Encoding Happiness

If you have a general purpose, programmable digital computer, you can encode happiness as the magnitude contained in a particular 1024-bit memory-mapped register. This doesn't represent any real limit on what happiness is or the variety of simulations that can be modeled.

But the mind is much less general purpose, is largely pre-programmed, and is effectively largely a hybrid of an analog computer and a feedback control system.
This can be simulated by a digital computer, but more capability can be simulated than actually exists.

It seems to me that happiness is not really a magnitude, but rather a (biochemical?)balance between perceptions and expectations. The higher your perceptions with respect to your expectations, whether higher or lower, the happier you are likely to be at a given instant. A persistence of higher perceptions is likely to lead to higher expectations, and a decay of happiness. This is not likely to be primarily a higher order function, but must also exist in pets and other animals.

Related posts:

Why IUCs?
Cardinal Schmardinal, Ordinal Schmordinal
IUCs and the Law of Large Numbers
No Soul Suggests IUCs
Love and Intrapersonal Utility Comparison
What color does a submarine weigh? (True or False?)
Exploding IUCs on the roadside
Interpersonal Utility Comparisons
Pareto Efficiency and Justice
Can the Paradox of the Non-Comparability of Interpersonal Utility be Resolved?

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Here ya go. 01101000

Here ya go.

01101000 01100001 01110000 01110000 01101001 01101110 01100101 01110011 01110011

I can put this in a much

I can put this in a much simpler form than you. Happiness == serotonin + dopamine. Just ask a raver, Eli Lilly, or any other anti-depresant producer/user. Now the question is, how exactly do you cause an increase in those without resorting to chemicals?

Turkey. Yes, lots and lots of turkey.

Seriously though, it could be the perception/expectation thing. It also depends on how you define happiness too. Is it laughing non-stop, creating something that fits your vision, or sitting out on the porch? :beatnik:

Here's why a chemical basis

Here's why a chemical basis for emotion has so much credibility with me. It's a personal story that involves drugs and it happened more than twenty years ago so I don't know if I got it exactly right.

I was once dating a nurse while I was on a short visit to Kansas. She fit my idealized vision of what a woman should look like and be like. She was beautiful and vivacious. A blond Meg Ryan type. She was a traditional girl but very flirtatious with me. For example at lunch there was one two few chairs and she came over an sat on my lap and said something to the effect of "I'll have to sit here till they find a chair".

It was the fourth of July and we were out watching a fireworks show. I am totally enamored with her. Unfortunately there were mosquitos and I am allergic. I mention this to her and she invites me back to her apartment, if you get my drift. I couldn't believe my luck.

When we got back to the apartment she asked me if I wanted something to control my reaction to the couple bites I got outside. We talked for awhile on the couch and then we naturally drifted in and started kissing. I was in heaven believe me. Now about 45 minutes in to our heavy petting I started working my way around the bases with no objections. I was thinking I could marry this girl.

Then all of the sudden I didn't like her. That's exactly how I felt. Absolutely nothing. Quite different than how this proceeded with other girlfriends I had first experenced a wonderful chemistry with. I went from that dreamy lustful state to something akin to disinterest and contempt. Have you ever been on a blind date where you just wished you could get the hell out of there because of the feeling you were having for the person. Well I felt that and I felt it about her!

I couldn't proceed. I'm was the kind of guy who doesn't feel right about sleeping, cuddling, anything with a girl unless I feel like I could spend the rest of my life with her. I wanted to have a wife and family and it no longer felt like it was going that way. I know I sound naive but I was at the time. I could not live with deceiving this girl about the way I felt so I said that I had better go. I then left, but not without getting the impression she was on to how I was feeling.

The next day I was thinking about my reaction because it was so puzzling to me. There was nothing wrong. Absolutely nothing. What happened? I then remembered that she had given me the medicine. I immediately realized that it had suppressed my emotions. I had to find out. I had to call her.

