Maslow : Psychology :: Einstein : Physics
At the end of his career of observing the human species through the eyes of a psychologist and futurist, Maslow found an important property of SELF-actualizing people. As it turns out, there are two types of self-actualizers. One type can be called mechanomorphic self-actualizers; the other, transcending self-actualizers. The mechanomorphic SA's are those individuals who are at the top of their game and highly productive, showing all of the signs of a successful and meaningful life. But they lack a characteristic that sets them apart from the transcending SA's. This can be termed the need for transcendence and identification with more of the world and the cosmos. The non-transcending SA's simply don't come with this "higher" need.
It would seem from his work and writings that Maslow simply assumed that all SA's were transcending until he ran across the business literature through thinkers like Drucker. After review of the management theories and writings available in the sixties, Maslow saw that success in business (and life) could be achieved without transcending goals and values. One thinks of Cheney and Halliburton here. Non-transcenders perform well, but at the lower end of the scale, can be highly successful fascists, feeling loyal only to blood family, etc. Even Hitler could be considered an SA, depending on one's particular brand of proctopsychology.
Extended into the computer domain, we now stand in the higher reaches of mechanomorphic SA in our use of the Web and computing in general. We are able to handle complexity with millions of lines of code and ever more complex hooks like AJAX and on to the semantic web and rdf bundles. This is good development, but eventually can be explained in terms of fractal geometry. We will learn to handle every instance of interaction in more and more clever ways, and coders will feed machines who will code and script with an awareness of the web as a whole. And so it goes.
The only thing missing is that troublesome notion of transcendence. This class of web use and computer use is alive in many ways, but we're not used to making comparisons a la Maslow. Quite simply, this class of effort involves helping others and helping the world and uplifting the world by using the Machine in new ways. Here, we will begin to see things like GPS on wheelchairs powered by open source systems! Just look at the difference between Microsoft and, say, Google. Microsoft hoards and operates in the D-realm entirely. There is absolutely nothing transcendent about Microsoft or it's software. Google, on the other hand, seems to care more about the end user from the role of mentor. It has reached D-realm SA because of advertising, but this is nicely low key, and shows good taste.
Many people will be unable to discern this difference--this "something more" about Google. But they might also be the ones who will never understand the delight of feeding a child the last strawberry. As we develop our infrastructure together, we should always remember to keep room for the B-realm of computing, where robots work the fields and people develop better people.
Web 2.0 is giving us the ability to join together in wonderful and unique ways, where our energies will be multiplied. And when the critical mass is just right, we will step out into a brave new world of improving the species. Maslow can help us here.