By Daniel Gilbert, Vintage, March 20, 2007, 978-1400077427

Daniel Gilbert is riotously funny, and incredibly smart. He’s a Harvard psychologist who challenges our beliefs about our emotions, and backs it up with a gaggle of studies. If you see stray numbers floating throughout the snippets below, it’s due to an incredible number of end notes.

I first learned of Gilbert in this videofilmed at the TED conference in Feb 2004. It was so entertaining and shocking, I had to read his book. The book is better than the talk, because I like books better, and because it covers way more than his short talk could ever cover.

[k146] PRIESTS VOW TO REMAIN CELIBATE, physicians vow to do no harm, and letter carriers vow to swiftly complete their appointed rounds despite snow, sleet, and split infinitives.

[k180] The greatest achievement of the human brain is its ability to imagine objects and episodes that do not exist in the realm of the real, and it is this ability that allows us to think about the future. As one philosopher noted, the human brain is an “anticipation machine,” and “making future” is the most important thing it does.

[k190] Just as an abacus can put two and two together to produce four without having thoughts about arithmetic, so brains can add past to present to make future without ever thinking about any of them. In fact, it doesn’t even require a brain to make predictions such as these. With just a little bit of training, the giant sea slug known as Aplysia parvula can learn to predict and avoid an electric shock to its gill, and as anyone with a scalpel can easily demonstrate, sea slugs are inarguably brainless. Computers are also brainless, but they use precisely the same trick the sea slug does when they turn down your credit card because you were trying to buy dinner in Paris after buying lunch in Hoboken.

[k253] Adults do much better, of course. When a thirtyish Manhattanite is asked where she thinks she might retire, she mentions Miami, Phoenix, or some other hotbed of social rest. She may love her gritty urban existence right now, but she can imagine that in a few decades she will value bingo and prompt medical attention more than art museums and squeegee men.

[k304] Contrary to the conventional medical wisdom of the previous century, the frontal lobe did make a difference. The difference was that some folks seemed better off without it. But while some surgeons were touting the benefits of frontal lobe damage, others were noticing the costs. Although patients with frontal lobe damage often performed well on standard intelligence tests, memory tests, and the like, they showed severe impairments on any test–even the very simplest test–that involved planning.

[k351] This frontal lobe–the last part of the human brain to evolve, the slowest to mature, and the first to deteriorate in old age–is a time machine that allows each of us to vacate the present and experience the future before it happens. No other animal has a frontal lobe quite like ours, which is why we are the only animal that thinks about the future as we do.

[k358] Now, why would anyone go all the way to India and spend his time, money, and brain cells just to learn how not to think about the future? Because, as anyone who has ever tried to learn meditation knows, not thinking about the future is much more challenging than being a psychology professor.

[k381] Forestalling pleasure is an inventive technique for getting double the juice from half the fruit. Indeed,

[k444] The fact is that human beings come into the world with a passion for control, they go out of the world the same way, and research suggests that if they lose their ability to control things at any point between their entrance and their exit, they become unhappy, helpless, hopeless, and depressed. And occasionally dead.

[k458] Apparently, gaining control can have a positive impact on one’s health and well-being, but losing control can be worse than never having had any at all.

[k516] By the time you finish these chapters, I hope you will understand why most of us spend so much of our lives turning rudders and hoisting sails, only to find that Shangri-la isn’t what and where we thought it would be.

[k607] Everyone who has observed human behavior for more than thirty continuous seconds seems to have noticed that people are strongly, perhaps even primarily, perhaps even single-mindedly, motivated to feel happy.

[k633] As the philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote, “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question.”

[k640] In short, emotional happiness is fine for pigs, but it is a goal unworthy of creatures as sophisticated and capable as we. Now, let’s take a moment to think about the difficult position that someone who holds this view is in, and let’s guess how they might resolve it. If you considered it perfectly tragic for life to be aimed at nothing more substantive and significant than a feeling, and yet you could not help but notice that people spend their days seeking happiness, then what might you be tempted to conclude? Bingo!

[k653] A few centuries later, Christian theologians added a nifty twist to this classical conception: Happiness was not merely the product of a life of virtue but the reward for a life of virtue, and that reward was not necessarily to be expected in this lifetime.

