Scarce Resources, Human Needs, and Happiness

A quote from Robert H. Frank states: “The ultimate scarce resource in life is the willingness of other people to pay attention to us.” Frank believes that every human being is in need of other humans to pay attention to them and to engage with them.  He believes that new technology is getting in the way of human interaction.

I recently read Cornell Economics Professor Robert H. Frank’s book Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class.

I won’t write a long review for the book in this post, but I want to share a quote professor Frank included from George Ainslie , psychiatrist and developer of picoeconomics). Ainslie said:

“The ultimate scarce resource in life is the willingness of other people to pay attention to us.”

Frank further illustrates that it is a basic human need to have others engage with you, pay attention to you, and take you seriously.

There’s much discussion today about the demands technology is placing on our time, but Frank takes that a step further. He contends that these new technologies are constantly creating opportunities to engage with things, rather than people.

Although some forecast that the failure to meet our needs for personal engagement will prove to be the most serious and enduring mental health problem of the future, it isn’t difficult to see that the human touch and interpersonal relationships are taking a back seat to virtual interactions.

One needn’t study the Science of Happiness, Prediction Theory, Positive Psychology, or the Hedonic Treadmill to know that the human relationships and interactions we pursue and maintain play a big role in our happiness.

Take the time: Phone a friend, spend time with your loved ones, and/or meet someone new.

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