Re: "Sound and Fury" over enhancements

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Thu Jan 10 2002 - 07:11:48 MST

On Thu, Jan 10, 2002 at 05:22:00AM -0800, J. R. Molloy wrote:
> From: "Anders Sandberg" <>
> > To my knowledge the studies that have been done have not shown any
> > correlation of happiness with wealth
> Winning just ?1,000 can be enough to change a person's outlook on life,
> suggests the study by researchers at the University of Warwick.
> However, less than ?1m is unlikely to have a lasting effect on a person's
> happiness and experts found a strong marriage and good health were more likely
> to make people feel content than money.

Exactly. I was talking about long-term effects. That people get happy
when they win and may become more optimistic (just as people subjected
to a disaster often develop a negative life-outlook) is a no-brainer. :

Psychologists David Myers, at Hope College, and Ed and Carol Diener at
the University of Illinois have been studying SWB for years with
remarkable results. They find first that SWB is essentially unrelated to
socioeconomic status, to income, to level of education, to gender or to
race. We have replicated all but the race findings (fewer than 2% of
births in Minnesota are to minority parents so that our twin samples are
almost exclusively Caucasian). Those who ride to work in overalls and on
the bus are just as happy on average as those in suits and ties who
drive in their Mercedes. Although men still have a tenuous hold on the
reins of power, women's average SWB is at least as high as men's (this
is especially surprising since we know that clinical depression is far
more prevalent in women).

Second, to explain these curious results, the Illinois researchers have
shown that the effects on current SWB of both positive and negative life
events are largely gone after just 3 months and undetectable after 6
months. A happiness reading on a victim of a spinal injury---or on a
winner in the lottery---taken a year after the event, is likely to give
about the same value obtained before the event. Most people, within 6
months or so, will have adapted back to their genetically-determined
set-point. Getting that promotion, having Miss or Mr. Right say "Yes",
even having a "born again" religious conversion---each of these may send
the happiness meter right off the scale for a while but, in a few
months, it will drift back to the set-point that is normal for that
individual. (Perhaps this is why evangelicals have annual "revival"
meetings---to revive their faith and also their feelings of subjective

One further replicated finding is that most people's happiness set-point
is above zero, that is, on the happy side of neutral. Nearly 87% of some
2,300 middle-aged twins in our sample rated themselves to be in the
upper third in over-all, long-term contentment. It seems plausible to
suppose that, over the millennia of human evolution, those ancients who
were grouchy or sad did less well in the struggle for survival and had
less luck in the mating game. Our species has become biased toward
positive well-being by natural selection.


Now, however, we can factor in the finding that happiness is virtually
uncorrelated with income or socioeconomic status. One can predict a
person's SWB far more accurately from his identical cotwin's score even
ten years earlier than from that person's income, professional status,
or social position today. Those favored genetically by high IQs are
indeed more likely to become doctors, lawyers, or chieftains of industry
than are those destined to be plumbers or garbage collectors---but those
clever ones are not likely to end up any happier. :

One of the broad conclusions from much of the Stage 1 research is that
demographic variables are not very powerful in explaining the variance
in SWB. For example, Campbell, Converse, and Rodgers (1976) discovered
that demographic factors (e.g., age, sex, education, marital status)
accounted for less than 20% of the variance in SWB. Andrews and Withey
(1976) could only predict 8% of the variability in life satisfaction
using demographic variables; and Argyle (1999) concluded that
demographic variables could account for only 15% of the variance in SWB. :

Contrary to popular belief, well-being does not rise when income rises.
Wealth does not mean well-being - According to University of Michigan
researcher Ronald Inglehart (as cited in Myers, 1993), people from
wealthier countries report higher levels of well-being than those in
poorer countries on average, but levels of well-being differ from
country to country. West Germans average twice as much personal income
as those of the Irish, but the Irish report being happier. The same can
be seen with the wealthier French as compared to their Belgian
neighbors. Within countries, the richer are not always happier. Living
in abject poverty does not promote happiness, but having more than one
needs has little effect on one's well-being. Diener and colleagues
(Diener, Horowitz and Emmons, 1985) interviewed 49 of the wealthiest
Americans as listed by Forbes magazine and found them to be only
slightly happier than average.

 Health does not correlate with well-being. How people view their health
depends on their emotional state and objective measures of their health
from doctors (Diener, Suh, Lucas, & Smith, 1999). People generally need
a basic level of health wherein pain does not interfere with activities
(Williamson, 1998). People with high levels of well-being and hope
usually return to normal levels of well-being after unpleasant diagnoses
of illness (Synder, 2000). The exception to this rule is for people with
multiple disabling conditions. Although their well-being goes up after
initial diagnosis, they usually do not return to normal levels of
well-being that were present before diagnosis.

Haven't read this, but it seems interesting anyway:
"Measuring global progress through subjective well-being"

> Scientific method = device for accurately identifying incorrect thinking.

This is another thread, but I would like to point out that 1) whether it
is universally accurate is strongly debated, 2) it is not applicable to
all situations, 3) it is not very efficient in dealing with qualitative
data. As an example, how do you apply science to accurately identify
whether the claim "Captain Ahab was gay" is an incorrect conclusion from
melville's _Moby Dick_?

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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