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Dear TEDizens,

A few years age I stumbled upon a question I found both shocking and exhilarating: Suppose our natural instincts about what we needed to make us happy were dead wrong?

That was what the latest scientific research on happiness seemed to suggest: that most of the things we spent our time striving for made almost zero difference to how happy we were. In other words, our minds were apparently engineered for self-deception.

If true, this appeared to destroy a key assumption underlying our economic and political systems -- that "rational" consumers know how to act in their own best interests. Worse, t meant we could be doomed to spend our lives on a "happiness treadmill"; forever pursuing, never arriving.

But the exhilarating part was this: maybe we could gain wisdom from these discoveries. Maybe we could start doing things a little differently. Maybe, just maybe, we could discover a deeper, longer-lasting, more profound form of happiness. Maybe we could even do this before we ended up mangling our personal relationships and destroying our planet.

I am not sure there has ever been assembled a cast of characters better qualified to dig into these various "maybes" than the group gathered here at TED2004. Because the insights we need -- if they're to be found -- won't come from a single source. They are not just about psychology, or evolution or economics or the environment or entertainment or aesthetics or mysticism. They're about the whole interwoven human experience. And I suspect they have the power to transform the way we design and invent and experience.

I invite you to spend the next few days doing something you may never have done before at a conference. I invite you to immerse yourself in the mystery of Happiness. I don't promise she will yield all her secrets. But I'm pretty sure the immersion itself will provoke, intrigue and delight.

Welcome to TED.

Chris Anderson
TED Curator

"The Future Belongs to Those Who Create It"