Friday, September 11, 2015

Happiness Formula

Many people have tried to express human happiness in a mathematical formula. One of my personal favorites is created by Scott Adams (Dilbert fame). However, after many deep thoughts and a few drinks with my buddies I have concluded that Scott did not get the formula quite correct.

The correct and official Happiness Formula is shown in Figure 1. below
Fig 1. Happiness Formula

While Scott tried to explain happiness as a linear combination of each component he missed a few important points.

Integral over time  - human happiness varies over time. Happiness is a fragile mental state that can easily go up or down. True happiness must be an integral over tan observation time period.  The time period could be one fantastic night out with good friends celebrating your promotion or over several months when you are fighting for your life in a cancer treatment center. It could also be over a lifetime when you are on your death bed thinking of your life and all the happy experiences. It can also be over the time period when you fell madly in love, got married  and eventually divorced. When you select a different time horizon, you end up with a different happiness value.

Normalization  - to be able to measure happiness you need to normalize the value by dividing the sum of components with expectations. If you expect the world you might not be happy even with the greatest partner or having billion dollars in your pocket. Your happiness depends on your expectations; winning a million dollars in a lottery when you least expect will boost your happiness for a while. If you expect to win 2 millions but you only get 1 million you will be disappointed. A small kid visiting DisneyWorld for the first time is super happy about the experience; an adult visiting same place for the 5th time gets easily bored and is not very happy.

Individual Coefficient - Ci also known as "Ida's constant" by the Finnish waitress who validated Happiness Formula after our happy group had spent significant effort and had many drinks to formulate happiness. This coefficient scales the happiness value for each individual to comply with International Unit of Happiness, aka  "Anand".

Standardized Unit  -  Anand ( आनन्द ) is a Hindi word for happiness.  One Anand is the unit of happiness, much like Tesla is the unit of magnetic flux density.

So there you have it, a mathematically rigorous formula of Happiness.

In the next post we focus on measurement techniques of Happiness and how to calibrate your measurement system against the International Anand standard held in safety in our Boston based laboratory.

Until next time.


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