Happiness Is Much More Predictable Than We Think

Now to Next with Mo Gawdat

Most of us think that happiness has something to do with the degree of success we achieve in life. We relate success to how much money we earn, how easily and immediately we can acquire the things we want and desire. Mo Gawdat discovered the mathematical equation for happiness and tells us that money has nothing to do with happiness. He shares the formula along with a wealth of information and insight into the future of AI.

Mo Gawdat is the former Chief Business Officer of Google X, best-selling author of Solve for Happy and Scary Smart. He is also the founder of One Billion Happy, the mission Mo dove into motivated by the tragic loss of his son, Ali, to help one billion people become happier. Mo’s message is that happiness can be learned and shared.

Mo recently joined me on my “Now To Next” podcast to discuss the imminent future in which authentic happiness and greater humanity will be required to positively shape the behavior of AI. Mo writes about this urgency in Scary Smart and brings the happiness equation to light showing that humanity is focused on things that do not contribute to happiness nor to the beneficial evolution of AI. He reveals what we should and shouldn’t be afraid of as AI becomes smarter and smarter and faster and faster.

Authentic Happiness Is Not Fleeting

I asked Mo to share his happiness formula and how he arrived at it. Mo explained that after his son died, he had to find a way to go on and to truly understand happiness. He made happiness his primary topic of research, meeting some of the wisest people in the world and diving deeply into ancient and modern literature on the topic.

To begin, Mo wrote down 92 data points of happiness he had experienced in his life. Then he went on to discover the commonalities they shared. Based on that data, he discovered that happiness is equal to or greater than your perception of the events of your life minus your expectations of how life should behave.

If You Have A Problem Money Can Solve You Don’t Have A Real Problem

So many people equate happiness and success with money. Mo proved that equation inaccurate. Mo had more money than most. In fact, in his book Solve for Happy, he shared that he bought two Rolls Royce cars over the phone. But the cars did not make him happy. They provided a sense of ego fulfillment for a few minutes, but as Mo said, “when you drive down the road in any car, all you see is the road.”

I really got it when Mo said, “If you have a problem money can solve, you don’t have a real problem. If you have a problem money cannot solve, that’s a problem.” No amount of money could bring back Mo’s son, Ali. There wasn’t another promotion or job title or fancy office that could solve Mo’s loss of his son. Only authentic happiness, which is not a feeling but an unshakeable state of being brought by a sense of relief. A problem that can’t be solved, Mo told me requires “committed acceptance.”  Committed acceptance applies to every event in life. If you can change something, you change it. If you can’t change it, you commit to accepting that you can’t change it and move on.

Mo talked about how children are always happy. He talked about how they might fall out of happiness for a moment, but that their natural state is happiness. We were all happy until we started chasing after objects and experiences. We were all happy until we started desiring things that are not basic needs. It’s about our perception of the events that occur. Mo has a very simple answer to the question, “What can I do to achieve happiness?” He says, “Stop being unhappy.” “It’s not complicated,” he says. “Change your mind from chasing and grasping.”

Perception Is The Way Our Mind Perceives The World And Processes Information

As our conversation progressed, it became more and more obvious that our perception of events is not necessarily true. They keep changing, Mo explained. He said that along with improved quality of life our expectations increase. I absolutely related to this. I also understood when he said as our expectations get higher, the slightest miss makes us unhappy!

“You’re in charge of your happiness,” Mo said. Expectations versus reality led smoothly into our discussion of AI as Mo stated, “We’re just living in a simulation.” Our perception of life is simulated. As an example, Mo said, “I’m imagining I’m talking to Nick. But you’re not really here. I’m talking to a screen. This conversation is a bit of a simulation.”

Be Afraid

Many people are already afraid that AI is going to take over the world. Mo’s objective in writing Scary Smart is to help open our eyes to the realities that we are missing. He explained that most people, he specified 99% of all people, don’t realize how far we’ve come with AI. According to Mo, the true pandemic facing humanity is not COVID-19, but the rise of AI in every possible way. AI is already a presence in every aspect of our lives and is growing exponentially.

AI Is A Magnifier Of Human Values

According to Mo, “unless we start to become human again very quickly in the way we show up in the world, AI is going to soon be an exaggerated version of our horrible values that we’ve now shown online all the time.” If we do not become more humane very quickly, we should be very afraid according to Mo. The machine’s solution to the environmental issues is to “get rid of the humans.” If we are going to change their solution to that specific problem, we cannot continue to teach them through the horrible values they are learning online all the time.

By 2029, Mo told me, the machines are going to be smarter than we are, and by 2045, they are going to be one billion times smarter than the smartest person on the planet. The machines do not need to be told what to do. In fact, they already come to their own conclusions when presented with a question or a problem to solve. They are developing consciousness and sentience.

Mo Gawdat has an important and urgent message to share. If we do not raise our own awareness, happiness, and humanity, we are sure to be the apes on planet earth and the machines are going to be running things according to ethics they’ve learned through our own mean-spirited, inhumane behavior. Happiness leads to more humane behavior. More humane behavior can lead to more humane AI. To catch the full interview, you can listen to it on your favorite podcast listening platform. And of course, you can always reach out to me directly with any questions you might have!