Have you ever noticed that you are just one more gadget away from pure technology bliss? If only I could get the newest back-lit, bluetooth, high resolution, 64 Mb turnip twaddler, I wouldn’t ever need another gadget. But a funny thing happens a week after you get back from the electronics store…now, you need something else. I had recognized this pattern in myself, but recently discovered that, not only am I not the only one, but psychologists have named this: hedonic adaptation. This comes from studies of happiness. For example, lottery winners, right after they win, report that they are very happy. However, they quickly adapt, and, after a while, their sense of happiness and well being returns to their pre-winning levels. The same is true for technological innovations. No matter how dramatically a bit of technology improves our lives, we quickly take it for granted and start looking for the next thing. This helps explain why people in 2000 were not measurably happier than those in 1900, even though technology has made our lives astoundingly easier.
For more information about this, check out this article fascinating article Technology and Happiness in Technology Review. And, as much as it seems like it, that new Powerbook with Tiger on it won’t make you blissfully happy…well, maybe just a little. I’m willing to try.