Are scientific inventions making us happier essay

Politics seems to be following suit. Similar initiatives have recently been developed in numerous other countries — from Thailand to Canada, from Israel to Brazil. Most governments still focus on achieving economic growth, but when asked what is so good about growth, even diehard capitalists almost invariably turn to happiness. Suppose we caught David Cameron in a corner, and demanded to know why he cared so much about economic growth. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that we could somehow scientifically prove that higher standards of living did not translate into greater happiness.

Are Scientific Inventions making us Happier?

They prove beyond any reasonable doubt that having bigger houses, tastier ice-cream and even better medicines does not increase human happiness. Well, if that's the case, forget about my plans to boost economic growth. I am leaving everything and joining a hippie commune. This is a highly unlikely scenario, and not only because so far we have almost no scientific studies of the long-term history of happiness. Scholars have researched the history of just about everything — politics, economics, diseases, sexuality, food — yet they have seldom asked how they all influence human happiness. Over the last decade, I have been writing a history of humankind, tracking down the transformation of our species from an insignificant African ape into the master of the planet.

It was not easy to understand what turned Homo sapiens into an ecological serial killer; why men dominated women in most human societies; or why capitalism became the most successful religion ever. It wasn't easy to address such questions because scholars have offered so many different and conflicting answers. In contrast, when it came to assessing the bottom line — whether thousands of years of inventions and discoveries have made us happier — it was surprising to realise that scholars have neglected even to ask the question. This is the largest lacuna in our understanding of history.

Though few scholars have studied the long-term history of happiness, almost everybody has some idea about it. One common preconception — often termed "the Whig view of history" — sees history as the triumphal march of progress. Each passing millennium witnessed new discoveries: agriculture, the wheel, writing, print, steam engines, antibiotics. Humans generally use newly found powers to alleviate miseries and fulfil aspirations.

It follows that the exponential growth in human power must have resulted in an exponential growth in happiness. Modern people are happier than medieval people, and medieval people were happier than stone age people. But this progressive view is highly controversial. Though few would dispute the fact that human power has been growing since the dawn of history, it is far less clear that power correlates with happiness.

For millions of years, human bodies and minds were adapted to running after gazelles, climbing trees to pick apples, and sniffing here and there in search of mushrooms. Peasant life, in contrast, included long hours of agricultural drudgery: ploughing, weeding, harvesting and carrying water buckets from the river. In return for all this hard work, peasants usually had a worse diet than hunter-gatherers, and suffered more from malnutrition and starvation.

Their crowded settlements became hotbeds for new infectious diseases, most of which originated in domesticated farm animals. Agriculture also opened the way for social stratification, exploitation and possibly patriarchy. From the viewpoint of individual happiness, the "agricultural revolution" was, in the words of the scientist Jared Diamond , "the worst mistake in the history of the human race".

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The case of the agricultural revolution is not a single aberration, however. Themarch of progress from the first Sumerian city-states to the empires of Assyria and Babylonia was accompanied by a steady deterioration in the social status and economic freedom of women.


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The spread of European empires fostered the exchange of technologies, ideas and products, yet this was hardly good news for millions of Native Americans, Africans and Aboriginal Australians. The point need not be elaborated further.

Scholars have thrashed the Whig view of history so thoroughly, that the only question left is: why do so many people still believe in it? This argues that there is a reverse correlation between power and happiness.

Scientific Inventions Essay

Romantics never tire of finding the dark side of every discovery. Writing gave rise to extortionate taxation. These three bugbears have alienated people from their natural surroundings, from their human communities, and even from their daily activities. The factory worker is nothing but a mechanical cog, a slave to the requirements of machines and the interests of money.

The middle class may enjoy better working conditions and many material comforts, but it pays for them dearly with social disintegration and spiritual emptiness. A more nuanced stance agrees with the romantics that, up until the modern age, there was no clear correlation between power and happiness. Medieval peasants may indeed have been more miserable than their hunter-gatherer ancestors. But the romantics are wrong in their harsh judgment of modernity. In the last few centuries we have not only gained immense powers, but more importantly, new humanist ideologies have finally harnessed our collective power in the service of individual happiness.

The triumphs of modern medicine are just one example. Yet this, too, is an oversimplification. We can congratulate ourselves on the accomplishments of modern Homo sapiens only if we completely ignore the fate of all other animals. Secondly, the time frame we are talking about is extremely short. Even if we focus only on the fate of humans, it is hard to argue that the life of the ordinary Welsh coalminer or Chinese peasant in was better than that of the ordinary forager 20, years ago. Most humans began to enjoy the fruits of modern medicine no earlier than Mass famines and major wars continued to blight much of humanity up to the middle of the 20th century.

Indeed, the contemporary golden age may turn out to have sown the seeds of future catastrophe. Even if we take into account solely the citizens of today's affluent societies, Romantics may point out that our comfort and security have their price.


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Homo sapiens evolved as a social animal, and our wellbeing is usually influenced by the quality of our relationships more than by our household amenities, the size of our bank accounts or even our health. Unfortunately, the immense improvement in material conditions that affluent westerners have enjoyed over the last century was coupled with the collapse of most intimate communities. Therefore it has become possible to survive without having extended families or any real friends. A person living in a London high rise is surrounded by thousands of people wherever she goes, but she might never have visited the flat next door, and might know very little about her colleagues at work.

I am not a robot. Continue.

Many present-day friendships involve little more than talking and having fun together. Yet how well can you really know a person only from conversations? Humans lived in close-knit communities, and friends were people with whom you went hunting mammoths.

You survived long journeys and difficult winters together. You took care of one another when one of you fell sick, and shared your last morsels of food in times of want. Such friends knew each other more intimately than many present-day couples. In addition to shallower relationships, contemporary people also suffer from a much poorer sensory world. The flush-lavatories, shower-baths, electric fans, cinemas, cars, trams and "planes" are among other scientific inventions which have increased the ease and happiness of, mankind. Science has made traveling easy and efficient.

The world has become small for us. But those exciting adventures and romances which traveling gave us in the past have all disappeared. Modem traveling is a dull business. People who live in big cities like New York or London have benefited in some ways and lost in many other ways. The city people do not have any leisure. Their life is so busy and mechanical that they do not have any time "to stand and stare" as well as to see and appreciate the beauties of nature.

Their lives have become artificial, devoid of charm and delight. Modern age is an age of science.

Human Enhancement

As science is advancing it is at the same time thwarting our civilization. In the world of science, the words love, emotion and sentiments are quite foreign. So what is the use of science to man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul? Spiritualism is on the wane while materialism is on the increase. Philosophy, culture and love are rapidly fading from the surface of the earth because of the advancement of science. On the destructive side, science has invented weapons which are dreadful and disastrous. The invention of U-boats, Rockets, Atom Bombs, Hydrogen Bombs and other harmful nuclear devices have increased the chances of human destruction.

Thus, if these weapons of science are misused.