Daniel Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness is one of those pop-science books that delivers a serious a-ha
punch at least once a chapter, a little insight into the way that the world works that stops you right where you are and makes you go back and reevaluate how you got there.
Gilbert is a Harvard Psych prof, and in this book, he doesn't seek to explain how to be happy -- in fact, the introduction specifically disclaims this intention -- but rather, how happiness happens. And why happiness is so elusive.
Happiness is certainly elusive. How many times have we chased some goal, some purchase, some strategy, sure that we needed it to be complete, only to discover later that we're no happier than we were when the whole steeplechase started? This is the crux of Gilbert's thesis: why are we so consistently bad at estimating how happy some course of action will make us?
For Gilbert, the answer lies in our faulty perceptions. We misremember how happy we've been in the past, we mispredict how happy we'll be in the future (his section on futurism should be mandatory reading for every science fiction writer and tech journalist). Citing study after study, Gilbert lays out the lucid and funny case for the idea that our brains aren't very good at measuring what's going on in our brains.
Gilbert's funny, conversational style reminds me of Freakonomics, as does his subject-matter. For happiness is at the core of more than psychology -- it's also at the heart of justice, economics, political science, ethics, and many other key organizing disciplines that set the Earth in motion. This was the kind of book that made me reexamine more than my life's goals -- it made me re-think my politics and economic activity, too.
I listened to an unabridged edition read by the author, and it was very fine. Gilbert has the timing of a stand-up comic, and the book itself is just so funny to begin with. Highly recommended.
Link to book,
Link to audiobook
Update: Louis sends in this video of the author speaking at the TED Conference
Where are our petabyte drives? Brian Hayes takes us through the reasons storage is “stuck” in the low terabytes. The tl;dr is that we got such exceptional capacity growth in the late 90s and early 00s we don’t need much more right now, so the focus since then has been on SSDs, networking, interfaces, etc, […]
Amélie Lamont, a former staffer at website-hosting startup Squarespace, writes that she often found herself disregarded and disrespected by her colleagues. One comment in particular, though, set her reeling — and came to exemplify her experiences there.
In this episode of the Flash Forward podcast we travel to a future where humans have decided to eradicate the most dangerous animal on the planet: mosquitos. How would we do it? Is it even possible? And what are the consequences? Flash Forward: RSS | iTunes | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Patreon We […]
We’d all love a 75-inch TV screen on which to view our favorite shows. But not all of us can drop the cash needed to get one of those broadcasting beauties (or even have the space needed to house them).Thankfully, there’s an alternative. With the SainSonic Mini LED Portable Projector (only $59.99 in the Boing Boing Store), you can project a picture […]
If you want to add some real firepower to your programming repertoire, learn Java–one of the most adaptable, widely-used programming platforms around. You can easily do that with this Ultimate Java bundle, now just $69 in the Boing Boing Store.Across 14 lectures and 117 hours of content, the educators at online academy eduCBA will walk you through […]
Every company wants to harness the power of social media, but few understand how to make that happen. Be one of those select few with this Social Media Marketing Course & Certification package, now just $29 in the Boing Boing Store.Over 12 modules of course material, you’ll learn what it takes to increase a brand’s […]