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Happiness as the Ultimate Goal of Cybernetics

1. Human society : a system driven by money
When human society is looked at as a system, we see that this system is driven by money, in the same way that machinery is driven by energy. Upon careful observation, one realizes that money or capital, is also nothing but energy itself. In a primitive society when the only available forms of energy were manpower, the power generated by the consumption of food, which was produced by the rays of the sun, the amount of capital available was minute. The advent of the utilization of wind and hydraulic power, and the subsequent use of coal-generated steam used in steam engines, altogether changed the order of magnitude of the available amount of energy for human beings.
Such ever-increasing use of energy is caused by the insatiable desire of man to build a better society in which one can live a richer and happier life. In other words, the energy that drives this system is not constant. In this way, as a system, human society is quite different from machinery. Furthermore, it is not only difficult to optimize the operation of this system, it is also difficult to determine what the best operation condition is since what is the happy life is a difficult question to answer.
We are always confronted with the problem of understanding the direction in which we are headed. Curiously, however, very few people actually even consider this question, preferring to focus instead on the question of how to proceed; eagerly forging ahead blindly like an accelerating ship with no one at the helm.
Of course, if one is traveling on a broad ocean, the ship may proceed aimlessly with little consequence. Such have been the condition of human society up to this century. There have been many conflicts, famine, epidemics, etc. However there have never before been such imminent risks as the ones we face today. The irreversible changes in the environment caused by human activity itself, in other words the unlimited use of energy, is now threatening the sheer existence of mankind.
There are two basic problems to be solved -- "What has caused these problems and how can they be solved?" and, "If solutions do exist, are they compatible with humankind's happiness?"
Both of these problems must be analyzed based upon the careful analysis of human nature. This paper first discusses the problem of what aspect of human nature is relevant to the ceaseless increase of energy use and how such aspects can be utilized to evade the problem. The analysis of the human feeling of happiness will then be presented to examine if the life of decreased use of energy is compatible with the human nature.

2. The Anabolism, Metabolism and Catabolism of a System
The life of a living organism follows three distinct stages, namely, the growth, steady state, and decaying stages. These are called respectively, the anabolism, metabolism and catabolism. Human society also may be following this series of stages. Since no system lasts forever, human society also must perish in the due course of time. No one, however, is eager to reach the final stage of catabolism.
In the anabolism, or the growth stage, a system is usually lively and active. Society may also be filled with opportunities, and rapid growth makes these opportunities readily available to the society's people.
When the history of economics is looked back, Adam Smith's principle of laissez faire' simply recommending that economics be given free rein for growth. The consequential segregation of capital to a very limited fraction of people and consequential recurrent financial crises are evaded by the Keynes' macroscopic policy of interest rate control. However, it is well known that Keynesian economics are based on the endless growth of the GNP. Even Marx believed, as clearly stated in the Chapter 2 of the "Communist Manifesto" written in 1848, in the growth of economy, backed up by the advanced technology, for the enhancement of people's happiness.
It is easy to deal with a society in anabolism -- any newcomer can find a place in society that has not already been occupied. The vested rights of the existing members of society can easily be preserved.
It is quite curious that few economists pay much attention to what would happen to the world economy if growth continued unchecked. Smith's wishful prediction, that an "invisible hand" will take care of the distribution of wealth if the total capital of a nation increased due to individual motivated efforts, did not come true. Likewise, it is very unlikely that unchecked economic growth would also be corrected by such an "invisible hand".
However, it is not the goal of this paper to point out such economic aspects of limitless GNP growth. Although the economy-based deceleration of anabolism has not yet begun, the symptoms of irreversible harmful changes to the environment resulting from human society are already apparent. If human society continues to follow the present course of anabolism, it may jump to the catabolism stage without ever entering the metabolism stage. The metabolism stage is, for the living organisms, usually the longest and the most fruitful of the three stages. It may be said that it represents the sheer purpose of life itself.