[k660] By muddling causes and consequences, philosophers have been forced to construct tortured defenses of some truly astonishing claims–for example, that a Nazi war criminal who is basking on an Argentinean beach is not really happy, whereas the pious missionary who is being eaten alive by cannibals is.

[k669] Or how about this one: “The computer obeyed all Ten Commandments and was happy as a clam”? Again, sorry, but no. There is some remote possibility that clams can be happy because there is some remote possibility that clams have the capacity to feel. There may be something it is like to be a clam, but we can be fairly certain that there is nothing it is like to be a computer, and hence the computer cannot be happy no matter how many of its neighbor’s wives it failed to covet.

[k867] Studies such as these demonstrate that once we have an experience, we cannot simply set it aside and see the world as we would have seen it had the experience never happened.

[k894] Experience stretching is a bizarre phrase but not a bizarre idea. We often say of others who claim to be happy despite circumstances that we believe should preclude it that “they only think they’re happy because they don’t know what they’re missing.” Okay, sure, but that’s the point. Not knowing what we’re missing can mean that we are truly happy under circumstances that would not allow us to be happy once we have experienced the missing thing. It does not mean that those who don’t know what they’re missing are less happy than those who have it.

[k910] But we’ve talked enough about me and my vacation. Let’s talk about me and my guitar. I’ve played the guitar for years, and I get very little pleasure from executing an endless repetition of three-chord blues. But when I first learned to play as a teenager, I would sit upstairs in my bedroom happily strumming those three chords until my parents banged on the ceiling and invoked their rights under the Geneva Convention.

[k1012] Indeed, research shows that physiological arousal can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and our interpretation of our arousal depends on what we believe caused it. It is possible to mistake fear for lust, apprehension for guilt, shame for anxiety.

[k1078] This dissociation between awareness and experience can cause the same sort of spookiness with regard to our emotions. Some people seem to be keenly aware of their moods and feelings, and may even have a novelist’s gift for describing their every shade and flavor. Others of us come equipped with a somewhat more basic emotional vocabulary that, much to the chagrin of our romantic partners, consists primarily of good, not so good, and I already told you.

[k1105] But like happiness, science is one of those words that means too many things to too many people and is thus often at risk of meaning nothing at all. My father is an eminent biologist who, after pondering the matter for some decades, recently revealed to me that psychology can’t really be a science because science requires the use of electricity. Apparently shocks to your ankles don’t count. My own definition of science is a bit more eclectic, but one thing about which I, my dad, and most other scientists can agree is that if a thing cannot be measured, then it cannot be studied scientifically.

[k1296] I’ll tell you about the first of them. The best way to understand this particular shortcoming of imagination (the faculty that allows us to see the future) is to understand the shortcomings of memory (the faculty that allows us to see the past) and perception (the faculty that allows us to see the present). As you will learn, the shortcoming that causes us to misremember the past and misperceive the present is the very same shortcoming that causes us to misimagine the future.

[k1330] This general finding–that information acquired after an event alters memory of the event–has been replicated so many times in so many different laboratory and field settings that it has left most scientists convinced of two things. First, the act of remembering involves “filling in” details that were not actually stored; and second, we generally cannot tell when we are doing this because filling in happens quickly and unconsciously.

[k1466] Experiments such as these suggest that we do not outgrow realism so much as we learn to outfox it, and that even as adults our perceptions are characterized by an initial moment of realism. According to this line of reasoning, we automatically assume that our subjective experience of a thing is a faithful representation of the thing’s properties. Only later–if we have the time, energy, and ability–do we rapidly repudiate that assumption and consider the possibility that the real world may not actually be as it appears to us.

[k1778] Perception, imagination, and memory are remarkable abilities that have a good deal in common, but in at least one way, perception is the wisest of the triplets.

[k1796] When we spy the future through our prospectiscopes, the clarity of the next hour and the fuzziness of the next year can lead us to make a variety of mistakes.

[k1818] MOST REASONABLY SIZED LIBRARIES have a shelf of futurist tomes from the 1950s with titles such as Into the Atomic Age and The World of Tomorrow.