I was scheduled to stay a few more days and I called her. She answered and I was happy to her her voice again. In fact I loved her voice. However conversation was not good. I could sense that she didn't enjoy hearing from me. I asked her when I could see her again and she gave me some story about how she had plans for the duration of my stay and she could see me. I asked her what she gave me the other night and said it made me feel strange. She said that I was probably feeling drowsy from it. I wish I asked her exactly what it was but I was so confused and concerned about her excuses for not seeing me that it slipped my mind. She said to maybe call her when I get back to New York.

I knew her through someone else and talked to her about the excuse and why she hadn't discussed it with me before. I was told she was not really tied up for those days, some nonsense about her being a traditional girl, and that she didn't like how things were going. I called the nurse from new york and the conversation was awkward. She was sending me a signal without actually saying it. I'd gotten it before and recognised it, "Get lost".

I really never found out exactly what went wrong from her side. As in most cases you never know. I'm still curious because of the strange circumstances. Did she pick up on my feelings as I had imagined or did she just hate my foreplay? Was she really not a "tradition girl" and just got ticked at me for not following through? Was it something else. I'll never know.

After realizing that it was the drugs and that had effected me I had a profound change in heart about emotions. My emotions that night had felt so real. I really had disliked her. My mind didn't interpret the chemical change as drowsiness but as something more akin to revulsion. I didn't feel drowsy till I had walked back to my room.

This had a profound effect on my sense of reality. It was as if I had just become aware that my reality is akin to a dream. I now knew that my emotions were somehow manufactured by some physical process that could be interfered with by chemicals. "I" was not really in control of them and they did not neccesarrily represent who "I" truly was. I had awoken from the matrix, so to speak.

Oh, and by the way. After

Oh, and by the way. After proofreading that last post for readability (no spelling check) I realized that I didn't actually remember the point at which she told me what the drug was and what it's effects were. I had an inkling of a rememberance that I had actually asked her about the drug while I was still at her apartment. My brain had not been able to fetch the exact details and had placed the conversation perhaps in the wrong location. I still can't be sure. I am sure that if I were to tell the story again a month from now it would be slightly different. I know this from experience.

Do this experiment. Write down a few experiences that you have had at different time intervals from the present. For instance pick three different memorable experences. One from a few days ago, one from a months ago, and one from a years ago. Write one sentence to identify each event on the first page, the title page. It should be enough information in your estimation to allow you to recall the event. Then use one page each to give a detailed account. Then put them away somewhere.

Wait a year. Pull it out if you remember and read only the summary page. Do not look at the detailed pages. Write about the events to the same detail as before for each event. Now compare the stories. You will notice that important details will be different. The someone you had at the event in one version may not be there in another. You may in fact think you were with a different person than the one you were with. The order of events may be different.

Important aspects may be missing and you may have plausible intervening narrative injected to fill in the gaps. It will be narrative that is actually fictional and was manufactured by your brain as plausible filler material.

Did you walk back to your room or did you take the bus? Did you friend buy the tickets or did you? Did you miss the bus because you were late or because it came early? You will remember specific details, which on further consideration are wrong. With a hard copy version at a closer date you will be able to tell exactly what bullshit your mind was feeding you.

I had the idea of doing this because I was reminiscing with a friend about something we did together and he said, “That wasn’t me”. I said, “Oops, your right, I think that was someone else”. I never actually did it on purpose but did experience it accidentally twice when involved in some legal matters over extended periods. I actually remembered and told the story differently to someone when I couldn’t remember something. The following day I look up the written materials and there were plenty of other changes to the story I hadn’t even realized I had made.

Brian Fascinating stuff.


Fascinating stuff. Reminds me of Philip K. Dick. I do agree that, to put it in my words, emotions are more reducible to seemingly meaningless things - like brain chemistry - than some might think. And yeah, memory is less reliable than some might think. Sorry about the girl.

Heck, I'm a bad proofreader.

Heck, I'm a bad proofreader. It was that she and plans for the rest of the duration of my stay and couldn't see me.

Constant. don't worry

Constant. don't worry looking back it probably wouldn't have worked out. I'm an atheist and she was from Kansas. You never know though. I ended up marrying a brunette even though I have a thing for blondes. My wife is wonderful and if I ever end up divorced it's probably my fault.