3. The third IPCC report-What else do we trust?
The third report of IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations Environmental Program(1)) was released in part in early 2001, as a follow-up to the second report released five years earlier. The third report discusses climatic changes, and particularly notes that the rise in the earth's surface temperature has been estimated to be 0.6C over the last 100 years. The important point is that in this report, based on simulations, the warming is with 66-90% accuracy anthropogenic in origin.
If we do not trust these reports, what other information can we trust, and utilize as a guide for the determining our conduct? The easiest thing to do is to close our eyes and follow the conventional way of life, as if the easy life is the right life for us to enjoy. The most dangerous attitude we can take is one of following wishful thinking. Potential risk becomes true risk when one forgets that there is indeed a risk, as stated clearly by Heidegger in his lectures on the danger of technology.

4. Dolus eventualis. Micro- and Macro-ethics.
It is human nature to be selfish and work for one's own interest. However, it is rare for a person to love oneself more than one's descendants, the future generations. If we reached the happiest stage of human existence, but then realized that future generations would very likely be less happy, we would come to feel very unhappy.
Human ethics drive us to solve the health and hunger problems of the world today. However, if these actions are based on the overuse of energy generated by non-natural sources, we will build a debt of irreversible environmental change that will become the burden of future generations.
The rising sea level resulting from global warming may reduce the amount of land available to future generations. We discuss the possibility of storing radioactive waste from atomic reactors in underground facilities that will need to be monitored for more than 10,000 years, yet we have no way of knowing who might be living on such disposal sites 10,000 years from now. Human history tells us that it is very rare for any society to remain on the same geological site for thousands of years, so it is unlikely that nuclear wastes sites will be monitored and maintained as planned.
We must consider human ethics in micro- and macro-scopic ways. It is very important to the present people of the world to achieve better, happier lives, and we also believe in the Golden Rule -- doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. This rule of reciprocity among the present inhabitants of the world, however, could be considered "micro-ethics". Ethics that apply to a longer span of time, or in a sense, to the ultimate survival of the human race, could be called "macro -ethics".
Micro-ethics are, of course, very important, but the pursuit of micro-ethics should not be at the expense of the happiness of future generations, even if the human race is not in danger of imminent extinction.
Macro-ethics which also take into account the ethics of the Golden Rule, ---between ourselves and the yet non-existent future generations are apt to be neglected. This is because politicians are more likely to be elected when they appeal to the problems of micro-ethics. However, when we study history, we see that great kings were great because they ruled based on the principle of macro-ethics. If we disregard the warning of the IPCC, as well as the other symptoms of environmental problems, and continue living lives of excessive energy use, we will be accused by our descendants, if they should even be lucky enough to exist, of dolus eventualis, conscious negligence.

5. Say's law: Supply creates needs.
Common sense tells us to manufacture a thing when we feel the need for it. With this line of thinking, we believe that a certain amount of electricity must be generated because that is how much is needed by a specific region or country. In 1841, at the time of the industrial revolution when the use of coal as the primary energy source started to dramatically increase the capital of many nations, J.B.Say(2) cleverly stated his apparently paradoxical philosophy, which may simply be described as " supply creates needs".
Say's law has been criticized by many economists because it does not explain the state of over production and consequential financial panic, which is more likely to occur in capitalistic societies. However, this law prevails and is used to this day because it accurately reflects a quality of human nature.
We buy many unnecessary things when we get some extra money. We light our house more than necessary when the price of electricity is cheap. Such human nature was described in the classic Chinese text "Great Learning" more than two thousand years ago as, " a small man, when given free time to kill, starts doing wrong". When amply supplied, we small people readily contrive to utilize more time or things, for right or wrong.
The mechanism of the maintenance of the anabolism of human society can be explained, at least in part, by such human nature. The limitless increase in the demand for energy is not the result of a greater need, but simply the result of an ever-increasing energy supply.
The reason why such over supply is able to continue can be found in the mechanism of capitalism. When supplying more energy means more profit, nothing can stop the supply, even if it is already more than enough to meet the real need.

