World Problems and Human Development
- / -
An earlier version of this document (without Part II) was distributed by the Union
of International Associations
(as UAI Study Paper PROB/1R in February 1972) under
the title World Problems and Human Potential: out line proposal for a data
collection project on "world problems"
. This version, modified to
include Part II: Human Development, was distributed jointly by Mankind 2000
the Union of International Associations (Study Paper PROB/3). The Summary was
however omitted from the June 1972 version. The project commenced in July 1972.
The proposed project would collect from the literature minimum
adequate descriptive data and source references on, possibly,
1,500 - 5,000 "world problems" and their interrelationships.
The purpose of the project is to counteract the tendency to design
programs to handle isolated problems or sets of problems, due to
a simplistic conception of the extent to which problems are interrelated. In particular, the project
would hope to highlight the
many cross-links from the sub-sets of "natural environment" and
"development" problems to psycho-social problems, which currently
prevent real progress towards
the solution of the more visible problems.
It is the largely ignored, behavioural and systemic problems which divert,
cushion or even counteract the Impact of organized attacks on those of apparently
more dramatic concern. A comprehensive mapping of the problem network would
help bodies to focus and coordinate their resources more effectively - particularly
with a view to locating and concentrating on those key problems requiring relatively
few resources, but whose solution results directly in the elimination of many
other dependent, and possibly more visible, problems.
Part I: World Problems
Part II: Human Development
- Meaning of human development
- Human developpment and social change
- Human development contrasted with economic and social development
- Contents and layout
- Criteria for selection of material
Background of project
- Types of problem
- Problem criteria
- Examples of world problems
- Layout of problem entry
- Objective: more adequate approach to interrelated problems
- Advantages of later use of computer graphics data handling
World Problems (Part I)
Preliminary investigations show that, surprisingly enough, there in no systematic
descriptive listing of "world problems" nor any systematic attempt
to show their interrelationship or how they are nested within one another
- even in the case of the subset constituted by human environment problems.
This impedes progress towards formulation of widely acceptable strategies
capable of attracting adequate resources to attack complex networks of problems.
It also confuses research priorities and obscures critical leverage
points in the network at which research and action may be most beneficial
with a minimum of resources.
There is a tendency for information systems, organizations and programs to
get "locked into" recognition of one particular pattern or mode
of problems only, and to "over-identify" with them. (Donald Schon.
Beyond the Stable State: public and private learning in a changing society.
London, Temple Smith, 1971) This results in a multiplicity of candidates
for "the key problem" requiring maximum allocation of resources,
of which each appeals to constituencies having often little basis or desire
for inter-communication. Examples are: refugees, economic development,
environment, peace, youth, urban renewal, drug addiction, etc. It is dangerous
to define problems in isolation from one another (Harold Lasswell. From
fragmentation to configuration. Policy Sciences, 2, 1971, pp. 439-446.).
Each constituency attempts to create the general impression that its
is covering all the relevant issues. Thus it is only in the footnotes to
reports that one finds, for example, that the U.N. Conference on Human
Environment (Stockholm 1972) will not concern itself with the population
problem (which is a major
contributor to destruction of the environment)
because it is "too sensitive",
nor with psycho-social features of the
human environment because they are "too subjective". The same phenomenon
repeats itself with respect to other
The sub- and associated problems in each such case may, of course, be found
described to the relevant literature, but no effort has ever been made to
bring them all together in any systematic manner and to record their interrelationships. Perhaps the most sophisticated attempt at interrelating
world problems is that of The Club of Rome sponsored study at M.I.T. under
Jay Forrester and Dennis Meadows (Jay Forrester. World Dynamics.
Cambridge, Wright-Alien, 1971.) - but even this was forced to focus on
a very small sub-set of the recognized universe of problems, partly because
the universe is not systematically documented. Of particular importance
are the non-obvious problems, and those which are obvious in one culture or
frame of reference but are not in another - or those which constitute the
negative consequences of positive programs.
