Intent: Uses of the Encyclopedia
- Commercial enterprises and entrepreneurs
- Integrative studies
- Policy development
- Management sciences
- Foresight and futures research
- Law and treaty preparation
- International organizations
- Information sciences
- Expert systems
- Values and ethics research
- International relations
- Challenge to creativity
- Foundations and funding agencies
- Human development programme design
- Imaginative responses to intractable problems
A project of this kind evokes amongst some the response "Why bother, when
we already know what ought to be done?" Who, after all, needs another book
parading the range of problems with which the global community is confronted?
Key people no longer have time to read more than one page summaries and each
international body is acting as best it can to contain the problems to which
it is sensitive.
In 1984 the Director of Political Affairs of one major intergovernmental
body considered this project both presumptuous and ridiculous. He then went
on to argue that problems did not "exist" in a way which allowed them to
be identified and described in a book. For his institution they were agenda
items which came and went according to the political currents of the moment,
ceasing to "exist" once his organization was no longer obliged by political
pressures to deal with them.
Others would argue that it is a grave mistake to focus on problems in any
way because this "gives them energy", hindering the necessary "positive thinking" from
which appropriate social transformation can emerge. There is widespread belief
that the action required can be simply defined. Food aid is a topical example,
although even major intergovernmental bodies are now acknowledging the counter-productive
aspects of such generosity. A modicum of humility would require the recognition
that most seemingly positive initiatives have at least minor counter-productive
effects - omelettes cannot be made without breaking eggs.
There are however many who point out that international institutions are
not containing the problems faced by the global community; rather they are
being overwhelmed by them. To function at all, such bodies have to concentrate
on very small portions of the pattern of problems, denying the relevance
of other portions or even their very existence. This is especially the case
when they are constrained to prove the value of their own initiatives even
though they may aggravate such other problems. Many claim to know what needs
to be focused on, or done, or avoided to resolve the crisis - if only everybody
else would subscribe to their particular set of priorities. In such a context
it is appropriate to present these many "action vectors" within a single
framework, in effect bringing them collectively to consciousness rather them
denying or repressing those which do not fall neatly within some favourite
This Encyclopedia is therefore intended for those who question whether
they are receiving information from a sufficiently broad range of perspectives.
It is for those who believe that much might be learnt from the variety
of perspectives on what constitute significant problems and significant
responses to them. In particular it is for those who recognize the possible
dangers and limitations of attempting to filter this variety down to a
handful of "essential" problems which can be appropriately contained
by a single policy, strategy or blueprint based on a single conceptual
framework guided by a single set of values. The decision that any particular
class of information in the Encyclopedia is irrelevant can be seen as raising
valuable questions as to the nature of the assumptions on which each such
judgement is made.
It is expected that the majority of readers will use this book to locate
specific items or groups of information. Some users will respond to the challenge
of ordering, comprehending and presenting such a range of information in
new ways, because of the extent to which it reflects the variety of issues
with which people and groups identify and by which they are motivated. It
is hoped that some will also be further stimulated to explore the possibility
of patterned dynamic relationships between incompatible conceptual languages,
encompassing the discontinuity between them, in order to develop a dynamic
conceptual foundation appropriate to the global order of the future.
The users of this volume will therefore include:
1. Commercial enterprises and entrepreneurs
Corporations concerned with navigating in a complex and turbulent social
environment can detect problems which may affect them, whether directly or
indirectly. For them, problems may also be looked upon as potential business
opportunities, since some require heavy investment for remedial action.
Seemingly trivial problems, such as acne, may represent an important market.
Each problem can be viewed as affecting or concerning a portion of the population.
As such there is a potential market associated with each problem. Corporations
may respond to this market with remedial products (as in the case of water
pollution), with consultancy and other services (as in the case of environmental
impact assessment), or with publication and information services (as with
registers of pollutants).
The information may be used in programmes with students in many fields who
need to acquire an overview of the range of global issues, how they may relate
to one another, and the difficulties of ordering such information within
one conceptual framework. Of special interest is not only the information
given here but also its weaknesses and the controversies associated with
particular claims or counter-claims. It is an interesting challenge to students
to attempt to detect problems which are not present here, especially in the
light of their awareness of problems in their own environment. Such explorations
can be extended to the international organizations supposedly concerned with
the problem area.
3. Integrative studies
University departments (international relations, environment, law, social
science) concerned with interdisciplinary issues can use it to stimulate
discussion among students. It should be of particular value to departments
responsible for designing general studies programmes for students.
4. Policy development
In many ways the Encyclopedia provides a form of checklist for
policy-related issues. Ideally in attempting to elaborate a policy framework
in a particular domain, the information here could be used to identify related
issues which may need to be taken into consideration and which would otherwise
be neglected until too late. It is especially valuable for relationships
between problems across disciplinary and paradigm boundaries. For, whether
concerns are a matter of established fact or deeply held opinion, they may
need to be given serious consideration in any policy design.