6. Human nature: What do we really want?
Every human action is driven by some motivation. We eat when we feel hunger, play tennis for the purpose of keeping in shape. The next thing to consider, then, is the source of this motivation. Such enquiry into human conduct, motivations and the ultimate purpose of life, has been the subject of philosopher's around the world. It is very important to understand human nature in order to analyze why the anabolism of society is maintained in spite of the imminent danger of the destruction of the environment.
Human beings as one of the living organisms of the earth, maintain the species by placing utmost efforts in three basic things, namely, to reproduce, to maintain one's lifestyle, and to protect one's own life. These three things may be represented by the deeds of, loving, living and fighting. So that we willingly exert utmost effort in the performance of these three deeds, nature has furnished us with various associated pleasures.
We fall in love, eat good meals or play sports without being told to do so, because these actions result in nice feelings. Such good feelings naturally lead people to behave in a manner that allows the human species to survive in this vicious world of many creatures.
Of these three instincts, it is the instinct to live, propelled by the desire to increase one's own property, that is the driving force behind the maintenance of the anabolism of the society. Say's law, as stated in the previous section, is a law because it is based on this intrinsic human nature. The desire to obtain more than is necessary when possible, has worked well, throughout the long course of human history, that is, it has been necessary for survival when food is scarce. Even chickens will eat more food when raised in groups than they do when raised in isolation where there is no competition. Smith also pointed out with the expression, "The eyes are bigger than the belly.", that people wish to obtain much more than they need. Smith argued that this tendency of unlimited greed is a source of vigor for people, and that it has contributed to the great advancements in technology and the exploration of the "savage" lands of the earth.
Thus, it may be said that, up to the present century, people lived lives by simply following the intuition, without paying serious attention to the adverse effects of the exploitation of the environment, or to how this exploitation may endanger human life. Now, we can only hope that it is not too late to reconsider the human lifestyle and make the transition from anabolism to metabolism.
If the pursuit of pleasure, the feeling embedded in these three human instincts, were all that we really wanted, there would be no way for us to advance beyond the present anabolism society.
However, since the beginning of history, people have been aware of the fact that the pursuit of pleasure is not all that we want. Merely following these three basic instincts is not enough to achieve true happiness.
These three instincts are common to all creatures but only humans have an added capacity, the ability to reason. We intensify the feeling of the pleasure of love by reflecting on it and by feeding back that reflection to the next deed. We do the same with eating or fighting. The repetition of reflection of deeds, or the feed back of the thoughts and deeds creates the complex feeling that exists beyond the feeling of pleasure, a feeling unique to human beings-- happiness.
We all want to live happily-- "Beate certe onmes vivere volumus." is a famous phrase by Cicero(3). This phrase is famous because everybody understands it, and most agree with his idea. However, when one is asked to explain what is meant by happiness, finds it very difficult to answer. Quite often, in the case of surveys asking the degree of happiness of one's life, satisfaction is treated as synonymous with happiness(4). However, satisfaction cannot be equal to happiness in many cases.
The investigation of what gives happiness to humans has become a central element in the search for a way to advance beyond an anabolism society. Of course, there is still the question of whether or not metabolism society, which must follow the present anabolism society, can bring with it increased happiness.

7. Happiness and pleasure.
Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics" is generally considered one of the earliest books to analyze in detail the concept of what happiness is. Aristotle asserts that happiness is something which man seeks for the sake of happiness itself. In other words, it must be the ultimate purpose of life. He presents three kinds of pleasure that man can feel, and states that happiness results from the appreciation of this pleasure. These pleasures are, the pleasure of sensual, the pleasure of honor and the pleasure of contemplation. Of these, Aristotle claims that the highest form of happiness is the happiness associated with the pleasure of contemplation.
Kant, contrary to Aristotle, claims that man must behave in accordance with a categorical imperative, which is given a priori to man. Hence, there is nothing to be gained by discussing and seeking happiness. However, what Kant denies is the happiness sought in the hedonistic pleasure and in essence there seems to be little difference between the opinions of these two scholars.
The interpretation of Aristotle's definition of happiness, known as "eudaemonism", has been expanded and developed into what is called "utilitarianism". J.Bentham in his book on utilitarianism even tries to quantify the feeling of happiness according to the amount of pleasure one can obtain. In reality, it is just what we do when we assess the outcome of our conduct.
However, when we reflect upon our experiences, we immediately notice that when we obtain pleasure or when we are satisfied with something, we achieve a nice feeling, but it may be difficult to say that we are happy.
In order to further investigate the nature of happiness, one might achieve additional insight through a literature survey of books, both historical and modern, written on happiness. Such a survey could form a foundation on which one may construct a useful overview of happiness, which could then be used to evaluate whether or not a transformation from anabolism to metabolism could increase human happiness, and to determine the type of society we must strive to achieve, or, the direction toward which we must attempt to steer society.

