Friday, 28 April 2017

Efficiency of spending and the thermodynamics of happiness

When it comes to money I've mostly been looking at how to spend more when you build a house so that you will save money while you're living there. How do you balance capital expenditure and running costs?

Another consideration with money is how spending it makes you feel. The Guardian asks, is there a proven link between housing and happiness? People often say that money can't buy happiness, but are they just going to the wrong shops?

It depends what you spend money on. A lot of research seems to show that spending money on other people will make you happier, while spending money on yourself will not. There is also little evidence that more money will make people more happy, once people have got above the poverty line. So if you're in the lucky position of having shelter, warmth, food, fresh water, employment and access to education for your children, the best thing you can do to increase global happiness may be to send any spare cash you have to people who are not as fortunate as you.

People sometimes talk about the pursuit of happiness, which I find deeply problematic. Happiness is a journey and not a destination, so the happiness is in the actual pursuit. People may be happy when they receive something, or be happy thinking about getting it, or choosing exactly what to get, or going through other activities that will lead to getting it. They may be deeply unhappy if they don't have something, especially if everyone around them has one. But once they get it, and are used to having it, their level of happiness will quickly revert to the norm. In this context, there must be a steadily increasing flow of material things for them to make us happy, and they must be new, or faster, stronger, bigger or better in some way. I don't know about you, but for me that is a pretty miserable idea!

Last year we bought a new fridge, and a new washing machine. Within a couple of days the novelty
of the new white goods wore off and they just became doors in the wall.

Last year we also bought some plane tickets at a similar cost. I certainly didn't spend the whole flight enjoying the seat, and in fact long distance flights are not terrible comfortable. I do still remember what happened at the other end of the flight, and it's very easy to think about those memories without thinking about the money we spent on the tickets. Those memories of other times, visiting other places, and meeting other people will remain long after I've forgotten about the airlines and hotel bills.

So what does this have to do with thermodynamics? Not a lot. Happiness is just chemicals in the brain.

What does it have to do with house building? Just two things spring to mind: Think about other people when you are building a house, and think about what the building will let them do.