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September 1971

World Dynamics and Psychodynamics

A step towards making abstract "world system" dynamic limitations meaningful to the individual

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Distributed by the Union of International Associations and Mankind 2000 as Study Paper ORG/2


Introduction
Experiment
Concluding comments
Annex I: Preliminary Conclusions of the Club of Rome Study of World Dynamics
Annex II: Levels in psychological systems corresponding to selected world system levels
Annex III: Complete world model described in World Dynamics
Annex IV: Terms in psychological systems corresponding to those used in the model of the world system


Introduction

Any academic study of the world system is based on a treatment of individuals as units whose actions can be aggregated to constitute the general processes which are examined within the world system model used. The conclusions of such studies result in recommendations for political actions which are either meaningless for individuals or, if understood, are viewed with suspicion, low credibility or, at best, as interesting hypotheses "worthy of further study". They do not incite commitment or a change in behaviour at a grass-roots level - thus leaving politicians free to support current trends without modification.

With regard to The Club of Rome study published as "World Dynamics"(Jay Forrester, World Dynamics. Cambridge, Wright-Allen Press, 1971 (see review in "International Associations", October 1971)), it would seem valuable to attempt to render its approach (and conclusions given as Annex I) more meaningful. To this end, we can consider in more detail the individual's end of the actions which are aggregated into world processes tracked by the model. And, instead of looking at his physical actions, we can attempt to use the system dynamics approach to concretize the person's own psychological processes which give rise to the physical actions which are aggregated. For unless the interactions between these psychological processes and their consequences are understood by the individual responsible for them, we should not expect the individual, or even ourselves, to accept any arguments in favour of modifying the consequences of such processes in terms of physical behaviour. In other words, we cannot expect rational consideration of arguments for immediate self-restraint and self-privation made on the basis of highly abstract analyses of long-term future probabilities, however objective to the investigator.

At first sight, individual psychological considerations may seem to have little connection with a computer analysis of the world system. But Jay Forrester, author of "World Dynamics", himself establishes the link:

"There is nothing new in the use of models to represent social systems. Everyone uses models all the time. Every person in his private life and in his community life uses models for decision-making. The mental image of the world around one, carried in each individual's head, is a model. One does not have a family, a business, a city, a government, or a country in his head. He has only selected concepts and relationships which he uses to represent the real system. A mental image is a model. All of our decisions are taken on the basis of models.. . .The mental model is fuzzy. It is incomplete. It is imprecisely stated. Furthermore, even within one individual, the mental model changes with times and with the flow of conversation. The human mind assembles a few relationships to fit the context of a discussion. As the subject shifts, so does the model" (p. 14-15)

These points do not offer an explicit clue to the method to be adopted to render "world systems" meaningful to the individual. The argument is however the same that Forrester must have used in converting his approach from corporations and industries, to urban systems to the world system. (The city to world switch appears to have been made between June 29th when it was proposed in Bern and July 20th, 1970, when it was demonstrated in Cambridge, USA.) The assumption is that at every level we are dealing with systems:

"The most important concept in establishing the structure of a system is the idea that all actions take place within feedback loops.. . .The feedback loop is the closed path that connects an action to its effect on the surrounding conditions and these resulting conditions in turn come back as "information" to influence further action... .The principles of system structures tell us that two kinds of variables will be found - levels and rates. .. .The levels are the accumulations within the system. The rates are the flows that cause the levels, to change.. . .Levels exist in all subsystems - financial, physical, biological, psychological and economic." (p. 18)

Experiment

As an experiment therefore

(i) we can assume that the types of systems and system principles discussed by Forrester are applicable to an analysis of psychological (see also: John C. Loehlin. Computer Models of Personality. Random House, 1968. (This notes that most personality models are partial to date - Just as has been the case with world system models.)) systems. Forrester appears to apply this above.

