Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Maslow Inverted (moth part 2)

If one where to apply the idea discussed in my previous post regarding moths to oneself, where would one begin?

As with design, one begins with need. It is not so difficult to think about what one, or even easier, you yourself might need.

Abraham Maslow did a pretty good job with his famous hierchy and of course all of his critics and followers did a nice job too. What I have come up with though, in thinking about my own needs has a different sense to it.

People often graph Maslow's hierarchy as a pyramid, for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Maslow#Maslow_hierarchy
with basic, primative needs at the bottom and "self-actualization" at the top. This suggests a movement away from animal, or survival needs to some sort of spiritual, human quality. The idea of movement in this model is undeniable, and that is what gives it its hierarchical nature. The issue for me is that this goal, this self-actualization, isn't really a need. Further, to some extent it may even be post-human. If the basement of Maslow's hierarchy is somewhat sub-human, or at the very least represents needs that can be said to be shared by both humans and other animals than the attic might be a goal that transcends human possibility. That isn't a situation that interests me now.

Thus, my hierarchy of need works differently. It could also be graphed as a pyramid, but the movement begins at the top of the pyramid and descends. The model begin with the most basic, shared needs of all people and expands to represent the more specific expressions of these needs in their complex developments which mirror the development of a modern person's lifeline as well as the evolution of human society and culture.

Despite the vastness of this claim, it is quite a simple idea. When born, a modern human in the most modern city still shares all immediate needs with animals. As this human person develops physically, their skill set and lifestyle also develop and they have new more specific needs, which they share with less and less people. In addition, a person's needs move further away from the immediate needs of the body as the individual becomes increasingly self sufficient in providing for their body. This is a direct collaboration with the society the individual lives in. A society which provides more support and protection for the individual more quickly frees them from the immediate needs to insure adequate food, shelter and the like. Thus a modern society, free from the dangers of predatory animals, allows free time for humans to develop specialized skills and interests, bringing with them new needs, independent from the primitive ones. Interestingly, there is a curve somewhere in this, because as people age they once again find their needs intersecting with others. As the body slows and ceases function people once again become dependent on others and their needs become once more directly tied to maintenance of the human body.

In this hierarchy each level makes possible the development of the following one by providing a ground for the new needs to develop once the previous level's needs are satisfied. At the same time each new level reflects the influence of the all prior levels and may even restart the process from the primitive animal level. Thus highly specialized modern activities and their needs may satisfy primitive drives or provide expression of them. Since the hierarchy begins with birth, the sexual drive exists not in some theoretical quality but as a physically observable result of the feedback and interplay between levels. Thus birth is the catalyst to a new life (of need, ha ha) and the result of the fulfillment of other's needs and drives.

This is not meant to be taken as a complete analysis of course, but is only a sketch of a personal view which I am taking in light of the moth idea discussed earlier. One must know what the needs are, of course, before one knows which things are "habit" and which are really "essential". One musn't rely on instinct because instinct itself can lead to extinction. Once the essential needs are determined one can organize a strategy for addressing them. And so, without further claptrap:

birth ..............................................................................(catalyst)
results in the need for:

1.nutrition and shelter.................................................(survival)
which, once satisfied, provide opportunity for:

2.sex partners/families/community.........................(continuity)
which are grouped together because the larger units are nessecary to care for the recently born, representing the feedback discussed earlier. In fact the needs of the recently born represent level 1, and they are helpless to satisfy these on thier own. Nonetheless, in the creation of families and communities tasks for survival are distributed in some manner and this results in:

3.what is done while awake........................................(occupation)
which begins an increasing variety of technological possibilities and occupational specializations. The first level, the more essential tasks given to human invention when it is freed from subsistence enough to operate in a purely conceptual manner result in the organization and defense of communities through invention:

4.what is achieved through mental and physical exploration...(invention/organization of community)
community organization being set in motion, people are free to function in a purely mental (or purely physical realm for that matter) for the purpose of self enrichment. New questions are asked, new needs arise:

5. what is done to avoid boredom/provide sense to life/answer curious impulses
(invention: enrichment, speculative science, art, sports, religion, entertainment)

I do not mean to suggest that the development ends here but this is as far as my own needs for organization took me. The only reason I post this at all is as an illustration of a process by which one may analyze one's own (or in this case one's own view of everyone's) needs. This is in no way intended to be taken too seriously or scientifically as the analysis is totally incomplete and I don't know if I am really interested enough in it to complete it. I feel that it is useful to me as it is. The basic idea is that once a person's basic sustenance needs are accounted for, more specialized developments occur, and these provide new needs. It may seem at first that I am suggesting that art or religion are less important than food, but then I feel that maybe people only thought of these sorts of models or modes of living once they where warm and well fed enough to stop scrambling around like mad dogs.

Well, thats the news.

Also, I don't mean to suggest by placing theoretical (speculative, as opposed to applied) science on the same level as art, entertainment, and religion that it is simply a pastime. In fact I think none of these are simply ways of passing time. I think they are in fact ways of dealing with ideas of meaning or purpose, understanding. The thing is, to repeat, an individual isn't as concerned with the meaning of the cold when freezing to death. The issue is to get warm. Then, by the fire, one asks "what the hell?" or plays checkers or something.

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