to feel good relative to how much he’s improving, not to how good he actually is. Which is why it’s a game that’s equally absorbing for the beginner and the expert.
And equally frustrating:
If you don’t play as well as you expected, you feel the pain of failure. And there are no freebies: unless you’re upset when you lose… you don’t get pleasure when you win.
Imagine waking up this morning to find that the only breakfast available was a piece of stale bread and a glass of not-so-clean-looking water. The chances are that you wouldn’t be too happy with life: where’s my fresh orange juice, where’s my vitamin-laden energy-giving cereal? But what if you’d spend the last two days marooned on a desert island – no sign of rescue and no food or water for two days? Suddenly that bread and water is looking like salvation. Suddenly it’s the finest, most rewarding breakfast you’ve ever enjoyed…
Everything we do in life is subject to an adjustment of our expectations: from the bonus we get at work to the cereal we eat for breakfast: satisfaction is dependent on whether we exceed our expectations.
Such a simple solution, such a simple device to make sure a Conscious Robot is always achieving the most it’s capable of.
And what other way could evolution have set us up? It couldn’t use an absolute measure of success:
- Evolution didn’t know whether we were going to be born in a penthouse on Fifth Avenue, or in a slum in the Third World.
- Evolution didn’t know whether we were going to find life a complete breeze… or whether it would be like walking into a Force 10 headwind.
So, it had to come up with a mechanism that kept us motivated regardless of our situation.
And what could it do, other than simply to ignore our actual situation?
Imagine you live on the side of a mountain. Success Mountain.
How high up the mountain you are depends on how ‘successful’ you are.
‘Successful’ doesn’t necessarily mean your career or how much money you have. It also means love, family, religion etc. 'Success' is whatever matters to you. Make up your own list. How close you are to the combination of things you feel you need to make you happy determines how high up the mountain you are.
Each morning when you get up, you look around you and enjoy the view. You look at the people lower down the mountain than you, and you feel a shiver of relief that you don’t have to live like they do. And then you look upwards at the lucky few above you - and you feel a little stab of envy… and you start dreaming of the things are going to move you up the hill.
Every day, you try to work your way up the mountain in pursuit of lifelong happiness… and you assume that the higher up the mountain you are, the happier you’ll be. After all, the more successful you are, the more happy you'll be. Right?
But how happy you are doesn’t depend on….
how high up the mountain you are.
How happy you are depends on……
which direction you’re moving.
If you’re going up, you’re happy. If you’re going down, you’re unhappy. If your situation in life is improving, evolution rewards you. If your situation in life is falling, you feel pain.
But the pleasure or pain only comes while you’re moving. As soon as you’ve moved up, as soon as you’ve reached that higher level, although you’re more successful, you’re actually no happier than you were at the lower level.
And before you ask - no, you can’t get to the top. And you can’t get airlifted off either.
Little things as well as big things.
To achieve the big things in life, you need to make all the little things happen.
Most of the time, we stay at roughly the same height on the mountain. But we’re always going up or down a little bit. Indeed, anything that gives us pleasure or pain is a move up or down the mountain.
The Fresh Milk Example
When you get up in the morning and find fresh milk in the fridge you feel no emotion. It’s neither an up nor a down - you were expecting fresh milk to be there… and there it was.
But when the sour smell hits you as you start to pour the milk, you move down the mountain. You feel pain as you realise you won’t be having your regular bowl of Super Sugar Shorties this morning. You’re irritated, grumpy and you kick the cat.
But no! Joy of joys! Suddenly you notice the spare pint that your thoughtful partner left at the back of the fridge….and the pleasure and relief hits you as you climb back up the mountain to the same height you were at when you first opened the fridge.
Here’s what happens when we get a successful run up the mountain.
You work in sales. On a normal day, you expect to make 30 calls, and break 5 sales. Suddenly you hit a purple patch. You break ten new customers each day for three days in a row. Your manager loves you. Your bank manager loves you.
Next day, you only break 8.
