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Friday, 3 March 2017

Needs, Wants & Beliefs (10): Boredom and Curiosity

Recently, a friend tipped me on a new subject: boredom. The Dutch newspaper NRC featured an article calling "boredom the most underestimated political factor of today". After some reflection, I realised that boredom is related to my 2nd concept of Needs, Wants & Beliefs.

In my 20 October 2016 blog on Needs, Wants & Beliefs, I mentioned that there is a vacuum between each of these 3 layers. There's a process going on in that vacuum before you can migrate to the next level. Back then I suspected that this process relates to Time & Space. Time plays a different role in each phase of Needs, Wants & Beliefs.

The youngest children are typically in the Needs phase: they just eat, sleep and observe. Boredom, however, already kicks in at a young age. Playing with toys usually helps prevent boredom. At a later age, children attend school as they need to learn. Eating, learning, playing and sleeping consume most of children’s available time. There's little time for boredom.

Teenagers often complain that they're bored. Many will play (computer) games to fight boredom, similar to their youth. Other teenagers will indulge in habits like drinking alcoholic beverages, smoking cigarettes, and/or taking drugs while knowing about the negative health effects. A job and a relationship usually trigger the Wants phase in their lives.

The Wants phase often ends like the Needs phase: with boredom. A life of consumerism (e.g., Bigger is Better, More is Better) loses its appeal and similar bad habits enter adult life (e.g., too much drinking, drugs, eating, smoking, other temptations).

A 2014 BBC article, called “Why boredom is bad and good for you”, sheds some light on boredom: “That is something of a puzzle for evolutionary psychologists. Emotions should evolve for our benefit – not to push us to self-destruction. [] Feelings like fear help us avoid danger, after all, while sadness might help prevent future mistakes. So, if true, what does boredom achieve?”

The BBC article explains that boredom is a human emotion which triggers another human emotion: curiosity. This curiosity results in a “taste for adventure and exploration” with either an external or internal focus. External curiosity typically results in habits with negative health consequences (e.g., smoking, drinking, taking drugs). Internal curiosity typically results in positive features like creativity and imagination.

Boredom (ie, Time) and Curiosity (ie, Space) appear to fill the vacuum between 1) Needs and Wants, 2) Wants and Beliefs, and 3) Beliefs and extreme beliefs. An external focus will maintain the current level of Needs, Wants & Beliefs. This is in line with the ancient Roman phrase "Bread and Circuses". An internal focus will trigger migration to the next level.

A 21st century of Artificial Intelligent robots taking away jobs from human lives, could either cause prolonged boredom with “a dangerous and disruptive state of mind that damages your health – and even cuts years off your lifespan” (BBC) or a “new Renaissance”.

The Importance of Being Idle (2005) by Oasis - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

My best friend called me the other night
He said "Man, are you crazy?"
My girlfriend told me to get a life
She said "boy, you lazy"

But I don't mind
As long as there's a bed beneath the stars that shine
I'll be fine
If you give me a minute
A mans got a limit
I cant get a life if my hearts not in it