(ii) we can attempt to use the levels and flows selected for the world systems model as models for psychological processes. In other words we can try to "piggy-back" on the world dynamics model in our attempt to gain greater insight into the psychological processes of the individual - with the understanding that the greater the degree of such parallelism, the greater (hopefully) will be the ability of the individual to understand and "penetrate" the nature of the world system processes and his relation to them

This is a seemingly dramatic and unwarranted assumption since it implies that there are elements and relationships common to both the world system and to the psychological system of a person. But in both cases, as pointed out above, we are dealing with a system, and in both cases the emphasis is more on processes, flows and relationships than on the precise definition of what it is that is flowing. In fact, we can avoid the issue by assuming in both cases that some form of energy is flowing without needing to detail the kind.

The five levels chosen by Forrester as cornerstones on which to build the world system structure were: population, capital investment, natural resources, fraction of capital devoted to agriculture, pollution. As a first step in the experiment, these must be "translated" into equivalent levels in an individual's "psychic system".

This is done in Annex II. The diagram used by Forrester to illustrate the connection between levels (rectangles) and rates of flow (circles) is reproduced as Annex III. In Annex IV, the terms used in Annex III have been "translated" to give concepts which are more meaningful in the psychic system context.

Concluding comments

The procedure is the reverse of that usually existing between models of personality and world system models. The latter have often been criticized as being a mere projection of the former. Under the circumstances, the "translations" seem to suggest possible interesting relationships for further exploration. As required, the psychological eco-system seems to appear sufficiently constrained so that the limitations on any one form of action become apparent. This increases understanding of the probable limits at the world level. It remains to be seen whether an individual aware of this model could see more clearly the manner in which each of his actions contributes to new situations at the world level (e.g. the purchase of a new consumer product of marginal utility, the dumping of picnic left-overs, acquisition of new information of doubtful utility). The approach certainly seems to give the individual a well articulated (and sufficiently subtle) framework on which to "hang" concepts which are usually too subjective to be made explicit. An important point is that concern with "world" dynamics only arises because of a recognition of constraints on "world" development. A critical developmental stage must be reached before these become apparent. The value of the model, and even its acceptance by the Individual, may depend on his being at this critical stage (e.g. of Information overload, anxiety, etc.)

The detailed equivalence of the two systems would be almost impossible to establish because of the difficulty of obtaining data on the levels and rates of flow. But the is some hope of quantification in that Forrester also lacked much data and depended upon the judgements of experts as to the rates of flow under different conditions and the plausibility of the interactions when tested.

It is, of course, too much to expect any relevance to individuals in general of a "translated" version of the "World Dynamics" conclusions (given in Annex I). The model in the case of the individual can only be supposed to give the dynamics of the system not a description of a particular state or trends. In given individuals, such drastic conclusions would not be warranted. But it is possible that such "translated" conclusions would be applicable to many of the Individuals today who are most active and successful in executive, policy and decision-making roles. It is they who are in many ways the motor of society and it is their actions and values which contribute most directly to the maintenance of the priorities which lead to the crises predicted by the Club of Rome study.


ANNEX I: Preliminary Conclusions of the Club of Rome Study of World Dynamics

Points 1 to 8 below were grouped as such in World Dynamics (pages 11-13) and no modification has been made to the text. The action conclusions of Point 9 were elaborated in a different part of the book (pages 112-122). The wording of that point was adapted for this paper.

1. Increasing industrialization may be a more fundamental disturbing force in world ecology than is the world population increase. In fact, the population explosion is perhaps best viewed as being a result of technology and industrialization. (Medicine and public health are included here as a part of industrialization.)

2. Within the next century, man may face choices from a four-pronged dilemma:

(i) Suppression of modern industrial society by a natural-resource shortage
(ii) Decline of world population from changes wrought by pollution from power generation, non-material conversion, chemical plants, underdeveloped and intensive agriculture
(iii) Population limitation by food shortage
(iv) Population collapse from war, disease and social stresses caused by physical and psychological overcrowding.

3. We may now be living in a "golden age" when, in spite of a widely acknowledged feeling of malaise, the quality of life is, on the average, higher than ever before in history and higher now than the future offers.

4. Exhortations and programs directed at population control maybe inherently self-defeating. If population control begins to result, as hoped, in higher per capita food supply, and material standard of living, these very improvements may relax the pressures and generate forces to trigger a resurgence of population growth.