Suddenly, 8 sales is a bad day. 8 sales used to be a good day! But now you’ve got used to your new position higher up the mountain. You’ve taken your pleasure and enjoyed it - and now, not only does 10 sales per day no longer give you any pleasure, you’re getting upset with 8.
Supporting a sports team
If you are used to seeing your team lose week-in, week-out, you don’t expect a much from them. You certainly don’t get upset if they don’t win any trophies this year. In fact, you can even get happy when they lose: provided they’re playing the top team and they don’t lose too badly. Dog-biscuits of pleasure everywhere.
But what happens if you support the best team in the competition? What happens if you’re the favourite? Now the pressure’s on. Suddenly, winning isn’t the same anymore. Winning is what you’re expecting. And when they do win, it’s more like relief you experience, than pleasure. You need a big win to get much pleasure – you need your team to do better than you expected.
The expectation-adjuster has kicked in.
It doesn’t matter how well or how badly your team is doing, you’re still able to create an expectation of how well you expect them to do this week. And that expectation allows you to enjoy the game just as much if your team is great… or lousy.
It’s why teams that aren’t doing so well still have supporters. These supporters still get just as much pleasure watching their team as anyone else does.
Why the expectation-adjuster is so important to how much we enjoy our lives.
If our expectations didn't adjust every day:
- we’d wake up each morning happy to be alive
- we'd wake up each morning happy with our jobs
- we'd wake up each morning happy with our relationships
…because in comparison to all the awful situations we could find ourselves in... most of us are doing rather well. Certainly, anyone with the time and energy to read a book like this is doing better in terms of their ‘survival chances’ than most of world’s inhabitants.
Haven't we done enough now? Aren't humans successful enough to satisfy our genes? Isn't it time we could all lead happy lives?
Unfortunately, the expectation-adjuster has never been programmed out of us, so we keep on building faster cars, taller skyscrapers, smaller mobile phones... all in an endless attempt to get more satisfaction than we got when we were cavemen.
But are we really any happier than our ancestors?
Imagine you lived 100 years ago…
You get up in the morning… and it’s cold. Freezing cold! Has the central heating failed? Oh, no - there isn’t any central heating. There’s also no hot shower. Oh yes, and the toilet’s at the bottom of the garden.
Never mind, once you get into the car, you’ll warm up and it’ll be nice and cosy at work. But of course, there’s no car, and you’ve got to walk to work, and it’s no warmer at work because you work in a field.
The only thing left to look forward to is getting home and putting your feet up in front of the TV…
Most of the things we take for granted in the 21st Century didn’t even exist 100 years ago. Can any of us seriously countenance a life without cars, TV, good hospitals, fridges, fast-food…? It’s almost impossible to believe that so many of the things that we rely on for our happiness today… weren’t available at all to our great-grandfathers.
But did that mean they were miserable all day? Did that mean their lives were barely liveable? Of course not - they were probably just as happy as we were - they weren’t used to the luxuries, they didn’t have subconscious expectations of the luxuries, so they didn’t miss them.
What have we gained with this relentless pursuit of making things better than they are? We live longer, for sure. But are we happier?
And do we need this expectation-adjuster that seems to affect everything we do, everything we dream of?
Wouldn’t we be so much better-off without it?
But surely everything isn't subject to the Expectation Adjuster?
You can answer this for yourself by digging out your Happiness Wish-List.
If any particular item on your wish-list could change if your circumstances change, then that wish is dependent on the expectation adjuster.
Like 10 million dollars... surely 10 million dollars would always have a place on your list?
But not if one day you were to inherit a billion dollars… It's hard to think that for someone worth a billion dollars, $10 million can make much of a difference.
**But what happens if it all goes wrong?
- What about failure? Surely if we're right down at the bottom of the mountain, it must make us unhappy?
We humans have a lot of fear. It’s one of evolution’s best ideas. One of our most profound fears is that if life ‘goes wrong’, we'll be unhappy. We’re terrified of the misery that we’ll have to endure if disaster strikes.
