Fundamental Needs

Fundamental needs are universal constraints. My bet is:

  • If a technology addresses a fundamental need, universal adoption is guaranteed. The only questions are "how fast" and "who will build it".
  • Any tech that addresses a fundamental need will be a driving force of societal change in the long term.

Amara's Law: We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.

The goal of this note is to focus on spaces where a technological driving force intersects with a fundamental need. Scenario planning is a good way to find these intersections.

The List

  • Food
  • Water
  • Shelter
  • Energy
  • Learning (and teaching)
  • Creating (vs "work")
  • Family
  • Safety
  • Health (and Medicine)
  • Transportation
  • Resources and waste
  • Communication
  • Money/trading (shifts our incentives toward cooperation)
  • Freedom
  • Meaning

Food

Water

Cards: Treadle pump, Drip irrigation

Shelter

Cards: Cinderblocks

Energy

Books: Energy Transitions

Creating vs work

Rather than "work" or "a job", I think the fundamental need is the ability to create solutions. This perspective tilts toward access to tools as the starting point to solving a problem.

Past Examples

The invention of agriculture about 20,000 years ago was an early fundamental technological advance. Pastoralism and sedentary agriculture lead to dramatic increases in population density.

Writing (3200 BC) provided humanity with external memory and allowed us to begin the exponential accrual of ideas that brought us to now.

Dramatic advances happened between 1860—1920 with vaccines, antibiotics, electric grids, widely deployed indoor plumbing, the flush toilet, steam and water turbines, internal combustion engines, the Haber process, synthetic fertilizer, the Ford production system, steel, aluminum, electronics.

More recently, during the late 20th and early 21st century The Green Revolution, The Pill, the Toyota production system, computing, the internet and mobile phones are actively reshaping society.

Emerging fundemental technologies that are likely to have profound impact within our lifetime: solar energy, gene editing, artificial intelligence. Automation is also likely to be a driving factor.

More fun: