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The Happiness Equation

Dedicated to
Barbara Luck
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Tall buildings sparsely interspersed amongst a fog trying to engulf them. Seeming to Indicate the futile attempt of man to deal with an overcrowded world. Nature was hitting back, suffocating us. Looking out the window of his suite, Jim contemplated the impossble challenge facing him...

1

The world had been in a bad state for some time. It took an awful long while to locate the cause of the problem. Many technological innovations had been tried to increase the yield of crops: use of pesticide and fertilizer; selective breeding, and then even direct genetic manipulation of the genome code. All efforts were ultimately futile. Create more of a product and you merely create more demand for it. The population expands into the new niche and the same problem renewed presents itself to us all over again.

It is a typical problem in human society: raise production up to the current level of demand and then this level inevitably rises, setting a new bar. As the scientist, Jim Mercier, was trying to explain to the audience gathered in the British Governments emergency conference:

"If housing demand is at level x, and we raise supply to this level. Those people who made up the previous demand level gain in confidence, have an extra child or two, need a bigger house, one growing child decides he wants his own home... the process goes on and on up and down the country. Either this or the marginal buyer at the edge of demand, who is willing to pay the least, brings down the price of housing thereby attracting people from abroad to live here, who would otherwise not consider it."

Said Jim to his audience who were hanging on to his every word. They knew he must be leading to something with this. He was a well-respected figure, in scientific circles atleast. A prominent and innovative exponent of the new synthesized theory of social and natural sciences.

"...this is all quite simple economics as you will be aware. The result is that demand attains a new level y slightly higher than level x, the process goes on like this. Supply can never satiate Demand."

"A temporary solution was the Capitalism of old, but it has also come to be the problem bequeathed to our generation. An environment of constantly pushing innovation is set up: positive interest rates, economic growth so that supply could keep catching up again to demand if only for a moment." Jim continued, leading to his important conclusion.

"But it lead to periods of collapse and left behind so much infrastructure with which there is nothing to be done. The infrastructure comes to control us. We no longer choose what to build and produce. It chooses us!"

A few murmurs within the conference room could be heard. One person mumbled, 'left-wing babble'. Jim resumed, "There is a solution to this problem. A way out of the cycle. I have come up with an equation.."

He presented the equation to them on the projector and continued, "We live our lives by this equation on the individual level then no baggage builds up on the collective level to constrain us. No discontentment or fear drives us to increase the demand above what can be comfortably produced."

Shocks and gasps from the audience as the implications of the equation dawned upon them. Could it be that simple? Had something as plain and obvious as this been overlooked?

"Let me give you an analogy. Just like at the traffic lights. If the cars are all fearful of what the others will do they get away very slowly as the lights turn to green, shuffling along. It would be so much smoother if they all responded in parallel and went at the same time. Why don't they? Fear and lack of trust of what the other cars will do."

"A flock of starlings in flight act in unison. They have no fear. There is no stopping and starting waiting for others to move. They trust in the one equation that guides their motions, and it does so with great effect."

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