[k1822] Flip a few more and you’ll see a sketch of a modern city under a glass dome, complete with nuclear trains, antigravity cars, and well-dressed citizens gliding smoothly to work on conveyor-belted sidewalks. You will also notice that some things are missing. The men don’t carry babies, the women don’t carry briefcases, the children don’t have pierced eyebrows or nipples, and the mice go squeak instead of click. There are no skateboarders or panhandlers, no smartphones or smartdrinks, no spandex, latex, Gore-Tex, Amex, FedEx, or Wal-Mart. What’s more, all the people of African, Asian, and Hispanic origin seem to have missed the future entirely. Indeed, what makes these drawings so charming is that they are utterly, fabulously, and ridiculously wrong.

[k1839] The litany of faulty forecasts, missed marks, and prophetic pratfalls is extensive, but let me ask you to ignore for a moment the sheer number of such mistakes and notice instead the similarity of their forms. The writer Arthur C. Clarke formulated what has come to be known as Clarke’s first law: “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.” In other words, when scientists make erroneous predictions, they almost always err by predicting that the future will be too much like the present.

[k1857] The list goes on, but what’s important to notice for our purposes is that in each of these instances, people misremember their own pasts by recalling that they once thought, did, and said what they now think, do, and say.

[k1941] Using the visual and auditory areas to execute acts of imagination is a truly ingenious bit of engineering, and evolution deserves the Microsoft Windows Award for installing it in every one of us without asking permission.

[k2030] We cannot feel good about an imaginary future when we are busy feeling bad about an actual present. But rather than recognizing that this is the inevitable result of the Reality First policy, we mistakenly assume that the future event is the cause of the unhappiness we feel when we think about it.

[k2045] Imagination cannot easily transcend the boundaries of the present, and one reason for this is that it must borrow machinery that is owned by perception. The fact that these two processes must run on the same platform means that we are sometimes confused about which one is running.

[k2113] Among life’s cruelest truths is this one: Wonderful things are especially wonderful the first time they happen, but their wonderfulness wanes with repetition. Just compare the first and last time your child said “Mama” or your partner said “I love you” and you’ll know exactly what I mean. When we have an experience–hearing a particular sonata, making love with a particular person, watching the sun set from a particular window of a particular room–on successive occasions, we quickly begin to adapt to it, and the experience yields less pleasure each time. Psychologists call this habituation, economists call it declining marginal utility, and the rest of us call it marriage.

[k2160] Because time is so difficult to imagine, we sometimes imagine it as a spatial dimension.

[k2167] We can inspect a mental image and see who is doing what and where, but not when they are doing it.

[k2168] We can inspect a mental image and see who is doing what and where, but not when they are doing it. In general, mental images are atemporal.

[k2245] Economists shake their heads at this kind of behavior and will correctly tell you that your bank account contains absolute dollars and not “percentages off.” If it is worth driving across town to save $50, then it doesn’t matter which item you’re saving it on because when you spend these dollars on gas and groceries, the dollars won’t know where they came from. But these economic arguments fall on deaf ears because human beings don’t think in absolute dollars. They think in relative dollars, and fifty is or isn’t a lot of dollars depending on what it is relative to (which is why people who don’t worry about whether their mutual-fund manager is keeping 0.5 or 0.6 percent of their investment will nonetheless spend hours scouring the Sunday paper for a coupon that gives them 40 percent off a tube of toothpaste). Marketers, politicians, and other agents of influence know about our obsession with relative magnitudes and routinely turn it to their own advantage.

[k2330] Comparing and Presentism Now let’s step back for a moment and ask what all of these facts about comparison mean for our ability to imagine future feelings. The facts are these: (a) value is determined by the comparison of one thing with another; (b) there is more than one kind of comparison we can make in any given instance; and (c) we may value something more highly when we make one kind of comparison than when we make a different kind of comparison. These facts suggest that if we want to predict how something will make us feel in the future, we must consider the kind of comparison we will be making in the future and not the kind of comparison we happen to be making in the present.

[k2474] For much of the last half of the twentieth century, experimental psychologists timed rats as they ran mazes and observed pigeons as they pecked keys because they believed that the best way to understand behavior was to map the relation between a stimulus and an organism’s response to that stimulus. By carefully measuring what an organism did when it was presented with a physical stimulus, such as a light, a sound, or a piece of food, psychologists hoped to develop a science that linked observable stimuli to observable behavior without using vague and squishy concepts such as meaning to connect them. Alas, this simpleminded project was doomed from the start, because while rats and pigeons may respond to stimuli as they are presented in the world, people respond to stimuli as they are represented in the mind.

