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Sapiens 16 And They Lived Happily Ever After

Page history last edited by Ian Kimber 8 years, 3 months ago



Lecture 16  And they lived Happily ever after


Segment 1

Are we happier as a result of our progress in a global high tech society.  If we are not happier what is the point?  How do we study the history of happiness.  


The agricultural revolution created harder work and a poorer diet for people.  

Empires frequently exploit the majority of their population. 

Power corrupts and creates unnatural lives that do not match their basic evolved needs.  


However looking at the other side of the coin medicine has vastly improved survival and health. Also we could say since the scientific revolution shows that we are using our powers and skills more wisely. So happiness is increasing.  


This science has only existed for a very short time so it is too early to know  are we just existing in a short term period of good fortune and are our activities using up resources that will cost us dearly in the future.  Also are other animals enjoying life so what about their happiness?


This is only discussing material prosperity, social and ethical and spiritual factors are also important what about these


Segment 2

First how do we define and measure happiness scientifically?  It is  “Subjective well being”   that is, people feeling happy with themselves.


We could ask people questions.  This usually involves questionnaires showing degrees of agreement to statements.  This could be done with large numbers of people in various social groups and look for correlations this could also be done looking for correlations between wealth, social structure, status.


When this is done it has been found that happy people are those who’s expectations have been fulfilled whether this is large and costly or small When things improve, expectations increase.  When times get hard expectations decrease.  This is difficult to assess because we find it difficult to put ourselves in other peoples shoes.  This includes things like personal washing and cleanliness in the middle ages!.  It is possible that the media and advertising are creating unhappiness by raising expectations and creating unfulfilled desires.


The happiness during the whole period of mankind has not in fact changed very much,


Happiness has also been associated with biochemistry people are made happy by pleasant sensations in the body and this is important for survival  an important part of this is the drive to sexual intercourse.  Happiness is controlled by aa sort of “thermostat”  some people are born happy some much less happy.


If happiness does not change with development is there any point in trying to improve things.  The only way to do this is to develop and create happy pills!


As envisaged in Brave New World!  Are there other approaches?


Segment 3

This tendency toward a drug culture does exist now


During an assessment of women’s activity it was found that childcare was the least enjoyable part of their day but when asked the women also said that their children were the greatest source of their happiness.  This is seen to be an indication that there is another factor, happiness depends in how you look at things.  This is similar among people who do activities that brings them a great deal of discomfort but create a great deal of satisfaction when successfully completed.  Doing things that have “meaning” os important.  In the past religion frequently gave meaning to the difficulties of life and an offer of a good afterlife.  Nowadays this is more difficult and life can seem to be without meaning.  Happiness is based on life feeling meaningful.


Buddhism is an unusual religion in that it sets out to remove suffering and increase happiness and this is achieved through internal understanding.   The consider that our feelings are very transient and one tends to try to repeat them.  The root of suffering is the striving after ephemeral feelings of pleasure and our mind is never satisfied with reality.  One must meditate to release oneself from this pursuit and establish a serenity outside of this pursuit even though one still takes part in society.


All these different approaches are still valid and it is early days in this understanding of happiness. and this is an important part of history.


The final subject is the the future of humankind.


Return to  1 Index page Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind

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