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Is an abundant future, a happy one?

In the movie "Midnight in Paris", Jil(Owen Wilson), Idealizes Paris in the 1920's, times he considers to be simpler ,more magical and happier.

In recent years I have met many people who didn't idealize any particular time, but also don't think the world is heading to a better place. They claim that life is becoming too fast, too complicated, that simple things such as enjoying a stroll in nature are not possible with urbanization, that walking the streets is disgusting with current air pollution, that we work harder and harder to own things leaving us with no time to enjoy them.

Paul, a disputed character from the movie, claims that "Nostalgia is denial - denial of the painful present...the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one ones living in – it’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present."

True that earlier times are different than modern times and urbanization and air pollution does exist and many other things have became worse over time, but, I always claimed, like Peter Diamandis, that every period is more abundant than earlier times, and that those people who wish to live in earlier time's also wish to have less options with their free time, have less possibilities about what food to eat, work a more physical and routine job, have fewer abilities to communicate with their loved ones, have less abilities to travel and to die younger.

What really shocked me, is Dan Gilberts’ talk, where he explained that the ability to change your mind, surprisingly or not, makes us UNHAPPY with our choices.

As the world becomes more abundant and liberal, any future will always contain more possibilities from which we can choose and change our minds about.

This leads me to the question, is an abundant future, a happy one?
What can we do to make sure that having a lot of possibilities, we can choose and change our minds about, won’t make us unhappy regardless to the decision we made?

  • Mar 6 2012: I really like the question you've asked, Yonatan. It's something I think about often!
    On the topic of nostalgia, the past is no place to dwell. It is something that should be learned from.
    That doesn't not mean, however, that the direction the world seems to be taking is necessarily a good one..
    We should advance, we should evolve, not regress! But advancing doesn't necessarily mean nuclear weapons, massive infrastructure, pollution, individualism to the extent of alienation, quantity instead of quality. Instead of ending war we have made them more wide-spread and destructive. Instead of dealing with corruption we have found ways to sugar-coat it and do it within legal perimeters. Instead of ending colonization we created a new, global from using debt and fashion :)
    We found penicillin, and people stopped dying from the flu! Then we polluted the environment, our food, and our habits so much that we have ridiculously high rates of cancer instead. It's not really about going back to the way that we used to live. There are many negative things about the past, just as there are many negative things about the present. Maybe people should start taking a closer look at those negative things, find ways to eliminate them, and find ways for synthesis, ways to take the best of the enchanting simplicity of the past as well as the innovation, global communication, and technology of the present to construct a better future.
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    Mar 6 2012: There cannot be an abundant future. We live in a finite resources world with a growing population, thus our resources are becoming scarcer and more valuable (see Paul Gilding; The Earth is Full in TED). Our future is less abundant.

    I do not know if a more abundant or less abundant future is a happy one. What I know is that this state of affairs (now) is not a happy one for many billions of human beings, even for people with abundance.

    Cheers.
  • Mar 6 2012: I think anyone that can ask this question with a straight face has not seriously contemplated or experienced life under the conditions of extreme scarcity. The kinds of lives been experienced by billions around the world today.

    I don't doubt the veracity of Dan Gilbert's talk, but I do question the conclusions he draws from his findings - particularly the narrow band of context from which his data is applicable.

    Does buyer's remorse (the colloquial term that characterizes the affect described by Gilbert) apply when you have the ability to trade in and switch at any time? In a post-scarcity/endless abundance scenario, is the ability to change things to our whim at our will something that will cause us unhappiness?

    I imagine that the choice may be initially overwhelming for some - especially those that are use to a rigid, structured lifestyle... but given sufficient time to adapt to overwhelming range of freedom and choice... that such a thing would play well into our desires for individualization, creativity, freedom of expression.

    When we contrast such a possibility with the idea of extreme scarcity - the opposite end of things... where choice is at a minimum because the simple matter of it is that you're fighting to survive, rather than seeking to personalize... the idea of abundance been a bad thing seems like the obvious absurdity that it is.

    That said, I appreciate where you're coming from - we certainly need a balance in work and life... the harder we work to buy into the material abundance of things, the more we're actually restricting our choice in lifestyles and desires. We spend too much time working, we reduce the quality and viability of our social bonds, our lifestyles, our environments. Replacing those things with different coloured iPhone covers seems particularly hollow, particularly empty - perhaps enough to make one question whether or not abundance is a path to happiness.