The mathematics of desire

By Gordon Rugg

When I was an undergrad, back in the day, a lot of the campus graffiti looked as if it had been written by someone who had dropped acid shortly beforehand. One example read: “The Tao that can be expressed in words is not the eternal Tao”.

Another said: “Tell me what you want, and I will give you what you need”. That particular concept stuck in my mind, and it’s one I still use in my work on requirements.

What do people want, and what do they crave, and what do they need, and what are the implications? Those are questions central to our world and our values, and they’ve been around for millennia, but they’ve never been properly answered. In recent years, though, research has produced some fascinating new insights into these old questions.

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