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What Will Change Everything?

Susan Notes:

Every year The Edge Foundation, whose mandate is to promote inquiry into and discussion of intellectual, philosophical, artistic, and literary issues, as well as to work for the intellectual and social achievement of society, asks a question. This year the question is:WHAT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING?

"What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?"

They asked 151 people--from Alan Alda to Anton Zeilinger--with lots of mathematicians, computer scientists, and a few artists in between. Below is one answer whose theme is one I keep advocating for schools, the promotion of happiness. You can read the rest of the answers at the link below, but this is the one we should pay attention to.

by Betsy Devine Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar


In the next five years, policy-makers around the world will embrace economic theories (e.g. those of Richard Layard) aimed at creating happiness. The Tower of Economic Babble is rubble. Long live the new, improved happiness economics!

Cash-strapped governments will love Layard's theory that high taxes on high earners make everyone happier. (They reduce envy in the less fortunate while saving those now super-taxed from their regrettable motivation to over-work.) It also makes political sense to turn people's attention from upside-down mortgages and looted pension funds to their more abstract happiness that you claim you can increase.

Just a few ripple effects from the coming high-powered promotion of happiness:

ΓΆ€ΒΆ Research funding will flow to psychologists who seek advances in happiness creation.

ΓΆ€ΒΆ Bookstores will re-name self-help sections as "Happiness sections"; then vastly expand them to accommodate hedonic workbooks and gratitude journals in rival formats.

ΓΆ€ΒΆ In public schools, "happiness" will be the new "self-esteem," a sacred concept to which mere educational goals must humbly bow.

ΓΆ€ΒΆ People will pursue happiness for themselves and their children with holy zeal; people whose child or spouse displays public unhappiness will feel a heavy burden of guilt and shame.

Will such changes increase general citizen happiness? This question is no longer angels-on-head-of-pin nonsense; researchers now claim good measures for relative happiness.

The distraction value alone should benefit most of us. But in the short run, I at least would be happy to see that my prediction had come true.

Sidenote: Betsy Devine is married to Nobel physicist Frank Wilczek .

— The World Question Center



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