5. The high standard of living of modern industrial societies seems to result from a production of food and material goods that has been able to outrun the rising population. But, as agriculture reaches a space limit, as industrialization reaches a natural-resource limit, population tends to catch up. Population then grows until the "quality" of life falls far enough to stabilize population.

6. There may be no hope of the present underdeveloped countries reaching the standard of living demonstrated by the present industrial nations. In fact, the present disparity between the developed and underdeveloped nations may be equalized as much by a decline in the developed countries as by an improvement in the underdeveloped countries.

7. A society with a high level of industrialization may be nonsustainable. It may be self-extinguishing if it exhausts the natural resources on which it depends. Or, if unending substitution for declining natural resources were possible, a new international strife over pollution and environmental rights might pull the average world-wide standard of living back to the level of a century ago.

8. From the long view of a hundred years hence, the present efforts of underdeveloped countries to industrialize, may be unwise. They may now be closer to an ultimate equilibrium with the environment than are the industrial nations. The present underdeveloped countries may be in a better condition for surviving forthcoming world-wide environmental and economic pressures than are the advanced countries. If one of the several forces strong enough to cause a collapse in world population does arise, the underdeveloped countries might suffer far less than their share of the decline because economics with less organization, integration, and specialization are probably less vulnerable to disruption.

9. With a view to action towards a global equilibrium solution, the study concludes that we are at the point where higher pressures on growth in the present are necessary if insurmountable pressures are to be avoided in the future. In order to maintain the quality of life (defined here as a combination of material standard of living, degree of crowding, available food, and level of pollution) at the current level, the following changes must be made immediately:

which have the effect of maintaining the population at the 1970 level.


ANNEX II: Levels in psychological systems corresponding to selected world system levels

1. Natural Resources

(a) Each person may be conceived as having certain psychosocial reserves acquired during the period of growth in childhood and early adolescence. These reserves may be partly described as energy or conventionally termed "talent", "strength of character" or "background". It is assumed that these reserves are primarily built up prior to adult life although after this period they are regenerated at a certain rate and may be "husbanded" and "cultivated" with varying degrees of success.

(b) During adult life these reserves may be drawn upon rather like intellectual and emotional "capital" . They may be used up at a rate greater or less than the rate of natural regeneration. If the rate at which they are used is greater than the rate of regeneration, a time must come when the person has no "Inner" reserves left. The person becomes intellectually and emotionally "bankrupt" - "a shell of his former self". He is unable to contribute further energy to the social process.

2. Population

(a) Each person may be conceived as possessing a certain population of ideas, facts, concepts, items of information, hopes, beliefs and such like. This population is in no way static. The interactions between the members of the population constitutes a person's"inner life". Needless to say many of these interactions produce new members of the population. This constitutes creativity in a very broad sense. But this increase is partially counter-balanced as certain Items of information, beliefs, etc. fall into disuse, are forgotten and cease to participate as active members of the population.

(b) The population may be assumed to be contained by the person within a certain psychic space. As the population Increases new territory within this space may be opened up by the person - but for each person there may be assumed to be only a certain limited amount of psychic space available. Once this limit is reached, the population increase occurs within a fixed space. This results in a progressive "crowding" of ideas and information.

This phenomena of "crowding" of information is familiar to many as "information overload", and to others, faced with neurotic depression, the point at which "everything becomes too much" and "one can no longer cope with the demands made upon oneself by one's milieu" - namely a point of intellectual or emotional overload.

Information crowding or overload therefore constitutes, for a given person, a natural limit to the increase in the amount of information which he can contain within his psychic space.

3. Capital Investment

(a) Each person may be conceived as being in a position to allocate a certain fraction of his time and energy to the build up of his intellectual structures and behavioural patterns as a form of long-term investment. Such intellectual or emotional investment or "commitment" beyond the needs of the moment is made in order to reduce the amount of personal energy which will be required to perform the same activities at some time in the future. These structures and behaviour patterns are consciously constructed so that a person can master and order the use of his time and energy to increase the amount of free time and energy available to him at some later date.

(b) There does not appear to be any recognized limit to this form of investment.

