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Technology and Basic Needs


photo credit: Henry Hargeaves

Abraham Maslow once stated, “…the great lesson is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one’s daily life, in one’s neighbors, friends, and family, in one’s backyard.” In a world fueled by technology, it is difficult to appreciate the simplicities life has to offer, and even more so, the basic physiological necessities for human survival.

Human basic needs according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (i.e., breathing, food, water, sleep, etc.,) have changed over time with the advancements of technology and material goods. What was once a want has now become a need for humans. Technology rules everything around us—smart phones are seen in nearly everyone’s hand, households typically have at least one television set, computers and laptops are essential for communicating between friends, colleagues, business clients. As I type this on my computer, I too, am a victim of technological advancements; yes, I own a smart phone and have several television sets in my home; yes, I communicate with my clients via email. Technology has been engrained in our society as a basic need due to multiple factors: media, economic stimuli, generational differences.

Media is a major driving force behind the popularity of technology products.  Advertisements for new upgrades on products are constantly bombarding the public via television, radio broadcasting, and the internet.  Everyone wants the best new technology products available, even if it may be confusing or impractical. When seeing or hearing of products that are appealing, individuals tend to act on a whim—passing up a great deal may lead individuals to regret and disappointment because they may never get the product at that price again. We see lines of people at 1:00am stretching out as far as the parking lot just to try to buy that dirt cheap TV at Best Buy on Black Friday; we see people camp out to be the one of the first 100 customers to receive a free gift card to iTunes with no guarantee of a reward; we see people lining up in front of the Apple store to snatch the new iPhone. Media influences people to contribute to the economy with consumer spending but not for basic survival, rather for keeping up with current trends.

Furthermore, economic stimuli have driven people to increase their spending on electronics. In a recent article on CNNMoney, statistics show low income households have at least the same amount as flat screen television sets as middle-class and wealthy Americans. Because appliances and electronics have become more affordable for essentially any income bracket, consumer spending on these material goods have drastically increased. The problematic question arises as to what is more important: food, water, and child care or technology and electronics? What would have been a simple “black and white” answer in the past has now altered into a gray area of having, or should I say needing both amenities for basic needs.

Generational differences between the Baby Boomers and Generation Y shows a clear comparison of the influences and progression in technology. The latter was raised during the “dot-com” boom—technology was on the rise, new electronics were being created or updated, technological culture shifted overnight from being nonexistent to the greatest invention in the 21st century. Generation Y, having grown with technology and being there for it through thick and thin, relies on technology for basically everything as they are more in tuned with its advancements; technology will always be the norm and therefore, a basic need.   The older generation, in order to be updated with technological trends, is also jumping on the technology band wagon as well—parents and grandparents can be seen using smart phones for texting even if they are clueless in how to use their new devices.

Technology and electronics are inevitable: updates and new products will continue to flood the media outlets to the public, which in turn will cause an up-shift for owning the latest and greatest electronics, or simply just any electronic at a reasonable price. In a society where family, food, water, and sleep are essential for survival, so are technology and electronics.

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