What's the point?

We are far more powerful than our ancestors, but are we much happier? It doesn’t seem so. Compared to what most people in history dreamt about, we may be living in paradise. But for some reason, we don’t feel the part.

One explanation is that happiness depends less on objective conditions and more on our own expectations. Expectations, however, tend to adapt to conditions. When things improve, expectations balloon, and consequently even dramatic improvements in conditions might leave us as dissatisfied as before.

A second explanation is that both our expectations and our happiness are determined by our internal biochemical system. And our biochemical system has no real interest in happiness. It was shaped by evolution to increase our chances of survival and reproduction, and evolution has made sure that no matter what we achieve, we remain dissatisfied, forever grasping for more.

A third explanation is that humans simply don’t understand what happiness is. We are like a driver in a car who pushes the fuel pedal for all he is worth, but the gear is still in neutral. No wonder that we are producing a lot of noise and energy, but we aren’t really getting anywhere.