(One possible limit arises from the manner in which certain ideas, hopes a beliefs of the person must be "disciplined" in order to achieve a satisfactory ordering of the person's time and energy. This disciplining may amount to a form of repression of certain members of a person's concept population. This pressure may build up resistance and lead to isolation of particular belief complexes (resulting in schizophrenia), a form of credibility gap, and an awareness of lack of personal integration due to the lack of participation or representation in the manner in which the investment of personal time and energy is decided.)

4. Capital Investment in agriculture fraction

(a) Each person may be conceived as being dependent upon a certain intellectual and emotional replenishment. It is recognized that for psychic balance and growth, periods of "recreation" and self-renewal, and freely chosen, personally meaningful, fulfilling activity are required.

This may be thought of as providing "nourishment" to the members of each person's psychic population - without adequate nourishment, the more fragile ideas, concepts and beliefs fall into decay.

This nourishment may be thought of as being a product of certain regenerative processes in certain suitable domains of each person's psychic space The regenerative process may or may not be efficient, and the space available to nourish all the different members of a person's concept population may not be adequate. Once the population builds up, it is no longer sufficient to depend upon natural re-creative processes to ensure adequate psychic nourishment. A deliberate conscious effort must be made to guarantee that these replenishing processes are efficient and sufficient. To achieve this, a certain fraction of the person's time and energy must be invested in improving these processes. This limits the investment in the long-term processes mentioned in the previous section.

(b) As the number of concepts and facts making up a person's psychic population increases, the available psychic space to contain them and to nourish them is reduced. If the efficiency of the person's regenerative processes does not Increase, a natural limit is imposed on the amount of nourishment available If the population demands increase beyond this limit, the available nourishment (per concept) will decrease. This will limit creativity and any further growth in the population.

5. Pollution

(a) Each person may be conceived as made up of many psychosocial processes in which members of his psychic population participate. Each process consumes energy and results in the creation of products which may either be needed for later processes, or have to be broken down by later processes into waste products to be absorbed. As an example, most intellectual and emotional activities leave anything from a longer to a minute residue of what is usually termed "unpleasantness", "tension", "disagreeability", "dissatisfaction", "confusion", "suspicion", "envy", "anxiety", etc. These are natural waste products of the processes inherent in the activities. These waste products are absorbed at a certain rate, so that after a certain time, the same activities may be repeated without being affected by any progressive accumulation of waste products. At a given time therefore for a given person, a certain level of waste products is in circulation in process of absorption.

(b) Under certain conditions, the level of the waste products in a person's psychosocial processes may start to Increase in certain domains. In other words, at a certain stage, the intellectual and emotional processes which absorb waste products may be overloaded. They may no longer be able to perform their function adequately. Such a situation could arise if a person was highly active but paid little attention to the long-term consequences of his actions to himself - particularly if this gave rise to a build up of tension, anxiety or other emotional or intellectual difficulties.

This situation in which waste products start to accumulate, leads to a form of "psychic pollution". As the pollution level increases, the natural regenerative processes are affected and the person cannot recover his original "freshness" . The Increase in the level of pollution renders the nourishment of the psychic population increasingly difficult and severely reduces creativity.


ANNEX III: Complete world model described in World Dynamics

"World 2": This is a complete diagram of the world model described in Jay Forrester's World Dynamics. The model interrelates the five level variables population, natural resources, capital investment, capital-investment-in-agriculture fraction, and pollution. .World 2 antedated the World 3 model described by Dennis Meadows

Complete world model described in World Dynamics (Forrester)

ANNEX IV: Terms in psychological systems corresponding to those used in the model of the world system