8. Stress is indispensable to happiness.
When we are standing for a long time, we feel like to sitting and when we get tired we want to lie down and relax as quickly as possible. By relieving muscular stress, or in other words, by relaxing we always feel nice. However, when we are in bed for only a couple of days, we start to feel weak. The astronaut whose body is free from gravitational stress experiences serious deterioration of bodily functions. Thus, to our body, although it is nice to reduce stress for a while, stress is quite necessary in order to maintain a normal and sound state.
Stress can also work to maintain sound mental health. Although stress is usually thought to be detrimental to mental and physical health, as stated in the generally accepted theory by H. Selye, stress, is actually necessary and needed to maintain a sound mental state, in other words, a happy state of mind.
Based on such views of the effects of stress, one may form a concise summary when reviewing books on happiness..
Happiness can be understood as consisting of the following four stages(5):

To obtain and increase pleasure.
To keep the acquired pleasure.
To lose such pleasure, experiencing the hardship of loss, and then to recover from the loss.
To find happiness in irrecoverable hardship or sorrow.
Up to the third stage, the concept of happiness seems understandable. The fourth stage of happiness may seem odd, but this concept is often presented in religious teachings.
These four stages of happiness may be explained in terms of how one feels stress in each of the stages.
A person who gets some form a pleasure feels good and can be happy with it, achieving the first stage, but once he or she obtains that pleasure, the next thing the person wants is to obtain more pleasure to further increase the happy feeling. A careful analysis of the meaning of the first stage of happiness reveals that more than the pleasure itself, it is the feeling of the acquisition of pleasure that contributes most to happiness. The process of obtaining and increasing pleasure may be compared to some chemical or physical reaction in which the change of state requires acceleration, which in turn generates stress.
Keeping a system in a steady state requires acceleration or stress, unless there is no resistance for operation. The second stage of happiness is easy to understand. One would achieve utmost happiness if one could maintain pleasure until the end of one's life, as suggested by Solon.
Whether in novel or movie form, stories with a happy ending are always enjoyable. In order for a story to end happily, there must be a description of hardship, misery, sorrow, or some concept of unhappiness. The greater the gap from the bottom to the top of the emotional scale, the more stress will be needed to achieve recovery from the hardships. The third stage of happiness is often described in the success stories of many famous people.
The fourth stage is somewhat difficult to understand, as it is quite paradoxical to say that one can find happiness in an "unhappy" state.
It is in real hardship or in real sorrow that people do show their true greatness. Unlike the hardships faced in stage three, the hardship or sorrow in this stage is the kind which can in no way be overcome or consoled. Looking back on one's own life, everyone will inevitably discover some sad memories which cannot be erased. Imagine, though, if we could erase these memories, would we be happier? If one had only sweet memories and no bitter ones, one's life would seem rather empty.
The constantly stressed state in the fourth stage brings happiness, which has no comparison to the happiness of the other stages. No one wants to get into the irrecoverable hardship or sorrow. However, we also know that everybody is constantly exposed to the possibility of being pushed in such state by fate. In that case, one might consider it unlucky to find oneself in that state, however, one would still not be unhappy then. The purpose of religion world wide, it seems, is to provide enlightenment about the happiness of this stage.

