We all want to be happy — the problem is how to achieve it. How do we recognize the emotion, is it subjective, and can it be measured? The business of happiness has followed this increase in interest, with companies providing games and nap rooms to keep employees happy, alongside books and classes that purport to make you better understand the science of happiness.
Will Davies, professor of political economy at Goldsmiths, the University of London, and author of “The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being,” says that “it’s no coincidence that the whole awareness of depression has arisen at the same speed as the preoccupation with happiness, human flourishing, and the science of what a good life might consist of.”
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Jonathan Bastian speaks with Davies about the growing cultural interest in valuing happiness as a boon for business, especially in Silicon Valley where wearable tech and AI is being designed to recognize our moods. But Davies says there’s also a long history of measuring happiness that dates back to late 18th century England and renowned philosopher and social reformer Jeremy Bantham. Today’s 21st century advances, Davies says, originate in Batham’s ambitions to “scientifically monitor, quantify, and objectify internal subjective states between the fields of economics, marketing, psychology, [and] psychiatry.”