. Code World dynamics factor Psychodynamics factor (tentative)
1 BR Birthrate (people/year) Creativity (new information/time unit)
2 BRCM Birthrate from crowding multiplier Creativity change multiplier due to degree of information overload or psychosocial pressure
3 BRFM Birthrate from food multiplier Creativity change multiplier due to degree of availability of intellectual or emotional recreation
4 BRMM Birthrate from material standard of living multiplier Creativity change multiplier due to degree of opportunity for new intellectual or emotional stimulus
5 BRN Birthrate normal (i.e. fraction per year of the population that will normally be added by the birthrate) Normal creativity (i.e. fraction per time unit of the population of ideas that will normally be added by creativity)
6 BRPM Birthrate from pollution multiplier Creativity change multiplier due to level of unabsorbed intellectual or emotional complexes and tensions
7 CFIFR Capital fraction indicated by food ratio (ie fraction of capital which would normally be allocated to food production for a given amount of food per capita -- as food availability declines, a greater fraction of the capital is allocated to food production) Fraction of intellectual and emotional energy which should be devoted to improvement of re-creation, as indicated by the availability of personal development and re-creational opportunities
8 CI Capital investment (units of capital) Intellectual and emotional energy invested in long-term activities; commitment to "rationalized" behaviour patterns.
9 CIAF Capital investment in agriculture fraction Fraction of intellectual and emotional energy which is devoted to the improvement of re-creational and personal development processes
10 CIAFT Capital investment in agriculture fraction adjustment time (i.e. time necessary for the changing mix of capital -- agriculture or other -- to be reallocated to the demands of the times; assumed 15 years) Time taken for the proportion of intellectual and emotional energy Invested in the improvement of re-creative and personal development processes to be changed to meet the demands of the times.
11 CID Capital investment discard (i.e. the decay, in capital units per year, of any investment in physical structures, education or research) Intellectual and emotional energy investment which must be written off in each unit of time (i.e. the decay in the value of any commitment to particular formulations of concepts, beliefs, facts, etc)
12 CIDN Capital investment discard normal (assumed value given an average investment life of 40 years)  
13 CIG Capital investment generation (i.e. the rate at which capital investment is generated per year) Rate at which intellectual and emotional energy investment in new structures and behaviour patterns is generated
14 CIM Capital investment multiplier (i e modification to capital investment generation due to material standard of living) Multiplier on the rate at which intellectual and emotional energy investment is generated for new structures and behaviour patterns due to degree of opportunity for new intellectual or emotional stimulus.
15 CIQR Capital investment from quality ratio (ensure that agriculture receives a higher capital allocation when the quality of life from material is higher than the quality of life from food) Multiplier to ensure that intellectual and emotional investment in re-creation improvement is increased when the quality of personal life from the availability of new intellectual or emotional stimulus is higher than that from the availability of opportunity for intellectual and emotional re-creation.
16 CIR Capital investment ratio (i.e. units of capital investment per person) Units of intellectual and emotional energy invested per psychic population unit (i.e. items of information, concepts, beliefs, etc
17 CIRA Capital investment ratio in agriculture (i.e. units of capital investment per person in agriculture) Units of intellectual and emotional energy invested in improvement of re-creational and personal development per psychic population unit.
18 CR Crowding ratio (i.e. relates the population to the available land area as a function of current average population density) Expresses the psycho-social pressure in terms of the psychic population and the available psychic space as a function of the current average psychic population density
19 DR Death rate (people/year) Intellectual and emotional decay (i.e. information falling permanently into disuse per time unit)
20 DRCM Death rate from crowding multiplier (i.e. death rate due to psychological effects, social stresses, epidemics, and war) Multiplier on the rate of intellectual and emotional decay due to degree of psycho-social pressure or information overload
21 DRFM Death rate from food multiplier Multiplier on the rate of intellectual and emotional decay due to degree of availability of availability of re-creational opportunity and personal development.
22 DRMM Death rate from material standard of living multiplier Multiplier on the rate of intellectual and emotional decay due to the degree of opportunity for new intellectual or emotional stimulus.
23 DRN Death rate normal (i.e. fraction per year of the population that will normally be reduced by the death rate) Normal rate of intellectual and emotional decay (i.e. fraction per time unit of the population of ideas that will normally be reduced by intellectual and emotional decay).
24 DRPM Death rate from pollution multiplier Multiplier on the rate of intellectual and emotional decay to the level of unabsorbed intellectual and emotional complexes and tensions.
