Monday, November 16, 2009

The Happiness Hat Will Solve all of Your Problems

This was in Gizmodo weeks ago, so this isn't exactly a scoop, but it really captured my imagination: The Happiness Hat Will Spike Your Skull.

happiness hat from Lauren McCarthy on Vimeo.

While the idea of having a spike poke my head to remind me to keep smiling is unpleasant, an honest self-assessment tells me I really could have benefitted from such a thing in my youth. Even when I am not in the grips of the black dog of depression, I'm not particularly a smiley guy. This caused much social friction for me throughout the years. At my first 'real' job, which I really hated (ostensibly I was writing C++ code for the Navy), I once had to endure a lecture in the break room from a woman who was brainwashed by Disney. It started with 'you know what I notice about you, Steve? You NEVER smile!' She then proceeded to let me know how wonderful my life was, and how I had a wonderful job and really should be happy. I wondered at the time: who would feel happy and lucky in the middle of a dressing down from the Cheer Police?

Though she was a loathsome person who would do things like sing two lines from the song 'Young At Heart' repeatedly over the course of several days, there is certainly some validity to what she was saying. People do like and feel more comfortable around smiling people. I think there's a Chinese Proverb that goes 'A man without a smiling face should never open a store'. Possibly it's 'A man with a smiling face should open a store'. Either way, if you frown all the time, stay out of the almost extinct small family owned store business.

In my case I believe it was always assumed I was depressed, or angry, or stuck up. None of these is particularly great in the winning friends and influencing people game. And even though it's true that I don't particularly enjoy being around people and only really like a few people, I am the first to admit you can really open a lot of doors and even keep people off your back if you smile a lot. It keeps HR from looking into your business, and for that alone it's worthwhile.

The hat is of course ridiculous, but it's also very cute and non-threatening, which probably helps. It looks like something a grandma may have made, and who but the most monstrous heel would mock a smiling person wearing a cute hat made by a loving grandmother? It's a really brilliant prototype, and some engineering love could make the device practically disappear. Perhaps engineers could even use the technology that allows Rush Limbaugh's drug-destroyed ears to function here. Sensors could administer a shock not to cause pain, but to stimulate the face muscles to smile! The day will come when we'll never have to look at grumpy people again.

Of course, then we'll look elsewhere for emotional cues, and we'll be back where we started. Sigh. Why bother with any of these ideas? It's all futile.

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