The proposed project would collect from the literature minimum adequate
descriptive data and source references on, possibly, 1,500 - 5,000 world problems
and their interrelationships.
The data collected in the project would later be used in four ways
in the form of text as the contents o( a "Yearbook of World Problems"
in the same series as the "Yearbook of International Organizations"
published by the Union of International Association (1970-1971. Brussels,
U.I.A., 1971, 13th edition, 1051 pages (3651 entries)) from text hold on
magnetic tape. This would ensure wide distribution. The funds so generated
would be used to produce progressively improved later editions as a continuing
- as a source from which "problem maps" can be produced to show
how problems are interlinked (such maps might also be used as a form of index
to the Yearbook of World Problems).
- in partially coded form to provide a data base which can be explored as
a demonstration of the use of the computer interactive graphics device to
handle problem networks.
- possibly as a permanent data base to be updated and explored for research
and policy purposes.
Background of Project
This project originated as a result of investigations into the collection
and handling of data on International organizations and on concept thesauri
(see Annex A). In dealing with systems of organizations
and concepts, there is a considerable problem of data collection - particularly
when it Is desired to show interrelationships. In the case of organizations,
most interesting information is confidential and organizations do not want
to be directly exposed to the suggestion that they should or should not be
linked in particular ways. In the case of concepts, each discipline tends
to favour a different pattern of concepts, so that it is liable to be difficult
to make rapid progress in concept classification or in suggesting new patterns
of linkages - particularly of the needed inter-displinary kind.
The system of organizations Is strongly influenced by the system of concepts
- integrative progress in one catalyzes integration in the other. These systems
are however also influenced in a similar way by the system of problems ( See
argument In: Anthony Judge, Computer-aided visualization of psycho-social
structures; peace as an evolving balance of conceptual or organizational
relationships. (Paper presented to an AAAS Symposium on Value and Knowledge
Requirements for Peace, Philadelphia, December 1971).
In this light, it should be possible to obtain a more effective integration
of the organizations and conceptual systems by showing in one context the
linkages within the network of problems with some parts of which each organization
and discipline is in some way concerned. The advantage is that the collection
of data on problems and their interrelationships is much less sensitive and
threatening. For this reason, it is also viable
Nature of Project
The data collection strategy is envisaged as follows:
1.1. Scan through a limited number of journals which attempt
to give an overview of progress and problems in many disciplines and to
omment on current issues (e.g. Science, New Scientist/ Economist, etc.).
1.2. Reference books on standard groups of problems (e.g. environment,
urban renewal, etc.) will also be consulted.
1.3. Official reports of the United Nations and its Specialized Agencies
will be consulted as they are one logical point at which the existence of
many unnoticed problems should be registered and documented.
1.4. Some bibliographies, accessions lists and union catalogues can
also be used effectively in a preliminary search.
The approach above should permit files of cuttings to be established for
a wide range of problems together with references to authoritative sources.
A subject index would be maintained.
2.1. it is expected that Phase 1 will already generate sufficient data
to describe a proportion of the problems adequately.
2.2. More specialized literature sources located in Phase 1 will be
followed up to extract details on problems. Official reports of some governments
will be consulted since many of these are problem oriented.
2.3. Some specialized libraries, information centers and organizations
will be visited or questioned by mall.
3.1. Completion of most problem entries.
3.2. Difficult entries would be compiled and sent to specialists for
comment and amendments.
A set of indexes would be compiled.
The data would now be in a form to permit computer coding or use as manuscript
for a preliminary edition of the Yearbook of World Problems.
Phase 4 (external to this proposal)
4.1 Each problem entry would be sent to the most appropriate specialist(s)
for verification and amendment. It is expected that the 4000 international
organizations will be extremely useful at this stage.