[k2507] Unlike rats and pigeons, then, we respond to meanings–and context, frequency, and recency are three of the factors that determine which meaning we will infer when we encounter an ambiguous stimulus. But there is another factor of equal importance and greater interest. Like rats and pigeons, each of us has desires, wishes, and needs. We are not merely spectators of the world but investors in it, and we often prefer that an ambiguous stimulus mean one thing rather than another.

[k2561] A toaster, a firm, a university, a horse, and a senator are all just fine and dandy, but when they become our toaster, firm, university, horse, and senator they are instantly finer and dandier. Studies such as these suggest that people are quite adept at finding a positive way to view things once those things become their own.

[k2593] Analogously, when we face the pain of rejection, loss, misfortune, and failure, the psychological immune system must not defend us too well (“I’m perfect and everyone is against me”) and must not fail to defend us well enough (“I’m a loser and I ought to be dead”). A healthy psychological immune system strikes a balance that allows us to feel good enough to cope with our situation but bad enough to do something about it (“Yeah, that was a lousy performance and I feel crummy about it, but I’ve got enough confidence to give it a second shot”).

This is a very Popperian observation.

[k2610] Scientists are credible because they draw conclusions from observations, and ever since the empiricists trumped the dogmatists and became the kings of ancient Greek medicine, westerners have had a special reverence for conclusions that are based on things they can see.

[k2619] How do we manage to think of ourselves as great drivers, talented lovers, and brilliant chefs when the facts of our lives include a pathetic parade of dented cars, disappointed partners, and deflated soufflFIXMEfffd(C)s? The answer is simple: We cook the facts. There are many different techniques for collecting, interpreting, and analyzing facts, and different techniques often lead to different conclusions, which is why scientists disagree about the dangers of global warming, the benefits of supply-side economics, and the wisdom of low-carbohydrate diets. Good scientists deal with this complication by choosing the techniques they consider most appropriate and then accepting the conclusions that these techniques produce, regardless of what those conclusions might be.

[k2626] Decades of research suggests that when it comes to collecting and analyzing facts about ourselves and our experiences, most of us have the equivalent of an advanced degree in Really Bad Science.

[k2636] By controlling the sample of information to which they were exposed, these people indirectly controlled the conclusions they would draw.

One of the reasons I left the financial forecasting industry is this tendency to control the data to suit the needs of the models.

[k2677] This tendency to seek information about those who have done more poorly than we have is especially pronounced when the stakes are high. People with life-threatening illnesses such as cancer are particularly likely to compare themselves with those who are in worse shape, which explains why 96 percent of the cancer patients in one study claimed to be in better health than the average cancer patient. And if we can’t find people who are doing more poorly than we are, we may go out and create them.

[k2700] Although the word fact seems to suggest a sort of unquestionable irrefutability, facts are actually nothing more than conjectures that have met a certain standard of proof. If we set that standard high enough, then nothing can ever be proved, including the “fact” of our own existence. If we set the standard low enough, then all things are true and equally so.

[k2777] We may refer to the processes by which the psychological immune system does its job as “tactics” or “strategies,” but these terms–with their inevitable connotations of planning and deliberation–should not cause us to think of people as manipulative schemers who are consciously trying to generate positive views of their own experience. On the contrary, research suggests that people are typically unaware of the reasons why they are doing what they are doing,1 but when asked for a reason, they readily supply one.

[k2875] Studies show that about nine out of ten people expect to feel more regret when they foolishly switch stocks than when they foolishly fail to switch stocks, because most people think they will regret foolish actions more than foolish inactions. But studies also show that nine out of ten people are wrong. Indeed, in the long run, people of every age and in every walk of life seem to regret not having done things much more than they regret things they did, which is why the most popular regrets include not going to college, not grasping profitable business opportunities, and not spending enough time with family and friends.

[k2916] Indeed, research shows that when people are given electric shocks, they actually feel less pain when they believe they are suffering for something of great value.

[k2919] If you’ve managed to forgive your spouse for some egregious transgression but still find yourself miffed about the dent in the garage door or the trail of dirty socks on the staircase, then you have experienced this paradox. Intense suffering triggers the very processes that eradicate it, while mild suffering does not, and this counterintuitive fact can make it difficult for us to predict our emotional futures.

