Technology and Happiness (05 Jan 2005)
The relationship between happiness and technology has been a perennial subject for social critics and philosophers since the advent of the Industrial Revolution. But it’s been left largely unexamined by economists and social scientists. The attention that they have paid to the subject of happiness has involved the more capacious relationship between broad material prosperity and well-being. Gregg Easterbrook’s book The Progress Paradox grappled with this question directly. The economists Bruno Frey and Alois Stutzer published an academic survey of the subject in Happiness and Economics in 2001. But the truly groundbreaking work on the relationship between prosperity and well-being was done by the economist Richard Easterlin, who in 1974 wrote a famous paper entitled “Does Economic Growth Improve the Human Lot?” Easterlin showed that when it came to developed countries, there was no real correlation between a nation’s income level and its citizens’ happiness. Money, Easterlin argued, could not buy happiness—at least not after a certain point. Easterlin showed that though poverty was strongly correlated with misery, once a country was solidly middle-class, getting wealthier didn’t seem to make its citizens any happier.
Article URL: http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/05/01/issue/surowiecki0105.asp
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