Perhaps Utilitarians Should *Make* Happier People

November 9th, 2010
ideas, utilitiarianism
My current partial utilitarianism has mostly been focused on trying to increase global happiness with international development work. It's based on my understanding that poverty, hunger, and disease make people unhappy. This seems likely, but reading (what I think was) this boston globe article and being reminded of it by this random lesswrong comment other has made me wonder: what if people have some genetic propensity to happiness? Independent of their circumstances, what if some people are just born to be more likely to be happy than others? If we found this to be so, should we then work to increase the fraction of the population with high "happiness aptitude"? Perhaps by targeting charitable giving to help people who tend to be happier (so they can afford to have more kids, while people who tend to be unhappy wouldn't have the same advantage)? Or fetal screenings for "happiness aptitude" just as we can now do for down syndrome? I don't think either of these would work, but the idea that there is a genetic predisposition to happiness ought to be testable, and it ought to be possible to make there be more people born with that predisposition.

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