Global Issues TEDTalks

“Balloons of Bhutan”: Bringing Gross National Happiness from the Himalayas

In his latest project, “Balloons of Bhutan,” artist, computer scientist and storyteller Jonathan Harris explores how the Kingdom of Bhutan measures quality of life — not through Gross National Product, but through Gross National Happiness. In 2007 Harris spent two weeks talking to 117 people — students, farmers, road workers, monks, even a firewood seller, ranging from ages eight to 81 — about how they would rate their happiness. He then asked each person what one thing they would wish for and wrote their wish on a balloon of his or her favorite color. These balloons were strung up on display in Dochula, a sacred mountain pass, alongside thousands of brightly colored Buddhist prayer flags.

“Balloons of Bhutan” is now online as an interactive story. Find out about this portrait of happiness >>

Watch Jonathan Harris talk about making sense of the emotional world of the web or unconventional story telling >>

Watch Chip Conley talk about how the Bhutanese create a “habitat for happiness” >>