From time to time, The DCA likes to take a step back from ‘what’ to consider ‘why’. Jon Summers, Research Lead at RI.SE & DCA Advisory Board Member, writes in collaboration with ChatGPT, discussing how the digital age has changed the way we operate and function and how the hierarchy of needs provides a useful framework for examining how technology is driving such transformational change.
Abraham Maslow was a psychologist and first published his ‘hierarchy of needs’ theory in 1943, which was of course before the ‘digital/data centre age’ we all know and accept. As a research engineer working with digitalisation, it made sense to address the topic using the OpenAI initiative, ChatGPT, for some help. The following text on the subject is the result of several iterations of using ChatGPT.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology that describes how human needs are arranged in a hierarchy. The hierarchy begins with the most basic physiological needs and ends with self-actualisation requirements. Digitalisation has transformed the way we fulfil our needs and it is crucial to understand how these changes impact our well-being. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provides a useful framework for examining how technology is transforming the way we live and interact with the world around us.
The first two needs – physiological and safety – have in many ways become easier to fulfil in the digital age. Online platforms have made it possible to access these basic necessities without leaving our homes. For example, food delivery services, online grocery stores and telemedicine services to name a few, have made it possible to fulfil our physiological and safety needs without having to venture out into the physical world. However, one could equally argue that we have allowed ourselves to become vulnerable to supply shortages due to the ‘Just in Time’ model of supply chain technologies, raising the question of local sustainability and food security.
Additionally, the Internet-of-Things (IoT) has made it possible to control our home temperature, lighting and security remotely, making it easier to maintain a safe and comfortable living environment. However, the digital age has also created new challenges, including the need for better cybersecurity measures to protect our financial and personal information. From a personal security point of view, people are perhaps too absorbed by technology. Many of us walk around with our heads down staring at our omniscient smartphones, rather than observing what is happening around us.
The next two needs – love/belonging and esteem – have also been impacted by digitalisation. Social media platforms have made it easier to connect with others and find individuals with similar interests, values and conspiracies. Then again, are we always talking to who we think we are talking to? There are clearly some uncertainties around real personas in a virtual environment.
It’s true that social networking sites like LinkedIn have made it easier for professionals to network and find job opportunities. However, social media can also create a sense of instant gratification and a constant need for validation, which can hinder the fulfilment of these needs. The need to be ‘liked’ or ‘messaged’ – it is well understood that social media platforms drive surges of dopamine to the brain to keep consumers coming back again and again.
Finally, the need for self-actualisation has also been impacted by the digital age. Online learning platforms have made it easier to access educational resources from anywhere in the world. Crowdfunding platforms have made it possible to finance creative projects and bring new ideas to life. However, the constant distractions and interruptions of the digital world can make it challenging to focus on long-term goals. However, to counter this, many employers are now finding that some of those entering the workplace lack essential social and practical skills.
Maslow’s theory has, in jest, been drawn up with a zeroth level showing Wi-Fi before any of the physiological needs to highlight the fact that we tend to always need to be online. It is essential to balance our online and offline lives to fulfil our needs adequately. But we need to be intentional about the way we use technology and ensure that it aligns with our values and goals. We must also be mindful of the positive and negative impacts that our online activities have on our mental health and well-being.
The digital age has also created new opportunities for creativity and self-expression. Social media platforms have made it possible for individuals to share their work with a global audience and the Internet has made it easier to find like-minded individuals and build communities around shared interests. The digital age has also made it possible for individuals to pursue their passions and achieve their dreams, regardless of their location or arguably their socioeconomic status.
However, the digital age has created new challenges, including the need for better digital literacy and critical thinking skills. The digital world has changed rapidly and many people, especially parents, have concerns about their children and the fact that so much of their lives are spent online; others comment that the digital world will be some kind of idyllic world with access to free information.
As Aldous Huxley wrote in his novel Brave New World, ‘Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted’. We need to be mindful and not take for granted the relevance that technology has on our lives and take steps to mitigate any negative effects.
In conclusion, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provides a useful framework for examining how technology is transforming the way we live and interact with the world around us. While digitalisation has made it easier to fulfil our basic physiological needs, it has also created new challenges, including the necessity for better cybersecurity measures to protect our personal and financial information.
In the end, it will be up to us to use technology in a way that enriches our lives and fulfils our needs while mitigating any negative effects. As Albert Einstein once wrote, ‘The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination’. We must use our imagination and creativity to shape the digital world in a way that aligns with our values and helps us achieve our full potential.Click below to share this article