[k2970] Our failure to anticipate that inescapability will trigger our psychological immune systems (hence promote our happiness and satisfaction) can cause us to make some painful mistakes.

[k3008] As we have seen, when experiences are unpleasant, we quickly move to explain them in ways that make us feel better (“I didn’t get the job because the judge was biased against people who barf on Ferris wheels”). And indeed, studies show that the mere act of explaining an unpleasant event can help to defang it. For example, simply writing about a trauma–such as the death of a loved one or a physical assault–can lead to surprising improvements in both subjective well-being and physical health (e.g., fewer visits to the physician and improved production of viral antibodies).

[k3053] Explanation robs events of their emotional impact because it makes them seem likely and allows us to stop thinking about them. Oddly enough, an explanation doesn’t actually have to explain anything to have these effects–it merely needs to seem as though it does.

[k3243] Memory’s fetish for endings explains why women often remember childbirth as less painful than it actually was,12 and why couples whose relationships have gone sour remember that they were never really happy in the first place. As Shakespeare wrote, “The setting sun, and music at the close / As the last taste of sweets, is sweetest last / Writ in remembrance more than things long past.”

I am not a fan of the bard. I like Lao Tzu translations better, because they are simpler and easier to follow. It’s a personal taste thing. Gilbert has either read a lot of Shakespeare, or he has a good quote engine.

[k3270] Apparently, the way an experience ends is more important to us than the total amount of pleasure we receive–until we think about it.

[k3318] It seems that our theories about how people of our gender usually feel can influence our memory of how we actually felt. Gender is but one of many theories that have this power to alter our memories.

[k3329] Apparently students have the same theory, because research shows that when students do well on an exam, they remember feeling more anxious before the exam than they actually felt, and when students do poorly on an exam, they remember feeling less anxious before the exam than they actually felt. We remember feeling as we believe we must have felt. The problem with this error of retrospection is that it can keep us from discovering our errors of prospection.

[k3343] Apparently, prospections and retrospections can be in perfect agreement despite the fact that neither accurately describes our actual experience.

[k3347] We overestimate how happy we will be on our birthdays,26 we underestimate how happy we will be on Monday mornings,27 and we make these mundane but erroneous predictions again and again, despite their regular disconfirmation. Our inability to recall how we really felt is one of the reasons why our wealth of experience so often turns out to be a poverty of riches.

[k3389] Communication is a kind of “vicarious observation” that allows us to learn about the world without ever leaving the comfort of our Barcaloungers.

[k3393] Yes, our ability to imagine our future emotions is flawed–but that’s okay, because we don’t have to imagine what it would feel like to marry a lawyer, move to Texas, or eat a snail when there are so many people who have done these things and are all too happy to tell us about them. Teachers, neighbors, coworkers,

[k3402] Given the overabundance of consultants, role models, gurus, mentors, yentas, and nosy relatives, we might expect people to do quite well when it comes to making life’s most important decisions, such as where to live, where to work, and whom to marry. And yet, the average American moves more than six times, changes jobs more than ten times, and marries more than once, which suggests that most of us are making more than a few poor choices.

[k3411] The philosopher Bertrand Russell once claimed that believing is “the most mental thing we do.” Perhaps, but it is also the most social thing we do. Just as we pass along our genes in an effort to create people whose faces look like ours, so too do we pass along our beliefs in an effort to create people whose minds think like ours.

[k3432] If a particular belief has some property that facilitates its own transmission, then that belief tends to be held by an increasing number of minds. As it turns out, there are several such properties that increase a belief’s transmissional success, the most obvious of which is accuracy.

[k3455] False beliefs that happen to promote stable societies tend to propagate because people who hold these beliefs tend to live in stable societies, which provide the means by which false beliefs propagate.

[k3463] Americans who earn $50,000 per year are much happier than those who earn $10,000 per year, but Americans who earn $5 million per year are not much happier than those who earn $100,000 per year. People who live in poor nations are much less happy than people who live in moderately wealthy nations, but people who live in moderately wealthy nations are not much less happy than people who live in extremely wealthy nations. Economists explain that wealth has “declining marginal utility,” which is a fancy way of saying that it hurts to be hungry, cold, sick, tired, and scared, but once you’ve bought your way out of these burdens, the rest of your money is an increasingly useless pile of paper.

