Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Why Human Beings think Sex, Money or Having Children will make them happy...

I just finished a fairly mundane book called Stumblin On Happiness written by a professor from Harvard by the name of Daniel Gilbert. I say mundane simply because the book is a beginner's pamphlet on psychology designed for people who are not nearly as self obsessed and analytical as myself...

However the chapter on Super Replicators and belief transmission was very interesting. The basic idea is that Beliefs transmit much like viruses or genes. Any belief that promotes it's own means of transmission will be represented in larger and larger quantities of the population moving forward. Or in Laymen's terms beliefs (even those that are false) that helps itself transmit (usually by having a side benefit) will tend to spread faster than those without the benefit. Belief transmission can even work without the transmitters being aware that they are transmitting any belief at all.

So let's look at how this affects people's beliefs about what will make them happy

Money: Economists explain that money has a "declining marginal value" which is to say that money helps you the most the less of it you have. However if everyone just decided to give up working and focus on doing the things that made only themselves happy, well the entire global economy would collapse. that's because the entire economy is built on the idea of producing and consuming goods and services. Economies do the best when individuals are putting in lots of time and energy and effort. However because human beings will only put in effort, energy, and time in search of their own individual happiness, it is imperative that human beings mistakenly believe that producing and consuming are essential to being happy.

Children: A measure of actual satisfaction of people who have children, shows a striking contrast to the usual discussion of oohs, aahs, and baby talk. In fact FOUR separate studies show that marital satisfaction decreases dramatically after the birth of the first child and increases only when the last child leaves home. The belief " children bring happiness" is a super-replicator because it is found in every cutlure across the World. Without this belief people(like myself) might choose to never have kids, thus wiping out the entire World's population within about 50 years.

Sex: Sex is another one of those things with declining marginal utility, meaning the more you have it the less pleasure it brings you. if you're reading this and you haven't had sex in three years, you're going to see sex as much more valuable than someone who had it 10 minutes ago. The other interesting thing about sex is that most guys believe they need to experience a variety of women or experiences in order to be happy, but most studies show that variety only increases happiness when consumption is rapid. Or in other words, you're only going to enjoy sleeping with a lot of girls if it happens in a FAST time period. this explains why soooo many guys out there (Instructors at various companies I'm talking to you) have slept with a lot of women, yet aren't getting happier. In fact when consumption is slow(like the process of learning cold approach) variety actually DECREASES pleasure. So if it's going to take you 3 years to get good at pickup(on average without extensive coaching like 12m2m or MULTIPLE bootcamps),than it actually makes more sense to be more selective about the women you sleep with knowing that variety over the long term decreases pleasure as people tend to think about experiences as simultaneous rather than sequential.

The belief transmission game is rigged. We must believe that money, sex, and children bring happiness whether or not it's true. Oftentimes we don't even have a choice in the matter. The fact that we don't have a choice doesn't mean that we're the victim of some global conspiracy, but simply that as the belief transmission game teaches us the spreading of false beliefs doesn't need anyone trying to spread the belief. There are no secret societies making these decisions in secret in some form of mass control. Super replicating beliefs happen because the very act of holding the belief causes us to take the actions that perpetuate it. Similarly to how people who want the pleasure from having sex often end up pregnant as an unintended but beneficial to society side effect.

I'll leave you with a direct quote from the chapter:

" We are nodes in a social network that arises and falls by a logic all it's own, which is why we continue to toil, continue to mate and continue to be surprised when we do not experience all the joy we so gullibly anticipated."

JS- The King Of Content


  1. Anonymous9:38 AM

    Fantastic post. I love these commentary on Books

  2. Anonymous11:53 AM

    best blog post i have read n a verry long time.


  3. Anonymous2:23 PM

    Been reading your blog for ages - love it man - please keep it up - and let us know when youre in toronto, but the example of money you gave is partially incorrect. Being an economics student its hard to simplify trying but to make it simple - human wants are infinite, and everyone is trying to get the most 'utility they can from their actions. Money facilitates trade between individuals and allows them to consume more than they can being an individual apart from the economy. Money has no intrinsic value apart from what we give it, and the expectation of the value of utility it can purchase. Money does not have diminishing value. While i see the fallacy of capitalism there is no debating that we benefit more from society than some type of individual determination ( think 100 BC). Sorry Jon just wrote a paper on this couldnt let it slide lol

  4. Anonymous2:39 PM

    In economics its called the "Law of Diminishing returns"..the first Big Mac tastes better than the second, the second tastes better than the third...

    Actually money - or the currency of purchasing power - does have diminishing value. Bill Gates views a dollar in a less significant way than a pauper and so forth..absolutely..this is proven..time and time again thru tastes and preferences..

  5. Anonymous5:03 PM

    yeah dude, excellent post -- i'll be sending this one around to my friends. i really like your posts on books a lot: you have a lot of insight for a younger guy, and it's good to keep up with the books you're enjoying.

  6. "if you want what everyone else has, do what everyone else does"

  7. Anonymous12:48 AM

    damn dude thats some depressing shit y you gotta ruin my day? i look 2 ur blog for laughs not questioning life

  8. Anonymous2:47 AM

    great post.

  9. Anonymous3:01 AM

    Great Post! And what makes you happy, Sinn?

  10. Oddly enough, once I got past a certain point, I started to find dating new women boring.

    It started to feel like I was running through the same relationship over and over with a different person. It felt I was getting LESS variety than if I stuck with one woman.

  11. I think our desire for sex is somewhat detached from our pursuit of happiness, its almost it's own entity, even if we consciously know that having sex won't bring us long term joy, we still want to have it because of the biological urge that is in us.

    There are some truly happy people on the planet and they didn't become that way as a result of having lots of sex and money. It comes from within.

  12. Anonymous11:17 PM

    amazing post, seriously, keep it up dude! hopefully you haven't killed yourself over the results of game 7...

  13. Anonymous1:22 PM

    Awesome post.
    While you might be right about sex not making people very happy, maybe people who do not get sex are far more unhappy because they are lonely. So thats also another way to view it.
    Maybe then we should view getting money and sex/relationship as something where we can prevent being completly unhappy (as a result of being lonely and poor).

    The question is then, what does make us happy? If we aren't meant to chase it to a certain point, what then?

  14. Interesting post. (A bit heavier content than your earlier "Fuck the Lakers" entry.) I'm sure there are academics who agree and disagree on the book's claims, though. Is the idea that it's good to have children popular just because it replicates well? Seems like all animals have offspring, and animals can't even transmit beliefs. To put it another way, they can't "super-replicate" ideas--yet they reproduce like crazy. The reason seems obvious: if a species doesn't evolve a strong *desire* for offspring, the species dies out. Both the desire to have children and to care for them evolved. It's wired into our emotional nature: the very "oohs and aahs" you mention have evolved, and they motivate our having and raising children.
    We evolved to have powerful emotions that motivate our behavior, and surely ideas often "super-replicate" merely because they reflect these evolved emotions. Often our "memes" reflect our genes.

    Another thought: watch out for the "damned lies and statistics" problem. Studies say marital satisfaction goes down when you have kids? So does necessarily mean that life satisfaction also goes down? Only if you assume kids have no positive influence on happiness. Parents often love their kids as much as they love anyone in their lives, don't they? So doesn't that fact figure into life satisfaction, and whether having kids is worth it?

  15. Anonymous8:43 AM

    Dude just get the fukin podcast up and talk about that shit wit Cam. Seriously though.

  16. Markus2:14 PM

    "There are no secret societies making these decisions in secret in some form of mass control."

    Ever heard of religion?