Is “futile busyness” good for us?

The researchers proceed to argue that, unfortunately, most people will not be tempted by futile busyness, so there's a paternalistic case for governments and organisations tricking us into more activity: 'housekeepers may increase the happiness of their idle housekeepers by letting in some mice and prompting the housekeepers to clean up. Governments may increase the happiness of idle citizens by having them build bridges that are actually useless.' In fact, according to Hsee's team, such interventions already exist, with some airports having deliberately increased the walk to the luggage carousel so as to reduce the time passengers spend waiting idly for luggage to arrive.

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Comments

I like the name of those airports, so I can avoid them.

On the surface, using common sense, I can see how this can be true. People want to create impacts, and are willing to expend effort to do so. In fact, the act of expending effort to create an impact can be quite enjoyable.

We can be tricked into thinking we are creating impacts when we are not. If we think we make an impact, we are happy. Yet far better than pretending to make an impact is actually doing so. Computer games handle the former quite well, thank you. So, instead of designing institutions to give us more to do, we should have institutions designing projects that need doing. Better coordination of efforts, of turning our natural desire for importance into action and results, would be such a win. We don't even have to all agree on what needs to be done--just find people who want to do it.

Of course, that's the real hard part.

This just in: get a hobby!
in other news, a rash of window breaking is taking place downtown...

I don't doubt that this is true, that people are happier when they aren't idle, but it seems like the role of a good government should be in encouraging them to build useful things rather than do useless work. There is tons of work that needs to be done around the world curing disease, restoring natural environments, building infrastructure. If people need to be tricked into anything, I hope their tricked into something worthwhile.

KevinH: "I don't doubt that this is true, that people are happier when they aren't idle, but it seems like the role of a good government should be in encouraging them to build useful things rather than do useless work."

Maybe useless jobs could be used as a way to distract an upset population. Prisons could and probably do use useless work to keep inmates from becoming idle and more unhappy. When a country has a great deal of unrest the gov't could provide jobs to those most at risk of uprising(even if they are not useful jobs) not to pay them off but just to keep them busy.

I think I saw a TED talk about this but I can't remember the name of it at the moment.

Isn't this a bit like asking how to use the placebo effect in your new hospital? You can dream, but it requires the sort of shroud of secrecy which you not only couldn't maintain, but shouldn't contemplate giving anyone the power to try to construct.

I mean for the Department of Useless Bridges.

Recognising that traffic makes you angry and this is worth more to you than the time you spend driving the longer route is just called learning what variable you want to optimise. I know people who've walked up mountains which have trains to the top, too.

Or as a faculty here does and says when se goes to the mall. She never dump the waste after dinner, she said : create jobs and leaves

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