The second big project on the human agenda will probably be to find the key to happiness. Throughout history numerous thinkers, prophets and ordinary people defined happiness rather than life itself as the supreme good. In ancient Greece, the philosopher Epicurus explained that worshipping gods is a waste of time, that there is no existence after death, and that happiness is the sole purpose of life. Most people in ancient times rejected Epicureanism, but today it has become the default view.
Politicians should make peace, business people should foster prosperity and scholars should study nature, not for the greater glory of king, country or god but so that you and I could enjoy a happier life. Conversely, science says that nobody is ever made happy bt getting a promotion, winning the lottery or even finding true love. People are made happy by one thing and one thing only- pleasant sensations in their bodies. For example, if you get a promotion and for some reason you don’t feel any pleasant sensations- you will not feel satisfied. The opposite is also true. If you have just been fired but you are experiencing very pleasant sensations (perhaps because you popped some pills) you might still feel on the top of the world.
The bad news is that the pleasant sensations quickly subside and sooner or later turn into unpleasant ones. Even scoring the winning goal in the world cup final doesn’t guarantee lifelong bliss. Infact, it might all be downhill from there. Similarly, if last year I recieved an unexpected promotion at work, I might still be occupying that new ,but the very pleasant sensations I experienced on hearing the news disappeared within few hours. If I want to feel those wonderful sensations again, I must get another promotion. And another. And if I don’t get a promotion, I might end up far more Bitter and angry than if I had remained a humble pawn.
This is all the fault of evolution. For countless generations our biochemical system adapted to increasing our chances of survival and reproduction, not our happiness. We struggle to get food and mates in order to avoid unpleasant sensations of hunger and to enjoy pleasing tastes and blissful orgasms. But nice tastes and blissful orgasms don’t last very long, and if we want to feel then again we have to go out looking for more food and mates.
It is not the goal that makes us happy – it’s the journey. Climbing Mount Everest is more satisfying than standing at the top; flirting and foreplay are more exciting than having an orgasm; and conducting ground breaking lab experiments is more interesting than receiving praise and prizes. Yet this hardly changes the picture. It just indicates that evolution controls us with a broad range of pleasures. Sometimes it seduces uabwith sensations of bliss and tranquility, while on other occasions it goads us forward with thrilling sensations of elation and excitement.
At present, humankind has far greater interest in the biochemical solution. No matter what monks in their Himalayan caves or philosophers in their ivory towers say, happiness is pleasure. Period. With each passing year our tolerance for unpleasant sensations decreases, and our craving for pleasant sensations increases. Both scientific research and economic activity are geared to that end, each year producing better painkillers, new ice-cream flavours, more comfortable mattresses, and more addictive games for our smartphones, so that we will not suffer a single boring moment. You may debate whether it is good or bad, but it seems that the second great project of the twenty-first century- to ensure global happiness so that it can enjoy everlasting pleasure.
Sources:Homo Deus(a brief history of tomorrow) by Yuval Noah Harari.