Sunday, October 12, 2008

More Likely to be Dead by Saturday

Realistically, you are much more likely to die before a lottery than you are to win it. In the UK about 10 people die each day in traffic accidents - many more than win lotteries. Then, there are heart attacks, cancers and so forth (which also kill many times more than traffic accidents). All the same, it is tempting to think about what you might do if you won.

But perhaps, rather than thinking about what you could do if you won and being disappointed again, you could do things that might actually make you happier in the long run. There are quite a few little, and some big, things that you could do to make you more satisfied with your life. Researchers have been looking into this for quite a long time. For example Michael Argyle in the 1960's and 70's, and more recently Ed Diener and Martin Seligman.

For example:
  • EXERCISE (moderate exercise has millions of benefits, including mood and happiness);
  • COUNTING YOUR BLESSINGS (in other words thinking about your own good fortune: if you are reading this, you were not run over by a car today. Savour everyday enjoyment);
  • FAITH (irrespective of denomination, people with faith say they are more satisfied with their lives than those who say they do not have a faith)
  • FIND SOMETHING TO OCCUPY YOU (that is something that you enjoy and find purposeful)
  • TAKE PART IN GROUP, OR SOCIAL, ACTIVITY (we are social animals, and we appreciate the feedback and reinforcement that other people give us. Being acknowledged and greeted as part of a group is better than just watching TV)
A lot of these revolve around finding meaning in your life (for example: 'having other people acknowledge your greeting'; 'spiritual beliefs'; and 'things occupy you because they have meaning to you'). This is something you can find and cultivate, by taking small, cautious steps which add something to your life.

You can be happy without winning a lottery! (And even if you did win, after an initial year or two of extra happiness, you are likely to be just as happy as you would be if you had not won at all).

Please email me if you think that this needs editing (see my profile).

Keywords: 'lotteries'; 'happiness'; 'likelihood of dying'; 'things to do'.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Markets Need Morals - Cultivating Anomie?

Why don't we all just give up? And only take interest in things that reward visceral influences? After all there are many meaningless, or negative, things in the world? Should we all just get drunk, and watch something pointless?

Firefox (and Microsoft) both went to some lengths to program in 'animations' in graphics - so that advertisers can distract you with motion, even if you would rather not look at their adverts. Learning to ignore signals, from what is a fundamental system to avoid risks (and so help survival), may not be helpful.

Amazon takes money to convince me I need eye surgery (and they claim they cannot block the adverts, although they are targeted at me personally). Facebook seems to think cosmetic surgery is what I need most (or, more likely, generates the most revenue). Google (via Adsense) thinks it would be optimal if I bought a vehicle that does 13 miles per gallon (5.5 km/litre; 18 litres/100km), costing around USD40,000. Do these things really make anyone happier? Or, the world a better place?

To what ends do they use beguiling images, sounds, or words?

Keywords: advertising; anomie; animated graphics; Firefox; cosmetic surgery