Not So Simple: Notes from a Tech-Free Life by Mark Boyle

“I intended to begin a new life without modern technology. There would be no running water, no fossil fuels, no clock, no electricity or any of the things it powers: no washing machine, internet, phone, radio, or light bulb…

…What are we prepared to lose, and what do we want to gain, as we fumble our way through our short, precious lives?”

—Mark Boyle, “Not So Simple.” Plough. July 4, 2019.

The Three Equations for a Happy Life

  1. Subjective Well-being = Genes + Circumstances + Habits
  2. Habits = Faith + Family + Friends + Work
  3. Satisfaction = What you have ÷ What you want

“Think of these three equations as the first class in the mechanics of building a life. But there is much, much more where all that comes from.”

-Arthur C. Brooks, “The Three Equations for a Happy Life, Even During a Pandemic.” The Atlantic. April 9, 2020

It seems like a strange argument. I would think that this is a classic nature vs. nurture argument, or in the terms of these equations, Genes vs. Circumstances. Genes are what they are, but with some plasticity depending on the adaptation response. Circumstances are the environment we are born into, which would include family and material possessions and to some extent childhood friends.

Habits I would think more in terms of mental models and fields of action. You can pick your friends. You have choice in what you want. Our selection of work and how hard he work at it is largely up to us. These choices can change our circumstances, in some cases.

So, maybe: Genes / (Circumstances / (Positive Change – Negative Change))

However, I can see how this formulation lacks the aesthetics for a general audience.

See also: Authentic Happiness for other test measures.


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