Gedankenexperiment on Uberwealth, and more thoughts

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From: Jeff Bone (
Date: Wed Aug 16 2000 - 13:15:41 PDT

Okay, so here's the deal. Let's say Greg's FOOM was in fact negotiable. Let's
say all you've got to do is print out that document and fill in "$1 Billion."
Zap, you're a billionaire. (Sorry, actually you'll need to fill in about $1.39B
or some similar number; we want you to be a net billionaire, not a gross
billionaire. Pun intended.) Let's brush aside all the inflationary concerns,
etc., by saying only the first person on this list to do so is allowed to turn
themselves magically into a billionaire; and let's posit that there's no
downside or negative effect to anyone else in doing this. (Aside from some other
FoRKers being pretty pissed that you beat them to it.)

Who here wouldn't rush to be the first person to do that? While it's certainly
true that money by itself can't buy happiness, who here truly doesn't feel that
having $1B would enable more effective pursuit of personal happiness? I would
point out that it's somewhat disingenuous to say "money can't buy happiness" if
you would, in fact, take the dough... and anyone here that claims they wouldn't
take the dough is either a truly unusual human being or, more likely, just
engaging in world-class denial. If you would take the dough, then clearly you
feel that your own happiness would or could be enhanced by having it.


Here's another stab at "money can't buy happiness." On some very basic level, happiness is just a function of electrochemistry in the brain, in particular the serotonin cycle. We've gotten pretty good at modulating the serotonin reuptake cycle, both with prescription (and illicit) compounds and more basic, "natural" mechanisms like L-tyrosine, S-adenosylmethionine, and other fun stuff that you can get at your local GNC. FUM can buy an *awful lot* of elective tweaks and upgrades to brain chemistry. Feeling kind of blue? Patch it away.

But you probably don't buy that argument. The counter goes something like this: "chemically-induced happiness isn't the real thing." Well, okay... in what distinguishable way is it different from "real" happiness? Both are basically artifacts of the electrochemical state of the brain. One is arrived at situationally and perhaps accidentally, the other by acting directly and intentionally on the basic substrate. I would suggest that, really, there's no fundamental difference at all in the result.

(Having said all that, I've got to make a confession: I really don't believe this in the sort of hardline formulation I've created here; rather, I actually believe that being happy is just having the right attitude about your situation. I think that, aside from certain physical and chemical states, it's pretty much possible to just *choose* to be happy all the time. Now stress, that's another thing entirely... but stress management is an elective process as well, and one for which money does in fact enable more options.)



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