Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - 8 Levels to Enlightenment

By SoaringMoon | Worldbuild! | 23 Feb 2024

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is a pyramid-shaped chart composed of levels of needs, with level 1 at the bottom. In psychological theory, it is assumed to be the source of motivation and action for all intelligent beings. It is theorized that people will attempt to meet most needs on a level before moving up to the next, in a list of hierarchical priorities. An updated version of this hierarchy has eight levels of needs and we will cover each of them, as they can be useful for discussions of civilizations of every level of technological advancement.

Level 1 are the Physiological Needs. These include air, water, food, shelter, sleep, and adequately moderated temperature. This level is also said to include ``reproduction'', but this is better represented as ``continuity of species''. Without others in your species, your survival is meaningless in terms of genetics. Within levels of the hierarchy of needs, smaller hierarchies exist. For example, water will be more important than food because one kills you after 3 days of loss, and the other after more than 6 weeks of loss. This level is appropriate for primitive tribes who have the bare minimum required to survive. People living under these conditions don't have organized civilizations or conurbations.

Level 2 are the Safety Needs. Examples of these needs are personal protection, including protective equipment and clothing, a hygienic environment, storage of belongings, security of those belongings, justice for violation of your needs, health, and equilibrium of state or stability but not necessarily financial stability. People include employment on this level as it is a means to achieve stability, but it comes down to an expectation that things will remain as they are without abrupt changes. This level is best to describe tribal societies with simple conurbations or organizations, tribal leadership, and the ability to fight in wars with neighboring tribes. As well as the very start of organized government and laws.

Level 3 includes the Social Needs. Friends and family, support from others, formative relationships, love, affection, intimacy, and the sense of belonging within a group. Employment and work seem a better fit for this level as it applies to acquaintances and social relationships advancing to the next levels. Also, many people find relationships while in the workplace. People need most of the roles and support from these levels to feel ``accomplished in life''. This level defines all societies, but better describes areas with access to semi-permanent social structures like large nomadic tribal societies or the first towns and cities.

Many see the achievements of high levels of the hierarchy of needs as a means to acquire items on low levels; when often the opposite is true. ``If only I had a high self-esteem, or have achieved a great feat, I could acquire a romantic partner.'', when the opposite ``If I am financially stable, and have a large body of social connections, I can more easily find a romantic partner.'' is true; as both people involved in the same level on the hierarchy are trying to fill their own needs.

Level 4 are the Esteem Needs. Status, recognition of individual achievements, respect for one's position of authority or knowledge in a field of study, self-esteem and confidence when expressing through art or literature, and self-confidence in the ability to perform. Cultural advancement or enlightenment can be vaguely approximated by these levels. Esteem needs are met in areas where information becomes widely accessible. This represents the first permanent settlements where writing, law enforcement, entertainment, art, crafts, and music became commonplace. Where availability of food and water is a problem only for the extremely poor.

Lack of any of the bottom four levels of the hierarchy creates a deficiency in the expectations of self. It can lead to depression when a person doesn't have a social support structure, lacks romantic connection, has an unstable environment, or feels like they can't get help for an injustice they've suffered. After this are the four levels that represent growth of one's self, but not necessarily spiritual growth. Although, some may see that as a contributing factor.

Level 5 is composed of the Cognitive Needs. Knowledge and understanding of the world, meaning, and understanding of complex concepts, comprehension and curiosity, morality, religion, philosophy, and science. Understanding these things can be seen as a means to better achieve the lower-level needs of more people. If we understand agriculture we can feed more people. Knowledge of weather can keep more people out of the cold, rain, feed people, and remove their thirst. Navigating the stars can help us settle more land and ensure the continuity of our society. Meeting cognitive needs begets great civilizations and empires. Ancient Iraq, Egypt, the Assyrian people, the Attalid dynasty's Library of Pergamum, and Rome throughout its history; all held vast stores of knowledge. The same was true in Herculaneum and of the forums of Emperor Trajan, the Byzantine Empire, and the Imperial Library of Constantinople.

