What kind of a deal have we negotiated as a culture? In exchange for 100,000 hours per lifetime at jobs that often fail to inspire us, we settle for houses too big to maintain; superficial connections with people; easily broken gadgets and nutrition-free, processed food – counterfeit rewards that can’t possibly meet our needs. Why do we cling to them? Partly because we are physically, psychologically, and socially addicted.
In an ancient bundle of the human brain, the nucleus accumbens (aka the reward center) continuously dispenses chemical substances like dopamine when our actions register “hits” of pleasure. A kind of chemical pinball machine, the reward center’s underlying purpose is to seek out and score anthropologically critical needs like food, water, leisure, energy, sex, and social connection.