5. Management sciences
The total set of problems suggests interesting lines of research into the
modes of governance in a complex environment. This is especially the case
where the issue is how to manage networks of problems using cycles of policies
which encompass more than one budgetary or electoral cycle.
6. Foresight and futures research
Because the data included covers both currently fashionable and seemingly
marginal or improbable concerns, it provides a much more appropriate source
for use in anticipating new kinds of issues which may emerge to greater prominence
than can currently be imagined. Many problems registered reflect the concerns
of groups sensitive to issues that conventional bodies are unable to recognize.
The information here may be used by government departments designing programmes
which need to be sensitive to problems and possibilities in other sectors.
Of special interest is the possibility of using the identified problems as
a checklist to determine which government department, if any, is concerned
with each problem, and thus evoking discussion about issues which are not
the explicit responsibility of any department.
The Encyclopedia is an interesting background document for briefings
of diplomats or members of delegations, whether for ministries of foreign
affairs or for other bodies. As such it may also be used in training programmes.
It provides a corrective to easy assumptions about mono-problem situations,
based on single-factor explanations, leading to simplistic solutions.
9. Law and treaty preparation
Legal instruments are designed in part to regulate or contain problems.
The range of problems included highlights the question of the degree of match
between existing laws and the problems recognized in society. Does the existence
of certain problems suggest the need for new laws, whether immediately or
in a more distant future ?
10. International organizations
Governmental and nongovernmental bodies concerned with the potential range
of problems should find it useful to explore this Encyclopedia when
considering the design of new programmes. It could provoke useful discussion
in the effort to locate counter-part organizations, focusing on related problems,
with a view to collaboration or the exchange of information.
11. Information sciences
The Encyclopedia is basically an experiment in information collection
and presentation. In order to handle the variety of fuzzily defined forms
of data with which the Encyclopedia is concerned, methods have been
used which raise interesting questions for further research in the information
sciences, whether for classification theory or for the use of computers in
database management, or in the graphic presentation and analysis of networks
of concepts. The data may be used to test methods for handling such difficulties.
12. Expert systems
The data on the network of perceived problems continues to provide an interesting
challenge to those working on expert systems and artificial intelligence
because it is of a higher order of complexity than artificially constructed
databases or those usually available. It should prove of even greater interest
on CD-ROM and the Web.
13. Values and ethics research
Researchers grappling with the ill-defined fields of values, human development
and states of consciousness, especially in their relationship to global problem-solving,
will find an extensive range of information which is otherwise difficult
to locate and assemble.
14. International relations
The Encyclopedia presents a much broader range than is usually
available of information of potential interest to any research on international
relations, especially that touching on international organizations. It raises
many questions concerning the capacity of the network of international organizations
to respond to the network of problems.
For those bodies concerned with potential (and low probability) threats
to national and international security, and with facts leading to the destabilization
of societies, the information collected suggests leads for further investigation.
Of special interest are the ways in which several minor threats may combine
or interact so as to constitute a major threat.
16. Challenge to creativity
There are bodies and individuals who are specifically interested in having
their perspectives and priorities challenged as one way of learning how to
learn. The range of information, and the manner of its organization, highlights
new linkages and evokes new levels of thinking. It reinforces recognition
of the need for a paradigm shift. The information is a direct challenge to
fixed patterns of thinking.
17. Foundations and funding agencies
A factor contributing to the difficulty in launching new initiatives is
that funding agencies tend themselves to be locked into particular, and often
outdated, patterns of priorities. The information collected here offers alternative
perspectives which may suggest more fruitful approaches. It is also valuable
in providing a sense of context for specific initiatives.
The information gathered here constitutes a rich guide to possibilities
for new investigatory reports and documentaries. It also offers perspectives
from which established positions can be fruitfully challenged in any interview.
19. Human development programme design
The range of information on human development and modes of awareness provides
a rich and unique source of insight into new possibilities for research in
this area. It serves to demonstrate the scope of human development, as seen
from many cultural perspectives. It provides reminders that there are many
unexplored opportunities for human development whose existence has not been
widely recognized. It is a direct challenge to the simplistic understanding
of human development evident in official policies.
20. Imaginative responses to intractable problems
The information gathered here, suggests the possibility of new ways of
thinking about the intractable problems (such as unemployment, substance
abuse, poverty, violence, and the like). Much of that volume points to existing
disciplines, and other possibilities, for using the imagination to reconfigure
or reframe such problems into a more tractable form -- whilst simultaneously
re-imagining the self that is exposed to such problems. It raises the possibility
that problems such as drug abuse may, at least in part, be a consequence
of imaginal deficiency reinforced by authoritative repression of imagination.
21. Interactive access: CD-ROM and World Wide Web
The information in this Encyclopedia has also been available on CD-ROM.
It has been made available online.