25 ECIR Effective capital investment ratio (i.e. a measure of the number of capital units that contribute directly to improved standard of living expressed in terms of the current situation) Measure of the intellectual and emotional energy investment that contribute directly to increasing the opportunity for new intellectual or emotional stimulus
26 FCM Food from crowding multiplier (i.e. the effects on food production due to the use of agricultural land to house a rising population) Multiplier on the rate of production of recreational and personal development opportunities due to the occupation of domains devoted to such purposes by members of the psychic population
27 FPCI Food potential from capital investment (food producing potential of capital investment in agriculture in terms of food units per person per year) Potential of intellectual and emotional energy investment to produce improvement in the production of re-creational and personal development expressed in terms of re-creational units per psychic population unit per unit of time)
28 FPM Food from pollution multiplier (taking into account effects of pollution on weather, photosynthetic and water-evaporation processes) Multiplier on the rate of production of recreational and personal development opportunities due to the level of unabsorbed intellectual or emotional complexes and tensions.
29 FR Food ratio (i.e. expresses the food per capita in terms of the current world average) Expresses the recreational and personal development opportunities per psychic population unit in terms of the current world average
30 LA Land area (square kilometers) Area of a person's psychic space which can contain concepts, ideas, facts, beliefs, hopes, and other such psychic population units
31 MSL Material standard of living (i.e. a measure of the extent to which affective capital investment per person is greater or less than the current value) Measure of the extent to which effective intellectual and emotional energy investment per psychic population is greater or less than the current value.
32 NR Natural resources (units of nonreplaceable materials in the earth and not wood or grown products which are included under agriculture) Psycho-social acquired during growth prior to adulthood. Partly described as energy, enthusiasm and partly as background, strength of character or natural talent.
33 NREM Natural resource extraction multiplier (i.e. a measure of the reduction in the efficiency of capital investment due to any decline in the supply of natural resources) Multiplier giving a measure of the reduction in the efficiency of intellectual and emotional energy investment due to any decline in the supply of natural psycho-social resources
34 NRMM Natural resource from material multiplier (i.e. a measure of the rate of change of natural resource usage with change in material standard of living) Measure of the rate of change of psycho-social resource usage with change in the degree of opportunity for new intellectual and emotional stimulus
35 NRUN Natural resource usage normal (natural resource units per person per year)  
36 NRUR Natural resource usage rate (natural resource units per year)  
37 P Population Psychic population units contained by a person (i.e. concepts, facts, beliefs, etc.)
38 PDN Population density normal (people per square kilometer) Measure of the density or packing of information, concepts, etc. per unit of psychic space
39 POR Pollution (i.e. measure of the number of active pollution, units in the environment as they exist after generation and before dissipation into some harmless and inactive form) Measure of the amount of active or inabsorbed intellectual and emotional complexes and tensions as they exist after generation and before dissipation into some harmless and inactive form
40 POLA Pollution absorption (a measure in pollution units per year of the rate of pollution absorption. The rate is dependent on the amount of pollution itself.) Measure of the rate of absorption of intellectual or emotional complexes and tensions. The rate is dependent on the amount of such unabsorbed complexes.
41 POLAT Pollution absorption time (is the time in years for 63% of any existing pollution to disappear) Time for 63% of any existing complexes and tensions to disappear
42 POLCM Pollution from capital multiplier (a measure of the increase in pollution per person as a function of the capital investment per person) Multiplier on the rate at which intellectual and emotional complexes are generated due to any change in the intellectual or emotional energy invested in long-term projects
43 POLG Pollution generation (a measure of the pollution units generated per year) Measure of the number of intellectual and emotional complexes and tensions generated per unit of time
44 QL Quality of life (a measure in satisfaction units of the performance of the world system) Measure in satisfaction units of the performance of the person -- or, alternatively, of his/her degree of self- contentment.
45 QLC Quality of life from crowding (i.e. a measure of the effects of crime, psychological pressures, war and threat of war, lack of open space and lack of privacy) Multiplier on quality of personal life as affected by the degree of information overload or other psychic-social pressures due to increased interact between psychic population units.
46 QLF Quality of life from food Multiplier on quality of personal life as effected by the degree of availability of intellectual and emotional re-creation and opportunities for personal fulfillment.
47 QLM Quality of life from material standard of living Multiplier on quality of personal life as affected by the degree of opportunity for new intellectual or emotional stimulus
48 QLP Quality of life from pollution Multiplier on quality of personal life as affected by the level of unabsorbed intellectual or emotional complexes and tensions

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