Needs vs Usefulness

I’ve just finished Atlas Shrugged from Ayn Rand, great book by the way. This reading leds me to think a lot about needs. From Ayn Rand works, she despises the link made between needs and the obligation of the state to try to give satisfaction to them. She despises the fact that you will bring productions of other men at an end of a gun, the looters behind the gun defining who is the state. I think we can go further into her thoughts and challenging the mere use of the word “needs” to analyze human behavior.

We use the word need plenty of times when we try to have an insight about how human works, thinks, acts, lives and loves. Of course, we can think about communism, which try and fail to address everyone’s needs in an attempt to guess what every people want. But, we use the word “need” also in more capitalism ends, notably in marketing services. The customer needs whether it’s a company or a person is then the basis of how marketing staff thinks. The last but not the least, we use needs in sociology to analyze how one man or woman interact with other men and women. Thus, it have been identified that each one of us has a fair amount of physiological needs, safety needs, stability needs but also fun needs, spiritual needs, social needs, emotional needs, and even love needs.

I think this way to analyze human behavior simply doesn’t work and doesn’t make sense. When you go out to eat a burger, you don’t say: “hum.. I feel hungry, maybe it means that I have to fulfill my food needs. I ought to buy a sandwich and eat it.” No, you directly go eat it without even thinking it is one of your say-so physiological needs. When you feel unsafe, you buy a gun. You are not fulfilling a safety need, you are just trying to do your best to stay alive! When you fall in love, you don’t even think about that it can be a need, you just feel it, Moreover, the absence of it doesn’t mean you now want to seek it. The human analysis by his needs is a way that makes companies loose their money and politicians keep their jobs. As a matter of fact, it may be obvious that something that is good for politicians cannot be profitable!

Men act towards what is the most useful for their own survival and for their self-happiness. When we feel hungry, we don’t buy a burger to own it, we buy it because we know how we can make it useful for us, how we can eat it and how this help to not suffer for starvation and death. We don’t want things because of our needs. We want things because of their usefulness. Our mind tell us that this hammer must be bought giving that it can be useful to make this nails right, not giving that it will fill a part of our do-it-yourself needs. When you buy a gun, you know well that by itself, it will not raise your level of safety, but you know also well in case of someone trying to break into your house, it can be very useful to make him runaway.

We value things according to the usefulness we find on them, either for our very own survival or for our seek of happiness. The reason why something material can be worthless for someone and invaluable for another one is that our mind differs in what we have learnt and so what we think will be useful. Oil was more than worthless a few centuries ago because it was simply useless. Human minds managed to build useful machinery to take advantage of the oil nature and now oil is valued more than gold. It is valued more than gold because it has become a lot more useful thanks to a series of complex inventions. We feel love as a good thing because it is pure happiness. No needs for our mind to make an extra step to judge its usefulness for our self-happiness, indeed, It’s already it.

Companies also must not think about what clients need or want but what’s the most useful for them. To get it straight, when clients express theirs desires, it must be taken of course in account because the odds are high that this IS what is useful. But, as a company, we must challenge ourselves to find for them new ways that no one has dreamt of. It’s not by studying market needs, that Steve Jobs invented the Mac and the whole personal IT market, but by guessing, what will be useful for other people and, by convincing them that it will be. The study of needs is useless and drive us to collectivism, bad ideas and a lost of money, therefore, we must avoid it and focus on what really matters, determining what will be the most useful thing we can create and how we can efficiently bring it to the customer.

As human beings, we have to seek what’s, material or not, the most useful things we can find to leverage our existence by, first of all, keeping it and after that, by driving towards happiness. And, we have to remember, that every man and woman, consciously or not, has the same behavior, they follow what’s they think is the most useful for their own survival and for their self-happiness.


One thought on “Needs vs Usefulness

  1. “and now oil is valued more than gold”. Oil is around $4/U.S. gallon…a gallon weighs about 7lbs. …so oil is valued at about $.57 /pound. Gold is currently valued at over $1600/ounce, which is about $25,600/pound. Its doubtful you could find a rational person on this planet that valued oil more than gold. If you can find one, let me know – I’ll happily send them oil in exchange for gold.

    …so gold is valued 45,000 times as much as oil. …and by your theory, gold is valued by it’s usefullness. While gold has a few industrial applications, it is not valued at all for its “usefullness” – it doesn’t generally get used at all. It just sits there & waits for a greater fool to offer more money for it.

    …also, “oil was more than worthless a few centuries ago”…nah – oil has been used for a few thousand years for things like lighting, heat, and waterproofing ships.

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