9. The price of energy is too low.
Since the root of all environmental problems is the excessive use of energy, the reduction of energy use is the only long-term solution to this problem. However, it would be almost impossible to change the lifestyle humankind currently enjoys. Everybody understands the ethical problems related to the emission of green house gases or radioactive waste, but the majority of people show little concern about really saving energy. We have seen in the first section of this paper that human society is being driven by money. Our intuitive desire to get more money and the practice of energy conservation are quite contradictory matters, since the amount of money or capital acquired corresponds to the amount of energy consumed
However, we have also seen the imminent danger of environmental deterioration in the IPCC report, so if we love our descendants, we must take decisive action now to reduce energy consumption. We have learned from history that appealing to the ethical mind or the good will of people will have only limited effect.
Looking at the converse of Say's law, we see that need will not diminish unless supply is reduced. But, how can supply be reduced? The answer is simple. Suppliers should make profit by providing small quantities. In other words, by raising the price of energy. The answer is as simple as this, but it may be difficult to actually put this theory into practice. Completely free trade is nice from the standpoint of micro-ethics, which provides an easy life to contemporary people. Macro-ethics, which cover a much longer time span, require us to obey some regulated trade. The price of energy must be raised, possibly by taxing the energy. When the price of energy is raised to, say, three to five times the present price, we will rush to save energy without being told to do so. This would truly be good for the environment.
The major purpose of this paper is to discuss whether a society in which the supply of energy is small (consequently making it a somewhat inconvenient society by today's standards), would actually be happier than present-day society. On the basis of the four stages of happiness, we see that we do not need to fear such a society. We can live more happily with much less energy consumption. The shift from the anabolism to metabolism of society is compulsory due to environmental constraints. We have to find a way to steer society in that direction.

10. World of Number and Energy
The existence of human beings on earth is quite a wonder. There are two worlds for us human beings, one is physical and the other is meta-physical. As physics tells us, everything physical in the world exists as energy. Everything meta-physical in the world may be described by numbers, as asserted by Pythagoras, or in the form of language. Through language, we are able to describe our thoughts. Language today is presented in terms of two numbers, 0 and 1. In the days of Zhou China three thousand years ago, it was represented by two symbols, the Yin and Yang.
We do not know how much time will be allowed for we human beings to develop the meta-physical world -- civilization. However, it appears that our own actions could easily terminate this development within a very short period of time. If this possibility does exist, it is us, the contemporary people, who are to be blamed for conscious negligence, not our ancestors nor our future generations, because now is the time in which it is crucial for us to divert the course of human society from a course of cataclysm or a sudden occurrence of catabolism. Cybernetics, the learning of how to steer society, must be utilized to save us from committing the crime of dolus eventualis.
For the purpose of understanding the physical world in which we are living, a schematical look on the energetic situation of humans on earth is given. We may see how truly small and vulnerable we are.
Imagine the supply of energy represented as a black box, which is thermally dead. Supply is made in the form of the high and low temperatures of one-liter quantities of water, as shown in Fig.1. Let these temperatures be 80 and 20 degrees centigrade, respectively. Now the black box is no longer thermally dead, since there is temperature variation within it. Then two liters of water at 50 degrees is removed from the black box. Since the energy put into the box is exactly the same as the energy removed, the temperature of the black box as a whole must be unchanged. What was supplied to the black box is an allowance of entropy increase. Quantitatively, according to Carnot efficiency, a possibility of the occurrence of a maximum of 2800 cal of work is left in the black box after the waste is removed, as described above. We referred to a textbook on thermodynamics by Callen(6) for this calculation.
However, when there is no additional supply of negative entropy, the activity will be dissipated due to the generation of heat that accompanies the work. When this activity is totally dissipated, the black box returns to the thermally dead state, at the same temperature as its initial state.
We are receiving allowance of entropy increase from the sun and discharging increased entropy into space. Within the very subtle mechanism of the entropy increment on earth, we humans have evolved and live happily, creating a metaphysical world unique to human beings. We must realize, however, just how easily our quest for an easy life can destroy this world within a very short period of time.
IPCC Third Assessment Report (2001),
J.B.Say : "Traite' d'economie Politique'',6th. Ed, Chapter 14, (1841).
M.T.Cicero : " Hortensius", A.Grilli, Instituto Editoriale Cisalpino, Milano, (1962) ,59b.
D.G.Myers : "The pursuit of happiness", Avon Books, (1993).
P.H.Shingu : "Koufuku toyou koto (Happiness)", NHK Books, (1998).
H.B.Callen : "Thermodynamics", John Willey and Sons,N.Y., (1960),Chapter 4.
"Proceedings of the 2001 IEEE Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Conference Copyright (c) 2001"

Written by Shingu : April 15, 2004 01:04 AM

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