April 23 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Other Year: General Rating: 10 Hot
By Dick Pelletier
In the 20th century, people enjoyed material and technological advances that were unimaginable in previous eras. In the US, for instance, gross domestic product per capita tripled from 1950 to 2000. Life expectancy soared and benefits of capitalism spread everywhere.
By most standards one would have to say that Americans are better off now than they were 62 years ago. However, if you ask people today how happy they are, you find that they are no happier than they were in 1946 when formal surveys of happiness first began.
Life has even become worse for some. Since the 1950s, clinical depression has increased tenfold, and today, people are more anxious, trust government and business less, and get divorced more often.
Does money make people happier? Economists Bruno Frey and Alois Stutzer found no correlation between income and happiness. We know that the hungry poor are miserable and they are less so with more money, but happiness does not increase after a certain level of income. Richard Layard, a British economist calculated that $15,000 per-year was the threshold; earning more than that added new worries and did not increase happiness.
However, some technologies like healthcare, contribute much to our happiness. Before the Industrial Revolution two of every three Europeans died before the age of 30. Today, life expectancy has climbed past 80 and people are glad to be alive; the longer they live in good health, the happier they feel they are.
This explains the growing public interest in futuristic medical technologies such as stem cell research and genetic engineering, which scientists hope will soon replace old and worn out hearts, bones, muscles, and skin; and nanotech miracles that promise to eliminate aging. These technologies promise a healthier and happier life. (cont.)
The Internet can also promote happiness. Social scientist Robert Putnam says, “Unlike television, which is one of the greatest sources of unhappiness because it is often a solitary activity without chance for social interaction, the Internet, with its ability to help people make new connections that they could meet in real life, is very positive and can create happiness”.
Almost two-thirds of all adults now log on to the web where they can send instant messages and emails to friends. Cyber relationships tend to evoke happiness from both parties, and occasionally results in face-to-face encounters that create enduring friendships.
By 2015, virtual reality will turn the Internet into a holographic world. We will capture images of friends and relatives from thousands of miles away and project lifelike replicas in our homes that are indiscernible from reality. We could organize virtual get-togethers for any happy occasion. People would kiss, hug and reminisce as if everyone was in the same room.
Finally, futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts that by 2030, technology will enable us to process thoughts millions of times faster than today. With faster thinking, we can develop an idea or face a situation, and immediately run thousands of ‘what-if’ simulations in our mind, ensuring a correct decision – always. This ability to never make mistakes will enhance our peace of mind and happiness.
So, as we go forward into this ‘magical future’, will technology make us happier? Experts say it will!