Saying hapiness = seretonin

Saying hapiness = seretonin + dopamine is way too reductionistic and overly simplified. A raver might tell you that, but most ravers are not credible sources on anything, including their names and where they live. (I say that as someone who has been to many raves and self identified as a raver for a long time.)
There are corellations between levels of seretonin and subjective reports of mood, and drugs that increase levels of seretonin do tend to reduce depression or increase positive mood, so they are obviously linked.
However, most people don't define happiness as just positive mood, though that is part of it. It has more to do with feelings of personal fulfillment and life satisfaction, and to get that you actually have to do stuff that makes you satisfied with your life.

As for Brians story, the drug you took might have caused the feelings, or it might just have been a psychological response to moving things along too fast. You say you don't want to have sex with somebody unless you're in love with them, and for a second you felt like you were. Maybe part of you just didn't believe yourself, and to protect yourself emotionally you projected that as disgust.
Sorry for the amateur psychoanalysis (is there any other kind?), I'm just trying to say that theres many more things that go on in our heads than can be easily explained by drug interactions.

It has more to do with

It has more to do with feelings of personal fulfillment and life satisfaction, and to get that you actually have to do stuff that makes you satisfied with your life.

Maybe, maybe not. When things are working properly in our heads, then yes, we get feelings of satisfaction only when we actually do stuff. But the same is true for all our emotions. The point Brian raised, and I think it is correct, is that we can subvert our brain chemistry and thereby produce some very compelling illusions. I don't see why that can't be done with feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment.

I think one of the reason that drug addicts are attracted to drugs is that the drugs produce some very compelling illusions. The guy who maybe best put this all down on paper is Philip K. Dick.

"This doesn’t represent

"This doesn’t represent any real limit on what happiness is or the variety of simulations that can be modeled."


Travis, No, it wasn't any of


No, it wasn't any of those things. You misunderstood my concerns. I've got no concerns about moving things along to fast. I had no concerns about my purity, nor would I be concerned about her purity. In fact I married a divorcee four weeks after I met her. I have done the "I have to go now" on issues where I thought things were going to fast before and they never involved any emotional switch being flipped, nor did I feel different the next day. It wasn't a feeling of being rushed.

My only concerns came up after the emotional switch, not before. The next day I was fine and it was clear that I was still interested.

I have also had my feeling change fairly rapidly about people before but it is always related to something they said or did that I didn't like. One girl I was interested in was a programmer and she also worked part time at Macy's. I didn't know it till a conversation with her but she was only working part time as a programmer. I asked her why she didn't just work full time as a programmer. Doesn't it pay way more? She said, "Yes, but I get discounts on clothes". I think about it, "How many clothes would you have to buy in order for a 40% discount to make a difference? Holy COW! Fashion slave material Girl!!!" Bang, there was a direct connect between that sentence and my thinking she was interested in clothes way beyond my tolerance for such behavior. I went from being interested to being kind of revolted a few seconds after making the deduction.

Based on my own experiences the experience with the nurse was unique and far out of scale with any other. It was unique because it was not triggered by any sort of environmental stimulous coming through my senses nor any thoughts I was having. She said nor did anything to trigger a negative response. It was more like going numb to what was going on and then intepreting it as dislike. My brain did the interpreting for me. It was instantaneous. It was a qualia like seeing red, not a mental deduction. I did not like her and I did so for no reason. Like as an emotion. I sensed it emotionally.

I can understand that it's hard to get. I can't explain it in words beyond what I have done. If you have taken any drugs you will know that you can feel "happy" without any actual reason other than the drug. Now just imagine that I put something in you body that could despense small quantities of say cocaine into your brains pleasure center when I press a button. I think that if I depressed that button your brain would associate that pleasure with what you were presently doing any you might actually experence it that way. Thus if I turned it on when a girl came up to you and started talking then you would think you were having an emotional response to her. I, being evil, would depress the button while you were channel surfing and happen to flip on a Richard Simmons exercise show. I think you would experience this as enjoying him. I would turn you into a Simmons groupee.