Commentary

7/27/2018: Happiness Crisis

The Timelines model applied to historical data shows that in 2004 the one in 14 million people who owned five percent of the world's wealth found that more wealth was no longer making them happier. Within a year, they discovered that owning more was making them distinctly less happy; and worse, it was not improving the health of newborn children.

This "happiness crisis" spread like a virus, affecting one in 16 thousand people owning one-fourth of global wealth when the financial crisis hit in 2008. The crisis slowed its progress over the next year, but then it accelerated, affecting one in 13 hundred people owning one-third of the wealth in 2010.

By 2015, the one in 24 people (now in Timeline 2) who owned half the world's wealth had discovered that more wealth made them less happy. Making things worse, happiness had dropped to zero for the richest people, the one in eight million who owned one-fourteenth of the world's wealth. By 2016, life expectancy had also dropped to zero for some newborns.

This year one in five people are affected, and by 2021 half of the population will be unsatisfied by the growing economy. Currently one-fourth of the world's wealth is owned by one in 22 thousand people who are totally unhappy, and in 2021 one in 300 people will be in the same situation.

It is tempting to associate these simulated observations with historical events such as the financial crisis and the rise of authoritarianism in the richest countries (indeed, one of the main missions of the modeling effort is to identify key drivers of history, the other being the suggestion of ways to delay our extinction). One reason for such an association is that it provides an explanation for people getting frustrated with the world economy, including and especially those who have historically benefitted the most from it.  As the frustration was felt by less wealthy people, those people could conceivably rebel against governments whose job was to keep things running as expected. The advance of the happiness peak toward affecting average world citizens would initially empower them; but as it crashes past them soon after the world population begins to drop, upheaval would strike them too, no doubt magnified by the passing of the life expectancy peak that isn't far behind.

Underlying all of this is what is proposed as an ultimate cause, as opposed to the proximate causes that normally come to mind. The ultimate cause, of course, is reduction of quantity and quality of natural environments needed for humans (and the many organisms that inhabit us) to both survive and thrive. Notably, the beginning of the happiness crisis in 2004 was accompanied by humanity consuming half of all available resources that are biologically determinant for our welfare. One-third of those "resources" were the natural means for renewably providing food and services each year, the total of which we had begun fully consuming in 1970.

In 2022, if we are in synch with Timeline 2, our consumption - which includes both what we use and what we dispose of, including greenhouse gases - will be twice what we consumed in 1970 and two-thirds of all resources. What's left will include the species keeping the planet habitable for creatures like us, which we are driving extinct along with ourselves. By 2029, happiness is projected to be zero for eeryone alive, life expectancy for newborns will be zero two years after that, and population will reach zero in 2038 as our waste displaces all remaining resources.

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