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World Problems Project (Explanations)

World Problems: Type Codes

World Problems Project

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To help users understand how the world problems are distinguished in the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential, codes have been appended to the problem names on the index pages (and at the end of each profile). These codes correspond to the type sections into which the problem profiles have been tentatively clustered in the Encyclopedia. They are designed to distinguish the more general and fundamental problems from those which are more specific or detailed. More detailed comments on each type are given by following the hyperlinks:

Attribution to a particular type is never considered definitive and is continually reviewed for the on-line version. It is a pragmatic convenience. Some problems coded "F" could well have been coded otherwise. In a number of cases a problem could have been allocated to another type. Inclusion of a problem in a particular type, rather than in a preceding or following type, has been based on a number of factors. The position of the problem in one or more hierarchies of cross-references may be a major factor in determining its allocation to a particular type.
Derivation of type attributions

The following overlapping guidelines were used in allocating the section code letter during the editorial process:


A: Abstract fundamental problems

This type has been used to identify world problems which are not usually the direct focus of international action. The problems here are characterized by their abstract or fundamental nature. For that reason, they are also especially characterized by terminological ambiguity. Despite their seemingly "fuzzy" nature, it is these problems which are frequently cited in debates and lead to recognition of the less ambiguous problems in subsequent sections.

Many of the problems here are best considered as problem complexes in that no single term adequately captures the underlying concern. Therefore, although each problem has a single main title, it also has many secondary synonymous titles. The situation is further complicated in that the words used in these titles frequently have other meanings. This results in their also being used to name other problems in this section (whether as main or secondary titles).

The terminological complexity is partially clarified by indicating cross-references from each problem to related problems in which the same words are used with somewhat different significance. An effort has also been made to show how many of these problems may be clustered within broader problems at an even higher level of abstraction. At this level of abstraction no words can be usefully used to name the problem. Such problems therefore have names with "*complex" appended to them.

Although the information in this section is essentially "fuzzy", it is considered of value to that extent that it endeavours to map out the range of concerns which underlie those with which international bodies are normally preoccupied. Because of its fuzziness, this section can only be considered as experimental. It is an experiment in handling the levels of ambiguity which bedevil communication concerning strategic issues.

In contrast to the other types, these problems are based on work done on human values, and especially on negative values. This work is described in the section on Human Values. Essentially it involved clustering negative value terms and determining ways to clarify, or map, the basic ambiguity by which such information is characterized. The intent was to "capture" the full spectrum of negative values because of their intimate relationship to fundamental problems.

B: Basic universal problems

This type identifies the major multi-sectoral, world-wide problems which tend to be prominent on the agendas of the major international organizations and in the media. Such problems also tend to group, or focus, many of the more specialized problems which are described in subsequent sections. Indeed in many debates discussion of the more specialized problems may be subsumed under discussion of these major problems.

Note that further information relevant to an understanding of the problem may be present in other problems cross-referenced in the entry consulted.

Many of the problems in this section are of such proportions and complexity that no single organization or discipline can claim to encompass any one of them in all its aspects. The scope and implications of such problems tends to be a matter of continuing debate. They are not sufficiently well-defined to respond to well-defined solutions. The nature of an appropriate solution to such problems is also a matter of continuing debate.

C: Cross-sectoral problems

This type identifies the major cross-sectoral, world-wide problems which tend to be prominent on the agendas of international organizations with more specialized concerns, as well as in the media. Such problems also tend to group, or focus, many of the more specialized problems which are described in subsequent sections. Indeed in many debates discussion of the more specialized problems may be subsumed under discussion of these problems.

Note that further information relevant to an understanding of the problem may be present in other problems cross-referenced in the entry consulted.

The problems of this type are often sectoral variants on the broader or more basic problems described in Type B. Many of the problems of this type are of such proportions and complexity that no single organization or discipline can claim to encompass any one of them in all its aspects. The scope and implications of such problems tends to be a matter of continuing debate. They are not sufficiently well-defined to respond to well-defined solutions. The nature of an appropriate solution to such problems is also a matter of continuing debate.

Inclusion of such problems calls for no comment because of their widely recognized importance. Where they are cross-sectoral variants of those in the previous section, their inclusion here prevents neglect of the sectoral specificity, as tends to be the case when such problems are subsumed under those of the broader problems in Type B.

