Following on the heels of my previous entry is this bizarre application of “First Order Optimal Strategy” (defined in Extra Credits, I can’t take credit) to fundamental human needs. The idea I’m going for here is that there is an immediate “strategy” to satisfying fundamental needs which is universal. What follows is a list and my shaky reasoning.

You need to know the original list, here alphabetical: affection, creation, freedom, identity, leisure, participation, protection, subsistence, and understanding. Next you need to know what I mean by “First Order Optimal Strategy.”

As I understand the concept since it appeared on Extra Credits, “First Order Optimal” or “FOO” strategy, refers to the adoption of new strategies and more complex strategies based on the order of recognition followed by efficiency. Basically, strategy comes from the first technique that you A) recognize, which B) works the best.

Taking this concept and applying it to fundamental human needs is weird, but possible I think. The very first strategy I hope would be “subsistence,” which refers to the basic necessities of life: clean food and water, basic hygiene, and shelter. This might seem like a lot of things folded into one need, but it’s important for comparison.

Following subsistence, I place “protection.” This involves identifying and neutralizing threats to life. You can’t live without the basics, and you can’t live if something comes along and wipes you out – these are the first two needs that I think can be identifies and optimized, in order. After these fundamental needs, it gets more complicated.

It might seem odd, but would you believe “affection” is necessary to life? Humans are social creatures and will literally die without social contact and affection. It’s basic and necessary, but I would place it after the first two, since you can’t get affection if you don’t feed yourself or something comes along and steps on you.

I put these three in a category I refer to as the “First Order.” They’re easily recognizable and I think were probably the first recognized. I think they help to explain the basic foundation of civilization and peer groups – how humans could survive for hundreds of thousands of years as hunter-gatherers.

Into the “Second Order,” I would place the following needs: creation, leisure, and participation. Once the first order is recognized and needs met, these three become more accessible. Next after affection I see “participation,” with the establishment of social hierarchy, probably starting with basic meritocracy or somesuch.

Innovation comes with the next need, which I see as “creation,” which requires not only creator but audience to appreciate the work. Without a social order, creation is limited to individuals, and widespread adoption of new devices is difficult to implement. With these needs met, I see “leisure” quickly elevating other needs.

Off-hand I don’t remember whom, but one of the great philosophers described a kind of “laziness” that I think may be better understood as “playtime.” While it’s said that necessity is the mother of invention, I think leisure and the opportunity for play make far better “parents” of invention. Leisure leads us into Third Order Strategies.