Reading around it seems that the happiest state of being is that of a hunter/gatherer society. They have the best ratio of work to leisure, a fulfilling life, variety and pleasure. Of course we must not romanticise. There was disease, dangerous animals and food shortages. It was not ideal. But these cultures seem happy and fulfilled. Unfortunately with coming up 8 Billion people we can no longer live this way.
Moving to a move agricultural base certainly caused great problems. We had to toil for much longer in the field at tasks – weeding, sowing, watering, nurturing, looking after livestock – that were not very satisfying. It brought people together in greater numbers which created more disease. It created anxieties over weather, wild animals and theft. We’d moved into ownership and potential loss. There was less time for leisure and pleasure. Life could be fraught and precarious. There was often violent theft and pillaging requiring greater security and the advent of powerful overlords. But villages were supportive and there was a quality of life.
Moving to an industrial times it became far worse for the majority. Hours in factories were long, the work was unsatisfying and dangerous. It was unhealthy. Housing was poor and disease was far greater because of cramped conditions. A small elite lived very well but the majority lived in squalor.
Modern times have seen improvements in living standards generally around most of the world. In the West we have seen living standards rise, earning power rise, work become less dangerous and healthier. Technology has made many jobs simpler and taken a lot of the effort out of chores. Medicine has made life safer and mortality has risen dramatically. We no longer have our children dying on us. We can plan pour families. There are pensions and welfare benefits. We can travel, buy things, and have a great quality of life. There is less war and less violence. But has it made us happier?
Perhaps the next revolution needs to be a happiness revolution where we focus on how to make people really happy?