Google X's chief business officer thinks the UK has prioritised the illusions of the modern world over happiness

Sam Shead

Mo Gawdat, the chief business officer of Google X, thinks people in the UK have prioritised the illusions of the modern world over their happiness.

Gawdat, who is currently on a sabbatical from Google's moonshot factory, said the UK is one of the many developed nations where people have forgotten how to be happy. "The UK is a classic example of how much we have prioritised the illusions of the modern world over our happiness," he told Business Insider at the Wired Live conference in London last week.

Gawdat didn't spell out which "illusions of the modern world" he was referring to but it's possible he was talking about people obsessing over their jobs or how much interaction they'd had on social media. Business Insider has contacted Gawdat for clarification.

Gawdat referred specifically to Londoners and the way in which they walk. "I texted my friend once I landed in the airport about how very unusual people in London walk," Gawdat said.

"You're walking so fast and you're always solo, mostly solo. Not talking to anybody. And not smiling."

It's no secret that Londoners aren't the chattiest of people. Talking on the London Underground during rush hour is a strict no-no and small talk in shops and other public places is typically kept to a minimum. They're basically rushing from A to B as quickly as possible and in their own little world.

The way people in London walk is similar to how people walk in New York City, according to Gawdat. But New Yorkers at least talk to each other, he said.

"I have to say New York is actually outward expressive," he said. "So they're aggressive. London is very reserved so you keep all of that inside you, which is not good or healthy at all.

Gawdat has written a book called "Solve For Happy: Engineer Your Path To Joy," which attempts to explain how to create and maintain happiness.

"When you tell people in London or the UK that happiness is a choice — it's up to you to become happy, you can actually do it like you do fitness, there are techniques and tools where you can get there — there is an initial resistance first because they go like no that's unlike anything I have ever learned in my life so far, leave me alone."

"But surprisingly it's one of the markets where I became super viral so people actually started to realise well that makes sense. Book sales are incredible, reviews on the book are very high and a lot of what's going on basically says people take a minute to get shocked but when they do they actually follow."