Hi Colin — Great post and question too. I have often wondered about this question too.
There is certainly no doubt in my mind that what we value changes over time. In fact it also changes based on our circumstances.
So, for example, if a country is experiencing droughts and desrtification — it could lead to people struggling for survival and one might go from cooperation to conflict and competition. You talk about other shifts up Maslow’s heirarchy. I think that too is happening, and is more likely to, as people’s baser needs are met, ever more easily.
What I believe is true is that new technologies keep shifting the locus of value creation and traditional centers fall away. There is clearly a shift towards the consumer for example, at least in the developed world and spreading elsewhere.
This correspondingly suggests new models of enterprise, and when that enterprise is no longer the sole creator of value, they will need fewer people. That is but natural.
If people contribute to and participate in their own value creation — they too should need less from the traditional enterprise. Perhaps the resulting ‘unemployment’ might not be so bad after all.
The challenge is that enterprises will lead the transformation perhaps and some people will be caught off guard — what would those people who cannot do craft or art or are not interested in spiritual growth do? There is so much you can do lying on the beach or watching football. For so many of us today are occupied in the lower levels of that pyramid.