X-Message-Number: 30121
Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2007 09:45:30 EST
Subject: Gilbert on choices and happiness

Daniel Gilbert is a Harvard psychology professor who wrote a book called  

Stumbling on Happiness (Knopf, 2006). Its main thesis can be summarized  in less
than a page as follows:
Everyone is faced with choices, and the rational criterion is future  
happiness or satisfaction.
The method of selection for almost everyone is to attempt to see the future  
through imagination, guessing what will result from your choice. However,  

there is strong evidence that this method has a high failure rate because, for
various reasons that he discusses, we are generally very inept at making such  
Another method has strong evidence for efficacy, and is also very simple.  
That is just to find a few random people who already have made the choice you  
are considering, then you ask them what they are feeling right now, how happy 
or  satisfied the choice has made them. 
The trouble with this method is that almost no one will use it,  despite the 
evidence of merit. They won't use it because almost everyone  believes he is 

unusual or unique, and therefore some randomly chosen people are  not likely to
reflect the results of his own choice.  
So does Gilbert have a solution? No. Well, he has written a book that might  
possibly help a little. He also notes that we compromise between delusion and  
realism. We need some delusion, because raw reality is just too grim, and 

fully  facing it would make us wretched or drive us bonkers. At the same time, 
are  forced to some degree of realism, because those who are too unrealistic 
too  often will soon be maimed or killed. 
Applications to cryonics? We can't ask patients for testimonials, but we  can 
get some testimonials from relatives and friends. We can also continue to  

hammer on the logic and the cost/benefit ratio, which will continue to produced
at least some results, and probably at an increasing rate. Nothing  
sensational here, but a bit of reinforcement.
Robert Ettinger 

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