Rex Allen wrote:
> If evolution by natural selection were correct, then it seems to me that
> if
> the overall environment remained relatively stable for an extended period
> of
> time - then regardless of how it ended up, humans would be at about same
> level of happiness.
I don't think it is generally true, though I think it is approximatly true
if we assume humans are restricted to biological intelligence (which
probably won't be the case in the future).

Rex Allen wrote:
> We can only be "excessively" happy, or excessively unhappy, in a world
> that
> we aren't well adapted to.
> My reasoning is that happiness serves a motivates us to do
> things that enhance our reproductive success.
> Unhappiness also serves a motivates us to avoid things that
> decrease our reproductive success.
But whether it serves that purpose is dependent on the circumstances, not
only on the relative amount of happiness and unhappiness. 
It's not clear that there couldn't be circumstances where it is not useful
for beings to feel much more or much less happiness (though I hope the
latter isn't the case).
If there are less treats in the environment, I guess that we would tend to
be happier, because negative feelings are needed for avoiding (mostly rather
acute) treats. We don't need to be unhappy to get along with each other, for
So in a world where there are less treats (let's say more stable climate)
there would be less pressure for negative feelings and more room for
usefulness of happiness (let's say due to increased social interaction), so
we would be happier on average.
I find it probable that there are many biological and pre-industrial beings
in the multiverse that are significantly more happy than us because of this
(it's very unlikely that it would be close to paradise, though, I guess).

Rex Allen wrote:
> Happiness is useless as a motivational tool if it's too hard *or* too easy
> to achieve.
> Unhappiness is useless as a motivational tool if it's too hard *or* too
> easy
> to avoid.
Right. But then everything that is "too anything" for a puropse is useless
for this purpose, so that's basically a tautology.

Rex Allen wrote:
> There has to be some optimum "motivational" mix of happiness and
> unhappiness...and I'd think it's always approximately the same mix.
I think this is a too simplified conception of what happiness and
unhappiness are for. Whether we are motivated does not  only depend on
whether there is an appropiate mix of happiness and unhappiness (though this
I agree this is factor), but whether in the situations where it is useful to
be unhappy we are unhappy and when it is useful to be happy, we are happy.
If there are less reasons that would make unhappiness a useful thing, there
will be less unhappiness (see my example above).
But it is probably true that in a pre-technological biological environment
there will always be plenty of reasons for unhappiness, unfortunately.

Rex Allen wrote:
> Which brings me to my next point. IF this evolutionary theory were true,
> then scientific advancements only increase human happiness to the extent
> that it puts us into situations that we're not well adapted to.
> AND, given enough time (and mutation), we should adapt to all scientific
> advancements...and a key part of this adaptation will be to reduce the
> amount of happiness that they generate.
> We can only be "happier" than cavemen when we are in a situation that we
> are
> not well adapted to.
I think if we take scientific advanvement into account what you say becomes
quite wrong.
First, we can't adapt very much biologically to scientific advancement
because science changes us faster than biology can react to. The more
scientific advanced we are, the more this becomes true.

Also, scientific advancement is a kind an adaption, too. But it follows
other rules than bioglogical adaption. For one thing, it happens due to
conscious thinking of beings and those are aware that they want to be happy
(unfortunately still to a quite limited extent) so science will not be as
indifferent to the wants and well-beings of beings as biology is.

Rex Allen wrote:
> For instance, food. Most people really like sweets and salty greasy foods.
> Much more than they like bland vegetables and whatnot.
> The acquisition of junk food makes us happy *because* those things were
> hard
> to acquire a few hundred years ago...and if you're living in resource-poor
> circumstances, then calories and salt are just what the doctor ordered.
> BUT...we're now out of equilibrium. Junk food is at least as easy to get
> as
> vegetables, if not easier. So our evolved preferences push us to consume
> more than is good for us.
> Given time, and if we allowed heart disease and diabetes to do their work,
> the human race would eventually lose their taste for such unhealthy fare,
> as
> those with genetic tendencies in that direction died off. Anticipating a
> greasy meal of pizza and consuming it would no longer make us as happy.
> Because that happiness is too easily satisfied to provide the optimal
> level
> of motivation.
> In the future, I would think that our taste for junk food will decrease
> while our taste for vegetables and fruit will increase.
Yes, but it will likely mostly happen due to scientific advancement (we
learn to better control our behaviour and emotions with regard to eating)
not bioglogical adaption.

Rex Allen wrote:
> Further, this "adjustment process" isn't just true of food. It should be
> true of everything.
Right, but in my opinion it is false to assume this will push us towards
happiness equilibrium. It will push us towards useful feelings. And if
adaption is partly or largly controlled by conscious beings, they will find
good feelings more practical. Even if there is a noticable (but no
overwhelmingly large) negative effect on fitness this will be overridden by
Remember evolution doesn't necessarily pushes beings towards what works
best, but towards what works at all. And if humans don't die often anymore
(exept through old age), there will be little evolutionary pressure, because
humans already are adapted well enough.

Rex Allen wrote:
> Even something that IS good for us will cause less happiness if its easily
> available, because there's no real harm in not being highly motivated to
> get
> it - since you'll get it even if you're relatively indifferent to it.
In respect to biological evolution this might be largely the case.

Thankfully we are not as dependent on forces that don't care for our
well-being anymore (ie biological evolution) and will be increasingly less.

Instead we can use technology to steer our fate:
As we learn to influence more of our neurobiology we can raise our happiness
set point and experience more occasions of exceptional happiness. We already
have many ways to do that: For example a high-intake of essential nutrients
like magnesium or omega-3 / omega-6 fatty acids, use of amino acids that
raise serotinin production, pharmaceuticals that influence neurotransmitter
productions and recreational drugs like MDMA (which is actually quite safe
if reasonably used).  And we will discover more (and more efficient) of
these opportunities in the future.
When we learn to design our own pleasure systems (and don't stop being
rational and moral along the way) the era of suffering, mediocre and
stagnant feelings likely will be over and a self-guided creative explosion
of ever increasing states of bliss will ensue.

Hopefully we make it this far (otherwise some other species might do it) and
hopefully it'll happen more quickly than in a few centuries.

Rex Allen wrote:
> Also, even good things can become detrimental if over-indulged in. 
I am sure happiness is not such a thing in general (but in some
circumstances it clearly is).

Rex Allen wrote:
>  So, over time entropy will eat away at the structure that underlies the
> desire for that
> thing.
I see entropy more as the byproduct of increasing order as something that
eats away structure. 
After all order emerged as entropy increased. It's not like there was a
perfect oder at the beginning and now all is falling apart.
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