A Hierarchy of Needs for Belief Systems

A quick schetch of a Maslow-ish “hierarchy of needs” for belief systems.

Is it functional? Does this way of thinking help or hinder us in our interactions with the world? Belief systems that provide better “results” (creation of technology, feelings of well-being, etc.) can be thought of as “better” than belief systems that are not as functional. There is not necessarily a strict ordering here; functionality is contextual, and what may be more functional in one setting may be less so in another. In general, we can expect belief systems that provide more functionality on net to gradually become dominant within the noosphere.

Is it internal consistent? Belief systems that are internally consistent can be thought of as “better” than those that are compartmentalized and non-aligned, in that they will be easier to teach to subsequent generations. They will also be more likely to fulfill higher levels of belief system “need”. In general, an internally consistent belief system will also be well-defined.

Is it extensible? Can the belief system be extended to “think more interesting thoughts”? An system of belief that allows for an infinite number of thoughts to be explored will be more interesting/pleasurable to think in than one which is finite. The most best understood extensible belief system is probably mathematics, courtesy of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems. This is one reason why formal math can be so much fun.

Does it allow us to think interesting things? This is more subjective, but belief systems that allow for more complex, interesting ideas will be more pleasurable/fun than belief systems that restrict our ideas. Belief systems that tie together more realms of experience (“larger infinities”) will be more interesting/pleasurable to think in than more limited belief systems. Formal mathematics has only tenuous direct connection to human experience, which is why most people don’t find it very interesting.

Does it allow us to think meaningful things? This is the aesthetic level… Does the belief system appeal to our sense of truth, beauty, or ethics? I propose that meaningful thoughts are always interesting thoughts, but that not every interesting thought is meaningful.

Note that what is “interesting” and “meaningful” may very well change with time… What seemed profound to our ancestors often will appear to be quaint to later generations. Belief systems that cannot continually allow for the borders of “interesting” and “meaningful” to be expanded will lose their value over time.

Dynastic Business

It seems unlikely that the trend of large businesses and startups replacing workers with automation, algorithms, and “on-demand” “micro-employees” (the “gig” economy) is going to end any time soon. But what of smaller (both in terms of employees, and in terms of capital) businesses?

Many of these are owned by individuals, and often don’t have the capacity to invest in the infrastructure necessary to heavily automate themselves or otherwise reduce their “on-hand” workforce. As the rest of the economy becomes increasingly hostile to workers, people who work in these smaller businesses are likely to become intensely loyal, if just out of necessity.

It seems likely that over time existing employees will try to bring in friends and family that have been displaced in the wider economy. These new hires will, obviously, also be unlikely to leave.

Will this lead to the emergence of “dynastic” businesses, staffed almost entirely by a few families?

Will this dynamic ultimately make it easier for larger, automated firms to drive these smaller businesses out of the market? Or will the intense loyalty (and fear) of their staff lead to productivity gains that will keep them one step ahead of the super-predators?