It’s why being disabled and confined to a wheelchair holds so much horror - it’s a situation we cannot retrieve. Although we might somehow become reconciled to our disablement, we’ll never be as happy again: happiness will be permanent unless our circumstances improve.
But is that really the case? Let’s look at this conclusion from an evolutionary point of view: does “permanent unhappiness” make sense, given what we know about evolution?
At first sight, yes it does.
Presumably, if you’re really unhappy you’ll be even more motivated to succeed than you normally are. The more you suffer... the more motivated you’ll be to make changes, to improve things and get back what you had before.
That relies on the assumption that unhappiness is a more motivating state than happiness. And that’s simply not possible. Because if unhappiness really were more effective than happiness ….we’ d be unhappy all the time. Evolution would make sure of it.
How we know that being unhappy can’t be more effective than being happy:
Evolution picks the best. And the best humans are the ones that are the most motivated to spread their genes. Which would mean that if unhappiness were the most effective state to be in… we would all have evolved to be unhappy all the time. We wouldn’t just be unhappy when things went wrong… we'd be unhappy when things went right as well.
Which is clearly not the case for most of us…
So, given what we know about evolution, we can conclude that
unhappiness cannot last.
- Our own brains must be able to adjust our happiness levels (or, rather, our unhappiness levels) so that we pretty soon find ourselves no longer unhappy. Automatically. Regardless of what happens in “the real world”. It’s not up to us to ‘fight our way out of it’… However badly we do, our brains will automatically stop us feeling unhappy after an appropriate period.
- Life isn't just inherently unsatisfactory...
.... it's also inherently satisfactory.
Evolution doesn’t want us to give up, however bad things are.
And if it doesn’t want us to give up, it still needs us to be functioning at our best. So it needs us to be able to recognize good things and bad things. If you’re really unhappy, how can you notice when things get worse? How can you notice the day-to-day bad things? You need to feel good when things go well. You need to be made happy by little things that go well. And you need to feel bad when little things go wrong.
The human that keeps trying regardless of how dreadful the situation will be more likely to survive.
The most successful human will be the one that is always pushing, regardless of how successful or unsuccessful it is.
Make it better:
Regardless of how successful we are.
Regardless of how unsuccessful we are.
This remorseless drive for success means that evolution appears to be very demanding - it will never allow us to be satisfied. It is unremitting and relentless.
But by the same token, it is also very forgiving - it forgives our failures by resetting our happiness to neutral. Not because evolution is ‘nice’ or because it ‘cares about us’, but so that in future we will be at our most efficient and therefore most likely to do a good job of maximizing our genetic chances.
** The Future is all that matters
We think we’ll be unhappy for ever if disaster strikes and we’re confined to a wheelchair.
But what would be the point of that?
Evolution is only interested in the future.
Evolution only looks forward - the past is gone.
Evolution gives us pain so that we can learn not to do something again. It only punishes us in order to teach a lesson that we can use in the future.
Evolution will only ‘look back’ for training purposes, and not for ‘punishment’. The only reason we will feel pain is to improve our future performance.
And it’s very important that the training doesn’t get in the way of doing well in future.
The expectation-adjuster must work both ways: if our situation gets worse and we fall down the mountain, we don't have to climb back up as high as we were before if we want to feel good again.
Why we think we’ll be happier… or unhappier.
Why is it that we’re so convinced that we can create permanent happiness… or permanent unhappiness if we get it wrong?
It’s because we’re focused on solving our current problems.
For most people, many of their current problems would be solved by more money.
- the disagreement with the boss would be solved if we didn’t have to go to work again.
- the need to clean the windows would disappear if we had enough money to pay someone else to do it.
Our problem is that we just can’t believe that any other problems would arise if we solved our current problems. We forget how all the problems we had when we were kids have disappeared now we’re adults. We forget how many problems we’ve had in our lives that were so important to us at the time, that consumed our minds… but that have now been replaced by completely different problems. We forget how there’s always a problem to be sorted out. We don’t realise that our minds are programmed to go looking for problems - because that’s the only way to improve, the only way to make things better than they already are.
