In the first centuries A.T. the neurological processes involved in emotion came to be well understood, and ways of manipulating them on an individual basis were developed. Initially used for psychotherapy, it was not long before some people began to use these techniques to change the workings of their own minds so that they would always be happy. Even under the worst of circumstances people thus modified would not be unhappy, but simply accepting. While many people rejected these modifications as simply a form of escape, some embraced them with open arms.
Other emotional modifications were also created over time, but none were ever as popular as the happiness modification, though some did spread to some extent. As the happiness modification spread people with it became known, not too surprisingly, as 'Smilers'.
As human genetic modification and diversification became more and more common it was not long before some groups of Smilers decided to make their neuro-emotional modifications something permanent that would be passed down to their descendants. After a period of research, by the end of the third century A.T. the desired modifications were indeed incorporated into the genomes of the Smilers who wanted them, creating the race that became known technically as Homo sapiens beatus (Happy Man), though who were still called Smilers by the population as large.
Since then Smilers have spread across Terragens space, and are to found in varying numbers in most polities. Although they are, in general, impossible to distinguish from non-Smilers without a neurological examination, in many places they are a favoured type, as their modification makes them very easy for unscrupulous governments to control and manipulate. As such it has become clear over the centuries that they are very abusable by their respective governments, and thus do rather rely on the polities in which they live being benevolent ones.
It has also become clear over the years that Smilers, being happy and satisfied all the time, are much less driven and in general much less creative than sophonts without their modification. Fewer of them have ascended to higher toposophic levels than almost any other clade. However, this does not bother the Smilers, and so in general nothing has been done about it.
Because of their constant upbeat attitude and sunny disposition, Smilers often find employment as NoCoZo and other corporate spokesbeings and salesbeings, and also often provide a 'happy face' for all sorts of polities (of all sorts of characters) that include baselines among their populace.
Unsurprisingly, because of this, many other sophonts are almost automatically distrustful of anyone they know or believe to be a Smiler. They simply do not trust someone who smiles all of the time. They believe that a Smiler will keep smiling and keep feeding them the same line even if they know their corporate patron's products are defective or hazardous, or the polity they serve as a mouthpiece for is piling up bodies like cord wood. How true this may be in reality and how much of it is simply public perception varies - Smilers are still thinking, moral beings, and can (and do) say 'this is wrong', or 'we object'.
Over time other emotional modifications have come in and out of fashion. In particular there have been a number of attempts to create a dissatisfied and unhappy human, a 'Frowner', who would be more driven and more creative than an unmodified type. However, the side effects of the Frowner modification, both on the person themselves and the people who have to live with them have led to its never becoming popular, and other, more benign routes to creativity enhancement (those involving enhancing the creative parts of the mind directly, rather than via indirect, emotional means) being used instead.
The only other hard-wired emotional state which is remotely as widespread as that of the Smilers is the hard-wired state of lust that can be found among many Erotogini, commonly known as the Nymphos modification.
Most religions have branches that reject the Smilers as entities who 'cheat' on the road to enlightenment, or who have taken a false path on that road. Other branches of most religions have embraced them, and indeed enhanced their happiness modification into one giving what is effectively Nirvana to the recipient. Those with modifications of this kind do not, however, tend to reproduce.
Text by Tony Jones
Initially published on 23 December 2003.