D: Detailed problems

This type identifies the detailed and sectorally-specialized problems which tend to be prominent on the agendas of international organizations with specialized concerns, as well as in the media. Such problems also tend to group, or focus, many of the even more specialized problems which are described in subsequent types. Indeed in many debates discussion of those more specialized problems may be subsumed under discussion of these problems.

Note that further information relevant to an understanding of the problem may be present in other problems cross-referenced in the entry consulted.

The problems of this type are often sectoral variants on the broader or more basic problems described in the previous types (Types B or C). Inclusion of such problems calls for no comment because of their widely recognized importance. Where they are cross-sectoral variants of those in the previous type, their inclusion here prevents neglect of the sectoral specificity, as tends to be the case when such problems are subsumed under those of the broader problems in Type B.

E: Emanations of other problems

This type identifies detailed and sectorally-specialized problems. The problems in this section tend to be permutations and combinations of the broader problems identified by the previous sections (Type B, C or D). Many of the problems of this type are parts of sets or series resulting from such combinations. Whereas the earlier types aim to be comprehensive in coverage, this type does not necessarily include all potential problems forming part of such series.

Note that further information relevant to an understanding of the problem may be present in other problems cross-referenced in the entry consulted, especially any broader problems.

Whereas the problems allocated to earlier types tend to be the subject of distinct studies, conventions or organizational programmes, those of this type tend to emerge from the paragraphs and sub-paragraphs of documents which may only incidentally be problem-focused. Problems at this level of detail frequently escape information collection procedures and are easily ignored as side effects of broader problems. It is also the case that these problems may be more readily detected in practical situations.

F: Fuzzy exceptional problems

This type identifies "unusual" problems. These may include:

Problems are also allocated to this type when it is difficult to justify their allocation to any other type. A significant number of the problems cannot be readily grouped into hierarchies using the "broader" relationship. They then tend to be characterized by the looser "related" link or by functional links to other problems.

Note that further information relevant to an understanding of the problem may be present in other problems cross-referenced in the entry consulted.

The problems in this type tend not to be a preoccupation of the programmes of international organizations. But they may emerge in reports on the failures of those programmes.

The problems allocated to this type tend to emerge from unusual studies that do not fall within any of the conventional disciplines and thus seldom figure in any reviews of the crises of the times. Some derive from the paragraphs and sub-paragraphs of documents of programmes in response to the more conventional described in earlier types. Problems of this kind frequently escape information collection procedures and are easily ignored as being unworthy of serious attention. The importance of some of these problems become more readily apparent in practical situations.

G: Very specific problems

This type identifies very specific problems. They themselves tend to be grouped under broader problems identified by earlier types. A problem is included here when it is considered too specific to merit inclusion in any of the previous types, especially if it constitutes one of a number of sub-elements of specific problems described there.

Descriptions are often not given any priority. The problems may only appear as cross-references of entries under earlier types.

In the process of collecting information for description under previous types, the names of many interesting candidates for inclusion emerge. The many problems in this type constitute the detail of reference books on diseases, endangered species, problems of particular commodities or economic sectors, and the like. As such they are easily ignored in attempts to respond to the classes of problems to which they belong.

It is by specific problems that people and groups are touched. The challenge is to explore methods of providing pointers to the maximum number of such problems. Keyword indexes and hierarchies of cross-references are used, thus ensuring a trace on them, whether or not it is possible or appropriate to provide a succinct description of them at this stage. The difficulty is to establish useful cut-off points to avoid overwhelming the process with problems at an excessive level of detail.

Registering a problem under this type ensures that borderline cases can be noted, indexed and included in hierarchies and networks of cross-references in anticipation of the opportunity for future research and editorial work on them. This type therefore provides a possibility for initiating the process of setting such problems in context.

J: Problems under consideration

This type identifies problems which are under consideration for inclusion in the preceding types. As such they may overlap problems already appearing there or may be rejected for a variety of other reasons. Problems are included in this type:

Note that further information relevant to an understanding of the problem may be present in other problems to which the index cross-reference refers, especially any broader problems.

In the process of collecting information for description in the previous types, the names of many interesting candidates for inclusion emerge. Since the problem collection process is an ongoing one, this type provides a valuable means of reflecting the kinds of problem on which further information is being sought. Registering a problem in this type ensures that borderline or questionable cases can be noted at an early stage. They are immediately indexed and included in hierarchies and networks of cross-references in anticipation of the opportunity for future research and editorial work on them. This type therefore provides a possibility for initiating the process of setting such problems in context.

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