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.
"The Future Belongs to Those Who Create It"