However wonderful our lives… there will always be some way in which we can improve.
** The most motivating state
So, if unhappiness isn’t our most-motivating state - what is the most-motivating state for us to be in, then?
Neither happiness nor unhappiness are good states for humans to be in for any long period of time. We're much more effective - from evolution's point of view - if we’re somewhere between the two - the mood which scientists call ‘neutral’, and everyone else calls….
…. “not bad”.
“Not Bad” is a very special mood for humans. Although it’s not that exciting for us as individuals, it’s something that works very well for evolution.
The great advantage of “Not Bad”, is that it allows us to be very sensitive to success and failure.
If you’re going to be effective, you have to be able easily to recognise good from bad. You have to be able easily to distinguish between things that are helpful to survival and things that are dangerous.
- If you’re continuously in pain, it’s not particularly easy to recognise more pain.
- If you're constantly happy, it's less obvious when things have improved.
You need contrast.
- If you spend your life in misery, do you really care when you get a new problem?
- If you spend your life deliriously happy… how are you going to be able to spot the next victory?
“Happy – unhappy… not bad.”
It’s the human condition.
It’s the state evolution wants us to be in. It’s the state evolution has selected for us. It’s what’s made us most successful.
“Happy - unhappy - not bad” is what made humans great.
“Happy - unhappy - not bad” is what put us on the moon.
“Happy - unhappy - not bad” is not only the way it is…
…but the way it’s always going to be.
It’s a zero sum game
If we’re always fluctuating about the same state of ‘not bad’, continually adjusting our expectations to reflect how ‘successful’ we are currently, we’re stuck for life in a ‘zero-sum game’. It doesn’t matter what we do, the total amount of pleasure and pain will always be constant from one year to the next.
** Some humans are more equal than others.
We assume that everyone has equal rights, that we all have the same opportunities in life.
It’s a “fundamental human right”, after all.
But how equal are we really?
Nature doesn’t appear to give us the same talents at birth -
- Not everyone is fast enough to be an athlete.
- Not everyone is smart enough to be a brain surgeon.
- Not everyone is beautiful enough to be a model.
So in what way are we born equal? Doesn’t nature believe in our “fundamental human rights”?
If we’re born equal in anything, it must be in our ability to achieve happiness.
Surely? If there’s any justice in the world, we must all have the same chance of being happy.
Well, you’d have thought so, wouldn’t you?
But maybe not.
Some people are born more equal than others.
When people are asked in questionnaires how happy they are, the answers are interesting in three ways.
Most people report that they are slightly happier than ‘neutral’. If we think of neutral as being the point at which we are neither happy nor unhappy, most people feel that, on average, they’re a bit happier than neutral.
This average seems to be remarkably constant for each individual. They consistently report the same average over long periods of time. If they’re ‘fairly happy’ one year, they seem to be ‘fairly happy’ every other year.
This agrees with our theoretical concept of happy - unhappy - not bad; regardless of our circumstances, the expectation-adjuster will make us feel a constant level of happiness on average.
This level is not the same from one individual to the next. Although most of us are slightly higher than neutral, we don’t all have the same average level. We each have our own personal base level of happiness, and it’s a level which varies from one individual to the next.
So what’s going on? What can this research tell us about our own personal chances of happiness?
The evidence suggests that our average happiness level is set at birth.
In other words, the level of happiness that our mood automatically returns to is determined by our genes.
In the same way that our genes decide what our face is going to look like, and what the colour of our skin will be, they also decide our average level of happiness.
Scientists call this average level of happiness the ‘set point’.
This doesn’t mean that our genes have decided how happy we’re going to be on any particular day, or in any particular week, but they have decided what our average will be. They've decided what level of happiness we will keep returning to over and over again throughout our lives.
And some people are born with a higher average happiness than others.
