Thursday, July 3, 2008

Where's The Soma Spam?

Two things arrived in my inbox yesterday, from unrelated sources, but both dealing with the new holy grail of "happiness."

First, there was a link to a news story from Newsweek showing that people who have children are generally less happy than people who don't.

Then, there was a conference announcement for "Thoughts on Happiness." The beginning of the description of the conference said,

Happiness has long been our ultimate goal. We just haven't made great progress. That's about to change.

At first I thought it was a call for papers, and I thought, "Oh, great! I can submit an abstract for a paper showing that the whole premise of the conference is flawed." Because, really, isn't it old news that "happiness" isn't the whole story on the good life?

The I realized it's not a call for papers, but just an announcement of a happening. They gots an email list; they gots a blog; and they gots a website, so dudes, they are ready to go with the whole "conference" thing.

The best part is if you register really early (to be a "happy worm" - I am not making that up) you pay only 950 Euros as registration fee. Otherwise 1450 Euros. They say, "In total there are just 120 tickets and we want a mixed audience of scientists, creative minds and professionals."

All I can say is, LOL guys!

I don't know who is paying attention here and who isn't, but isn't part of the point of that book Brave New World that happiness isn't really what people want? I mean, if happiness were all we wanted, wouldn't we just pour our energies into creating happiness drugs with no side-effects, and then marketing them to one another with spam subject lines like "Canadia Farmacy, Get ur S@maa here!"

No one seems to be working on that project at all.

Anyway, with respect to the children question, I don't have any kids, and I suppose part of the reason I don't have any kids has to do with the fear of the unhappinesses and deprivations associated with child-rearing. But honestly, it's just a part. In some ways asking whether having children makes you happy just seems like the wrong question altogether.

The researchers sort of seemed to know this, and they admit in the Newsweek article that parents do feel increased "meaning of life" or something.

Maybe someone will bring this up at the happiness conference. Although at 1450 a pop, it's hard to imagine who will be at the happiness conference. We can imagine that, at any rate, poor people won't be the main thing on the attendee's minds.

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