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I've had an epiphany about Altruism itself, and I hope you'll bear with me through this explanation.

Do you know of Maslow's Hierarchy of Motivation? I learned about this only a couple years ago, but it changed everything in how I view people.

Basically, there are 4 levels of "deficiency" needs that motivate people: 1) Physiological needs (food, shelter, etc); 2) Safety needs (physical safety, economic safety, mental safety, etc); 3) Love/acceptance (loved and cared for, and not being rejected by others); 4) Esteem (being respected, which is different from love. This is tied to self confidence.)

These needs are hierarchical in nature -- generally speaking, but not exclusively.

When these needs are met -- and not just met, but mastered according to Maslow himself -- then the person moves into Self-Actualization. This is the point where the person strives to reach their full potential. This can be an athlete, or a programmer, or a teacher, or someone really pulling all the stops out and being the best they can be at whatever they love to do.

Self-Actualization is the place of passion.

Maslow believed there's a place beyond even that. He called it Self Transcendence. This is the more spiritual place of altruism -- when you want to give back to your society.

Self-Transcendence is the place of altruism.

This is probably where many members here are.

There is nothing special about us, according to this hierarchy. It just means we have gotten all of our needs met early, and we have had time to really devote ourselves to reaching our potential. This doesn't mean we're gifted. It means we have had some success in reaching that potential.

That's important: we are not special. We have merely had our needs met.

(Note: this is the core of my own secret project: how to have everyone in the world get their needs met. Imagine that: what if all people reached Self Actualization and most people reached Self Transcendence? How powerful the human race would be then!)

(I believe the Human Potential is the greatest untapped resource on the Earth right now. But I digress. :) )


I want to point out in particular the Esteem need -- which, to me, reads as the whole point of your post.

The difference between esteem and love is subtle, but important. I'm realizing this because I've realized I've been deficient in this need.

I've needed people to praise me and say I'm awesome. Sounds silly, but it's a real need. It drives me to work hard and do amazing things. Without that need fulfilled, I've sunk into a life of mediocrity. (Currently I'm a housewife when I used to work at Pixar.)

Recently, I've regained my esteem, and now I'm plunging forward on some Big Ideas that I want to see through. I feel like I've regained my "old self" that strived hard for impossible things.

So the answer to your problem is to make sure you're getting that need met.

The answer is for all of us to make sure we're encouraging each other. Because it is hard being in a crowd of amazing people. (I had some depressing days at Pixar...until a friend said, "don't see the single great thing about each person here, and think each person does all of those things. You are making it. You're just as good as everyone else here." That helped me keep perspective, and realize I had my own single great thing. :) )

If Esteem is, indeed, important to Self Actualization and Transcendence, then feeding each other esteem as we go along could be key to keeping the energy high in this group.

What about the harm Natural Intelligence is already doing? Global Warming, economic collapse, wars, and so forth.

1) Are there lessons we can learn from how Natural Intelligence already poorly serves the needs of humanity?

2) How can we apply those lessons to shape the Natural Intelligence already in control towards the good of humanity?