[k3483] If no one wants to be rich, then we have a significant economic problem, because flourishing economies require that people continually procure and consume one another’s goods and services. Market economies require that we all have an insatiable hunger for stuff, and if everyone were content with the stuff they had, then the economy would grind to a halt. But if this is a significant economic problem, it is not a significant personal problem.

[k3489] Like so many thinkers, Smith believed that people want just one thing–happiness–hence economies can blossom and grow only if people are deluded into believing that the production of wealth will make them happy. If and only if people hold this false belief will they do enough producing, procuring, and consuming to sustain their economies.

The pleasures of wealth and greatness … strike the imagination as something grand and beautiful and noble, of which the attainment is well worth all the toil and anxiety which we are so apt to bestow upon it. … It is this deception which rouses and keeps in continual motion the industry of mankind.

[k3499] In short, the production of wealth does not necessarily make individuals happy, but it does serve the needs of an economy, which serves the needs of a stable society, which serves as a network for the propagation of delusional beliefs about happiness and wealth. Economies thrive when individuals strive, but because individuals will only strive for their own happiness, it is essential that they mistakenly believe that producing and consuming are routes to personal well-being.

[k3505] Rather, this particular false belief is a super-replicator because holding it causes us to engage in the very activities that perpetuate it.

[k3512] Prospective parents know that diapers will need changing, that homework will need doing, and that orthodontists will go to Aruba on their life savings, but by and large, they think quite happily about parenthood, which is why most of them eventually leap into it.

[k3515] I have a twenty-nine-year-old son, and I am absolutely convinced that he is and always has been one of the greatest sources of joy in my life, having only recently been eclipsed by my two-year-old granddaughter, who is equally adorable but who has not yet asked me to walk behind her and pretend we’re unrelated. When people are asked to identify their sources of joy, they do just what I do: They point to their kids. Yet if we measure the actual satisfaction of people who have children, a very different story emerges.

[k3521] Despite what we read in the popular press, the only known symptom of “empty nest syndrome” is increased smiling. Interestingly, this pattern of satisfaction over the life cycle describes women (who are usually the primary caretakers of children) better than men. Careful studies of how women feel as they go about their daily activities show that they are less happy when taking care of their children than when eating, exercising, shopping, napping, or watching television. Indeed, looking after the kids appears to be only slightly more pleasant than doing housework.

[k3534] “Children bring happiness” is a super-replicator. The belief-transmission network of which we are a part cannot operate without a continuously replenished supply of people to do the transmitting, thus the belief that children are a source of happiness becomes a part of our cultural wisdom simply because the opposite belief unravels the fabric of any society that holds it.

The following had me rolling on the floor laughing

[k3547] My friends tell me that I have a tendency to point out problems without offering solutions, but they never tell me what I should do about it.

[k3551] I’ve so thoroughly marinated you in the foibles, biases, errors, and mistakes of the human mind that you may wonder how anyone ever manages to make toast without buttering their kneecaps.

[k3562] But it is also true that when people tell us about their current experiences (“How am I feeling right now? I feel like pulling my arm out of this freezing bucket and sticking my teenager’s head in it instead!”), they are providing us with the kind of report about their subjective state that is considered the gold standard of happiness measures. If you believe (as I do) that people can generally say how they are feeling at the moment they are asked, then one way to make predictions about our own emotional futures is to find someone who is having the experience we are contemplating and ask them how they feel.

[k3637] This trio of studies suggests that when people are deprived of the information that imagination requires and are thus forced to use others as surrogates, they make remarkably accurate predictions about their future feelings, which suggests that the best way to predict our feelings tomorrow is to see how others are feeling today. Given the impressive power of this simple technique, we should expect people to go out of their way to use it.

[k3729] Alas, we think of ourselves as unique entities–minds unlike any others–and thus we often reject the lessons that the emotional experience of others has to teach us.

[k3788] Our ability to project ourselves forward in time and experience events before they happen enables us to learn from mistakes without making them and to evaluate actions without taking them. If nature has given us a greater gift, no one has named it. And yet, as impressive as it is, our ability to simulate future selves and future circumstances is by no means perfect.

[k3794] But foresight is a fragile talent that often leaves us squinting, straining to see what it would be like to have this, go there, or do that. There is no simple formula for finding happiness. But if our great big brains do not allow us to go surefootedly into our futures, they at least allow us to understand what makes us stumble.