Some of us are born happy. And we stay that way
Some of us are born unhappy. And we stay unhappy. For the rest of our lives.
Can life really be so unfair?
Well, of course it can. We like to like to believe that all humans are born equal, evolution isn’t about equality. It’s not about fair and unfair. Evolution is about random chances, and then letting nature pick the best of those random chances. And one of the randoms that evolution seems to use is ‘average happiness level’: continually experimenting to see whether slightly happier works better than slightly unhappier.
And that’s the real lottery in life.
Not whether you’re born intelligent, talented or into a wealthy family.
- None of these things will necessarily affect how happy you’re going to be.
The real lottery is whether you're born with a high happiness set point.
Despite our best efforts to get more out of life, despite our struggles to be the best, the most important factor could well be who our parents are.
The Lazy Dolphin
When I was a kid, my mum took me to a Safari Park for my birthday. It was back in the days when it was OK to be entertained by wild animals performing tricks and I laughed and screamed at the Chimps' tea parties and the Elephant's bath time.
But what really excited me was the dolphins: leaping through hoops, splashing the audience with back flips, playing with footballs. They even towed me around the pool in a little dinghy because it was my birthday.
And after every trick, the keeper would throw each of the dolphins a fish.
When I went home at the end of a long day, I remember worrying about this. What, I wondered, would happen if one of my dolphin friends suddenly forgot how to do the tricks? Or got an ear infection and couldn't hear the instructions? No fish for that dolphin. Would it starve? Would the keeper send it off to bed without any tea while the other dolphin gorged all the fish. Quite upsetting for a nice kid like me.
And then my mum explained that it wouldn't make any difference how many tricks the dolphins performed. At the end of the day, she said, the keeper would make sure that each of the dolphins had eaten exactly the right number of fish for their perfect calorie-controlled diet. Apparently the dolphins were very valuable animals (even if they didn't do any tricks at all), so the keeper had to be very careful that they each got exactly the right amount of food every day to keep them as healthy as possible.
It made no sense.
Why did the dolphins bother doing any tricks at all?
Why didn't they just swim around doing what they wanted all day?
25 years later I began to feel a bit like one of those dolphins myself.
As I wrestled with the problem of how to get more fish out of my own little swimming pool, I wondered 'Was I performing the wrong tricks, or just not doing them well enough?'
Then I remembered the dolphins.
And I began to suspect that it didn't really make any difference how many tricks I performed....
....I was going to end up with the same number of fish regardless.
Are we humans are on a similar strictly controlled diet? Not of fish, or chocolate or whatever else it is that we like to eat, but of something even more fundamental and important to us than food.
Is our strictly controlled diet our feelings?
For the last million years, we have been concentrating our considerable intelligence and efforts on performing better tricks for our evolutionary masters.
And while most of us will continue swimming round the pool, a few of us are going to start wondering “How do we get out of this pool and get to where the fish are kept?” Because until we do that, the only things benefiting from all the effort we put in will be our keepers.
And the future of mankind is going to be very different from the way most of us think it's going to look.
And the sooner that happens, the better for all of us.
Summary Part 2
1) Happily Ever After?
Evolution won’t let us have too much of a good time, because we've got work to do on behalf of our genes. (And we're just robots, after all.)
How the mechanism works: we can see from our own personal experiences that we’ve got very little chance of living happily ever after. The Expectation-Adjuster alone is enough to make sure life is never the bed of roses we expect it to be.
2) Miserably Ever After?
Although evolution has no intention of letting us live lives of satisfied bliss, it’s also got no interest in leaving us languishing in the depths of despair. However much of a mess we make of our lives, we can be reasonably confident that we’ll be dragged back out of the misery... automatically.
3) ‘Not Bad’ Ever After - the human condition.
It turns out that “Yeah, I’m OK - not bad, thanks” is the way we’re designed to be.
- Because ‘not bad’ is the most efficient state of existence for a Robot that’s designed to take over the world.