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September 30, 2009


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Technology seems to be the source of many hindrances to objective well-being as well as the provider of pseudo-solutions to these hindrances.

For most of human evolution, sweet and fatty foods were scarce and required a good deal of physical effort to obtain. People had to expend a lot of energy in order to access foods with a high energy content so ultimately there was more of a balance between amounts of energy consumed and spent. Today someone can simply drive to a restaurant or have food delivered right to their door. Perhaps if people were required to walk a couple of miles in order to get a cheeseburger the obesity epidemic wouldn't be such a problem.

It's also my understanding that artificial substitutes for fat and sugar don't trigger the same neurological mechanisms as do the genuine substances. They are, therefore, a poor solution to satisfy our cravings while maintaining objective well-being. Self discipline, in the form of moderation and exercise, is probably a better solution.

Of course, the issue of the time constraints that make fast food so tempting is a separate problem that is more of an issue with our culture than our technology inasmuch as the two can be separated. Eating and exercise have been marginalized as luxury activities that people should do in their increasingly scarce spare time. Overall levels of objective and subjective well-being would probably increase if people spent their time in ways that are more in line with their ancestors. More time would be spent engaging in mild to moderate levels of physical activity and less time would be spent working on expense reports, writing dissertations, playing video games, and commenting on blogs.

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