University of Earth
Projects Overview (Explanations)
World Problems Project (Explanations)


Modifications to World Problems (Volume 1, 1994)

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In addition to the statistics on world problems given within the context of the 4th (1994-1995) edition of the Encyclopedia as a whole (separate table), in more detail (separate table), and in Note 2.3 Content: modifications, improvements and additions of the Introduction to Volume 1, additional statistics and commentary  are given below.

1. Quantity of text

There has been a 34.1 percent increase in text overall in the 1994 edition compared with the 1991 edition.

2,792 (28.4 percent) of problem entries in the descriptive sections of this 1994 edition have no text (only cross references). 5,143 (42.1 percent) of the total problems in the database have no text. The comparable figures for the 1991 edition are 2,688 (30.8 percent) and 5,882 (49.0 percent).

2. Entries - additions and deletions

The number of problems has remained virtually constant (rising fractionally) between 1991 and 1994.

1,300 problem entries have been added to this 1994 edition. All are contained in the descriptive sections (PB-PF).

1,919 problem entries have "disappeared" from the active part of database since 1991 (although their unique record is preserved for archival purposes). This may mean one of several things has happened:

• A potential title that was being held under observation has been deleted because it has been judged inadequate or invalid. This was the fate of some of the 1,091 entries that have been removed from the "doubtful" and "unsatisfactory" subsections of the database, PS and PU (problems in these subsections have never been printed). A much smaller number of problems have disappeared from other subsections for the same reason (particularly the "provisional" section PJ).

• Two or more problems, previously held separate, have been amalgamated because, in fact, they are the same problem. This may be because they were originally described under different names, or as synonyms, because their local name varies in different societies, or for other reasons;

• Two or more problems, previously held separate, have been amalgamated because it has been determined they are variants of the same problem and not sufficiently distinct to be considered separate problems. A major group of such problems was to do with "developing countries" and other classes of countries. Another major grouping was to do with problems of communities.

• There has been the removal of problems relating to situations which are now largely historical rather than actual. A major group of such problems was to do with "socialist" or "communist" countries and economies (not ideologies). Generalized entries with such titles naturally still appear in the Encyclopedia, but material in entries previously covering more detailed aspects has sometimes been inserted into the problems of broader scope, and the specific narrower problem deleted.

• 344 entries in subsection PA: Fundamental abstract problems have been excluded from the 1994 edition. The more tangible aspects of these problems have been incorporated into entries in the PB and PF sections. Other aspects are taken up in the values section (Section V) in Volume 2.

3. Paragraphs - additions and modifications

54.9 percent of descriptive entries of world problems in this 1994 edition have a "Nature" (or "Background") paragraph (667 new paragraphs since 1991); 37.5 percent have an "Incidence" paragraph (1486 are new); and 20.1 percent have a "Claim" (or "Counter-Claim") paragraph (813 are new); making a total of 2,966 new paragraphs in this edition.

Of the three types of primary descriptive paragraphs - "Nature" "Incidence", "Claim" - the percentage of descriptive entries appearing in the 1994 edition which have been modified from the 1991 edition (by addition or amendment of the paragraph) are: Modified New (incl. New)

7,044 of the 9,836 problem entries appearing in the descriptive section of the 1994 edition (Subsections PB - PF) have at least one primary text paragraph (71.6 percent, compared with 69.2 percent in 1991). For all problems in the database (totalling 12,203 and including those in the "index only" subsections PG and PJ), the comparable proportions are 57.9 percent in 1994 compared with 45.7 percent in 1991.

The number of paragraphs with no text in the descriptive section of the 1994 edition is 18,438 (or 1.8 paragraphs per problem). This can be compared with 17,430 paragraphs, or 2.0 per problem, in 1991). For the entire problems database, the number of empty text paragraphs has decreased from an average of 2.3 per problem in 1991, to 2.1 in 1994.

4. Hierarchies

There are 321 problems located at the top of hierarchies (ie having no broader/mother problems, only narrower/daughter problems). For comparison, in 1991 there was a total of 407 problems defining tops of hierarchies. Such hierarchical families of problems disperse through the population of problems like branching tree roots, or regular series of diverging "herringbones", giving a structural trace to the interrelationships between problems which is not immediately apparent on the printed page.

In 1994, the "mother" problems of 222 of the hierarchies are assigned to the PF section ("fuzzy problems"), leaving a remainder of 99 more conventional "families of problems", which are headed by problems assigned to the PB or PC sections in all but 8 cases.

In 1994, 4,620 problems are located at the bottom of hierarchies (ie problems having no narrower problems, only broader problems). This compares with 7,209 in 1991 (a 35 percent decrease).

In 1994, 183 problems are not located within hierarchies (no broader/narrower relationships), although all have at least one other form of relationship (related/aggravating/reducing). This compares with 1,195 in 1991 (an 85 percent decrease).

The reduction in the number of hierarchies and unrelated problems in this 1994 edition reflects the considerable emphasis given to tightening the patterns of cross-references.

5. Affective relationships and problem cycles

The number of problems which have no aggravating relationships to or from other problems is 3,602 (29.5 percent) in the 1994 edition compared with 3,848 (32.0 percent) in the 1991 edition. It is unlikely that all these problems are isolated "sources" or "sinks" of undesirable interactions, ie not part of causal "problem cascades". This aspect deserves greater attention in subsequent work (see also Note 4.4 Visualization: Holistic network mapping, Section TZ and related notes).

With the increasing number and maturation of the interrelationships between problems in the database, it has become possible to search for aggravating relationships of problems forming closed loops. Problem loops are closed cycles of problems where each problem in the cycle, through an affective chain of aggravation, aggravates itself. The loops may be linked into chains. An example of two six item loops operating independently and interconnecting through a common problem to form a "figure of eight" is:

Between these two loops, Alienation (in the first) aggravates Social fragmentation (in the second), and Traditionalism (in the second) aggravates Social fragmentation (in the first).

Several thousand such interconnected loops have been traced and should serve as an additional editing tool for cross-relationships (see also Note 3.2 Vicious cycles and loops in Section TZ (Volume 2). 

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