Level 6 are the Aesthetic Needs. The desire to surround one's self with beauty, inspiration, and nature. Appreciation and the search for what it means to be ideal. Finding meaning in balance and form, color and emotion. Not just for the rich to live opulent lives, but for the common person. To express themselves through the work of others, and use it to create a sense of achievement for themselves. This can be through buying art and crafts for the sake of it, setting your desktop wallpaper, or organizing your possessions how you want them to be arranged.

You aren't worried about having access to information because it is already available to you. You lack the need for tools because you already have them, or have easy access to rent them. While you may stress about having enough to meet your debts and pay your bills, people in the first world rarely experience starvation or lack of access to clean water. You personally might have. If so, you've experienced this hierarchy personally. In general, this level appears to reflect all of the eras after the renaissance, classical enlightenment, and industrial revolution. Even up to the modern day, the times that represent Maslow's Hierarchy as periods of advancement in civilization are vast. To be considered moving onto the next level, a significant portion of the civilization needs to be deep into that level; which brings us to...

Level 7 the Self-Actualizing Needs. These are needs relating to self-fulfillment and the pursuance of talents, personal growth, and the maximization of experiences, and personal potential. A full realization of what one is capable of. Achieving everything possible for someone to achieve. Helping others meet their needs. Being so stable in yourself that you begin to focus on lifting others up the levels of their own hierarchy. Ultimately, the realization of your terminal goals.

Every being has terminal goals. These are what a person hopes to achieve within their lifetime. Writing a series of novels, climbing Mount Everest, becoming a famous actor, artist, or musician, winning a Nobel Prize or Field's Medal, or becoming President of the United States. Instrumental goals are what actions you take to achieve your terminal goals. You rock climb at the local gym to build your strength, you record an album to sell on the street to drive interest, you submit a paper to a scientific journal to build your reputation, or you run for a local office or city council position. Obviously, not everyone can be president, or be nominated for an Oscar, but a person's terminal goals don't have to be met to be in a state of self-actualization.

However, this is the first level that we don't have a real-life example of, and it's difficult to imagine what a society might look like that has these needs met. A majority of that civilization would be comprised of people who feel entirely fulfilled with their current position in life. An artificially intelligent super-organizer establishes the genuine need for a job that can only be filled by your unique skill set. You are reimbursed so much for doing this job that you no longer worry about basic needs; paying for a large house, its utilities, and your family's basic needs. You get called every day by experts worldwide pleased with your work. They often request you to come to meet them halfway around the globe for weddings and parties. They are not just pretending to be happy to see you there and would be worried if you couldn't attend. You've never had to borrow money to get a flight there. If you did, the person you borrowed from wouldn't expect you to pay them back.

Level 8, the final level, are Transcendence Needs. These represent a desire for all beings to reach a state of self-actualization and have all needs of the hierarchy meet. These can be spiritual or religious needs, but this represents a state beyond that of realization of one's self. Far past the basic needs of survival, and bordering altruism or infinity. Maslow himself said about Transcendence Needs, ``Transcendence refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and the cosmos.'' in The Farther Reaches of Human Nature.

A society that is in the middle of or has achieved this level is likely a higher-order Kardashev post-scarcity civilization. When it is discussed that every need on the hierarchy is met, it does mean all. Every person no matter the societal class has ever considered not having food or water. No person under reasonable moral exception is without a romantic partner they are matched ideally to. They are surrounded by constant and pernicious beauty in every aspect of their lives. No place they can look lacks beauty. They live in a world where the barest of walls are colorful and complex pieces of art, made of the most ``expensive'' of materials.

Expense means nothing as their technology is so advanced that there is no longer the need for currency. Rare extinct hardwood species petrified by ancient mineral sediments are pulled from alternate universes, or manufactured by nanomachines with atomic precision instantly. Gold is transmuted from particle accelerators atop star lifting devices producing it and other precious metals as fusion byproducts of energy production, and is spread on beaches for texture. Any dream or idea a person has can be realized and experienced either in a convincing virtual reality, in their canonical reality, or in a reality made specifically for that creation.

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Ether Wallet - 0x0000000000333f28d3a20605c702f66c3143cccf - I am a game developer / programmer / author and worldbuilder living in the United States. I play RPGs and sandbox titles.


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