用户名: 密码: 验证码:    注册 | 忘记密码?
您的位置:主页 > 英语能力 > 翻译 > 笔译 > 练习材料 > 其他 >


2013-08-27    来源:WSJ    【      美国外教 在线口语培训

Does Evolution Want Us To Be Unhappy?

Samuel Johnson called it the vanity of human wishes, and Buddhists talk about the endless cycle of desire. Social psychologists say we get trapped on a hedonic treadmill. What they all mean is that we wish, plan and work for things that we think will make us happy, but when we finally get them, we aren't nearly as happy as we thought we'd be.
塞缪尔•约翰逊(Samuel Johnson)称之为人生希望的空幻,佛教徒在谈论欲望的轮回,社会心理学家则说,我们被困在一架“快乐水车”上。他们的意思都是说,我们认为自己会因获得某些东西而快乐,于是我们憧憬这些东西,并为之筹划和努力,但当我们最终得到这些东西时,却远不如当初想象的那么快乐。

Summer makes this particularly vivid. All through the busy winter I longed and planned and saved for my current vacation. I daydreamed about peaceful summer days in this beautiful village by the Thames with nothing to do but write. Sure enough, the first walk down the towpath was sheer ecstasy -- but by the fifth, it was just another walk. The long English evenings hang heavy, and the damned book I'm writing comes along no more easily than it did in December.

This looks like yet another example of human irrationality. But the economist Arthur Robson has an interesting evolutionary explanation. Evolution faces what economists call a principal-agent problem. Evolution is the principal, trying to get organisms (its agents) to increase their fitness. But how can it get those dumb animals to act in accordance with this plan? (This anthropomorphic language is just a metaphor, of course -- a way of saying that the fitter organisms are more likely to survive and reproduce. Evolution doesn't have intentions.)
这看起来像是说明人类非理性的又一例证。但经济学家阿瑟•罗布森(Arthur Robson)给出了一种有趣的进化论解释:进化面对的是一个被经济学家称为“委托-代理问题”的困局,进化是委托人,它试图增强生物体(其代理人)的适应性。但它怎样才能让那些愚蠢的动物按照这一计划行事呢?(当然,这种拟人化的语言只是个隐喻──借此说明适应性较强的生物体更易生存和繁衍。进化本身是没有意志的。)

For simple organisms like slugs, evolution can build in exactly the right motivations (move toward food and away from light). But it is harder with a complicated, cognitive organism like us. We act by imagining many alternative futures and deciding among them. Our motivational system has to be designed so that we do this in a way that tends to improve our fitness.

Suppose I am facing a decision between two alternative futures. I can stay where I am or go on to the next valley where the river is a bit purer, the meadows a bit greener and the food a bit better. My motivational system ensures that when I imagine the objectively better future it looks really great, far better than all the other options -- I'll be so happy! So I pack up and move. From evolution's perspective that is all to the good: My fitness has increased.

But now suppose that I have actually already made the decision. I am in the next valley. It does me no additional good to continue admiring the river, savoring the green of the meadow and the taste of the fruit. I acted, I have gotten the benefit, and feeling happy now is, from evolution's perspective, just a superfluous luxury.

Wanting to be happy and imagining the happy future made me act in a way that really did make me better off; feeling happy now doesn't help. To keep increasing my fitness, I should now imagine the next potential source of happiness that will help me to make the next decision. (Doesn't that tree just over the next hill have even better fruit?)

It is as if every time we make a decision that actually makes us better off, evolution resets our happiness meter to zero. That prods us to decide to take the next action, which will make us even better off -- but no happier.

Of course, I care about what I want, not what evolution wants. But what do I want? Should I try to be better off objectively even if I don't feel any happier? After all, the Thames really is beautiful, the meadows are green, the food -- well, it's better in England than it used to be. And the book really is getting done.

Or would it be better to defy evolution, step off the treadmill of desire and ambition and just rest serenely at home in Buddhist contentment? At least we humans can derive a bit of happiness, however fleeting, from asking these questions, perhaps because the answers always seem to be just over the next hill.

手机上普特 m.putclub.com 手机上普特
发表评论 查看所有评论
用户名: 密码: 验证码:
  • 推荐文章
  • 资料下载
  • 讲座录音