Encyclopedia of World Problems

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title:Research relating to the Encyclopedia

Research relating to the publication the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential represents some of the most progressive and innovative work conducted at the UIA. The Encyclopedia is the result of an ambitious effort, since 1972, to collect and present information on the problems humanity is confronted with, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies.



A preliminary investigation in 1971 by the Union of International Associations showed that there was very little in the way of systematic descriptive listing of world problems, awareness of how many there were, or views about whether such information would be useful. An attempt had been made by Hasan Ozbekhan in 1968, which listed 28 Continuous Critical Problems, and this was later extended to 48 in an internal document of the Club of Rome.



In the past, much effort has gone into the focus on seemingly isolated world problems, such as unemployment, boredom, endangered species, desertification or corruption. Research for the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential has instead shifted focus to the hunt for complex networks and even vicious cycles of problems. A cycle is a chain of problems, with each aggravating the next - with the last looping back to aggravate the first in the chain. The more obvious loops may be composed of only 3 or 4 problems. Far less obvious are those composed of 7 or more.

title:5.8 Phases of human development through challenging problems

1. Experiential phases and modes

The contents of the core sections of this Encyclopedia might be understood as linked over time in terms of the problems and values encountered under different challenges to human development. There are many concepts of the phases of human development (Section H). The possibility of such an ordering might best be illustrated through one which links such phases to value dilemmas.


title:5.6 Problem perception and levels of awareness

1. Degrees of immediacy of pain

Awareness of problems could be characterized in terms of the directness of the experience of that problem as a pain or a painful tension, with which it is possible to identify. Degrees of immediacy might then range as follows:

    Experienced by oneself: physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually

    Experienced by one's immediate family: nuclear family, extended family and dependents (possibly including favoured animals)

    Experienced by one's peers: friends, neighbours, colleagues, associates


title:5.4 Problem metaphors

The nebulous, shadowy nature of problems discussed earlier suggests the value of trying to understand them through metaphors. Not only can valuable insights be obtained, but this helps to comprehend how people acknowledging problems as understood through one metaphor have difficulty in attaching significance to problems as understood through another metaphor. The favoured metaphor may render some problems even more evanescent. There is also the possibility of considering problems as metaphors in their own right (see Section MZ).

1. Atoms, molecules



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