Saturday, 7 June 2014

Happiness

Daniel Kahnemann, a nobel prize winning behavioral psychologist, has determined that perception of lifelong happiness has an "end-bias". Essentially his thesis, which he seems to have proven through extensive empirical research, is the self-assessment of an individual's happiness is heavily weighted towards a person's recent and current state of happiness. This is not a surprising conclusion, partly because of the inherent negative discount factor built into memories. The corollary of this thesis must be that, in those final moments, as the key events of our lives flash before us, whether we die happy or sad depends on our conscience. How many of those events are made murky with regret? Even if the distance of our death keeps our conscience at bay through our lives, surely it makes a gasping appearance in those final clarifying moments. Hence, even if there is no god to judge our deeds, we finally do it ourselves. And if this is correct, then a clear conscience is the closest thing an atheist will ever have to a heaven. This final self-assessment explains the existence of morality without religion, albeit through an inductive logic. This is marrying Dawkins philosophy with Kahnemann's research. But it is a philosophy which should work for agnostics, and the very religious equally well. We do have some empirical evidence that the desire for a clear conscience becomes the overwhelming force later in our lives: Think of all the tyrants busy giving away their money as they approach their final days.

There is no financial wisdom here, but during the hiatus nothing happening in the markets has seemed as engaging as some of the bigger questions. Perhaps there is another message here, and that is, it is never too late to press the button for a reset to factory settings.

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