If We Could Be Programmed To Be Happy

I want you to take a moment and perceive your own idea of the image below. What would it be like if the human behavior could be translated into numbers, bits, and bytes of a computer? How would it feel to be programmed to be happy?

 If We Could Be Programmed To Be Happy

And yet, I’m not talking in the air. I’m talking about one of the futuristic claims of Artificial Intelligence (AI); the prediction of human behavior. The second part to this is that if people are predictable, this could be the future of well-being. I’m going to talk about both parts in this blog post.

How can human behavior be predicted?

Predicting a part of human behavior, the moods, when someone is going to get angry, sad, afraid, or tense is already attained. Muscle activity and body responses can be observed using AI algorithms to indicate what our mind is going to do. Words in our mind, body gestures and signatures can be converted into brain signals. These signals can be digitalized, digitized, and further action can be performed, pretty much like the idea Stephen Hawking used for his speech. But there’s more to it. Those signals can now be sent to search engine over Wi-Fi and you can search the internet just by thinking.

Now, to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, it gives birth to a new psychological idea of predictable human behavior. Isn’t it exciting to learn that our brain, the functions it performs, and the behaviors it triggers, can possibly be replaced by Artificial Neural Network (someday)? The whole concept of human behavior can be reduced to mathematical equations and people would be nothing but some complex algorithms (metaphorically). The so-called illogical notions of our behavior would be turned into a few or more logical statements.

What about emotions?

Now, to justify the emotional states of humankind, surely there’s no room for emotions when it comes to logic. A computer (robot if you want to call) cannot possibly feel the pain nor can it experience the joy. But here’s the catch. Why is it that Robo-lovers are growing in demand? In psychological terms, if we can predict behavior we can also stimulate it, and AI is reaching such capacity as well.

Machines don’t have feeling but surely they can trigger our emotions. For us; human beings; feelings are ignited by what we see, touch, hear, smell or in any way sense. If human behavior to those senses is predictable machines would be programmed just the way we like taking us far away from human world, away from reality as there’s no room for any imperfections left. You won’t trade any perfect thing for not so perfect, will you?

For the moment say you did trade, still AI can find most compatible match based on the probability. What is there left?

What if AI dream come true?

Let’s suppose it really happens. The AI takes places as predicted. What's next? The psychological diseases can be treated before they affect you. Crime would be known before they actually occur and thus could be prevented. Sounds like a science fiction movie as if Minority Report or even something like Terminator. But if you can read minds there’s not much resistance to controlling it. All happy but would you give up your free will for that happiness?

So in our frame, the machine can apparently figure out our specific behaviors that causes unhappiness and do the fixes for us and that’s what is being called the well-being of human kind.

If We Could Be Programmed To Be Happy

Now to play close attention to the big picture, there’re two sides of the coin. One is suggesting that by predicting the body-mind response; the behavior, digitized, can be used for all purposes; for healing, for helping the needy, to treat diseases, to save the world from crime, to prevent psychological disorders etc. Above all, we would be happy as there’s nothing left to worry about. Worry and unhappiness come from the unpredictability and unexpected. But if there’s nothing like unexpected and all measures are predicted, do you see any reason not to be happy?

The other side suggests that “of course” people aren’t going to be turned into robots by AI. But how is the mind to be neatly divided into the trainable part (deterministic) and the creative, liberated part (free will)? If I can be plugged into a device that predictably improves my mood, transforming me from sad and lonely to a happy camper, should I do it? If yes at what cost?

The other side of the coin……

This reminds me of a quote by Rumi:

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

If we are banning the wound, how supposedly would the light enter?

You see our body and brain don’t work that simple rather have complex responses to every aspect. Perpetual bliss would completely undermine our will to accomplish anything at all. How? Well you see there’s “anxious searching” that triggers creativity. The artist worry over his painting, the writer would worry about his piece of writing, the poet over his poem and we the programmers over our code. That anxiety makes things work. Don’t you feel more confident and relaxed than ever when your program runs fine?

That again makes me want to quote Rumi here.

“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”

Perversely, our efforts to improve happiness could be a futile attempt to swim against the tide, as we may actually be programmed to be dissatisfied

Is there more to life than being happy?

Inspired by a TED talk I was listening to the other day, the life is objectively getting better in every possible way. Despite having all the comfort and ease in life, more people feel hopeless, depressed and alone. But it’s not the lack of happiness rather lack of having meaning in life. Meaning comes from belonging to and serving something from beyond yourself and from developing the best within you. We are getting more and more obsessed with happiness and ignoring something greater something more fulfilling; having a meaning in our lives. We need to live more meaningfully than happily.

Let me finish with Rumi again. (If my Rumi obsession can be forgiven)

“Do you know what you are?

You are a manuscript oƒ a divine letter.

You are a mirror reflecting a noble face.

This universe is not outside of you.

Look inside yourself;

everything that you want,

you are already that.”