4.2 Extra categories of Information on problems will be added whenever
A more ambitious strategy would commission or attempt to obtain the collaboration
of experts to prepare reviews of each world problem touching their domains.
This is considered impracticable in terms of cost and time - and possibly
undesirable in that it would be difficult to prevent each expert from stressing
the perspective of his own particular school of thought. It would be preferable
to approach experts of different schools of thought with a finished text for
critical comment. In fact,it is at this stage, once the preliminary edition
is in existence, that a multidisciplinary editorial committee can be set up
to oversee the problems of criteria and quality of entry.
Practicality of Project
The style of work outlined is regularly used at the Union of International
Associations to prepare manuscripts for reference books on international organizations
(including organization descriptions, bibliographies, and other directories).
A major advantage of this particular setting is its reputation for commitment
to documentation without overemphasis on a particular national, political,
disciplinary, or program perspective.
Types of Problem
Despite frequent use of the word "problem", there seems to be a
certain confusion as to what is meant. Bertil Nordbeck notes in an investigation
of uses of the term that it is used conventionally in somewhat different senses
from person to person and from situation to situation - and that this also
seems to be true of the formal definitions of the concept Bertil Nordbeck. .
From the elements of 16 extant definitions, he concludes that
"A problem or a problem situation exists when one experiences a need
or a demand to achieve - through some kind of activity or search - from
a certain existing situation to another imagined situation, a goal situation,
which cannot be attained either immediately or by any automatic, habitual
activity." ( Problem: What is a problem? International Associations,1971,
It is possible to argue from this that it is goals that should be registered
(Cf. Gerald Feinberg. The Prometheus Project; mankind's for long-range
goals. Doubleday, 1969.) and not problems. But by definition, goals are
much more difficult to define. They are often not explicit - in fact
their presence can often only be deduced from the problems which emerge and
are noted as people succeed in giving precision to the goal and the difficulties
of achieving it are recognized.
Those seeking common values and goals assume too much in accepting the promise
of general agreement on the flaws in the human condition. Most of the flaws
are unknown to the majority and many, even when known, are not perceived
as flaws - people adapt to them. Even those which are known to the majority
do not necessarily give rise to an effective political will to change.
Peoples' values compete and the corresponding problems compete for resource.
"One man's meat is another man's poison."
From a practical point of view,it is the problems on which data is available.
The presence of goals is less easily handled. Furthermore, a well-defined
problem may in fact be a common obstruction to achievement of many
different goals representing the Ill-defined objectives of a variety of groups
in society. Again the problem is less ambiguous to handle.
One preliminary breakdown of problems gives the following types:
- Physical violence and conflict problems.
- Physical sustenance problems . economic and social concerns for physical
well-being development of the economy).
- Natural environment problems.
- Psycho-social problems (including personal development, political, cultural,
- Strategy, policy, decision-making and action problems.
- Inter-, transdisciplinary and cross-modal problems.
- Problems emerging as a consequence of the choice of discipline paradigm
(i.e. "in-house" theoretical or developmental problems).
- Methodological problems.
- Data collection problems.
- Theoretical exercise and game problems.
- Moral and ethical problems.
- Beliefs, religious and personal philosophy problems.
In attempting to isolate "world problems", the main emphasis would
be placed on problem types through 6 in the list above. Problems of
type 7 through 12 would only be mentioned In special cases of very general
significance and then only very briefly.
The cut-off point is established at type 7 because the nature of the orientation
toward the social system changes significantly from that point on. "in
-house research problems are different from social systemic problems. This
is perhaps best illustrated by the following extract from T.S. Kuhn (*)
"Bringing the normal research problem to a conclusion is achieving
the anticipated in a new way, and It requires the solution of all sorts of
complex instrumental, conceptual, and mathematical puzzles.... It is no criterion
of goodness in a puzzle that its outcome be interesting or important. On the
contrary, the really pressing problems, e.g. a cure for cancer or the design
of a lasting peace, are often not puzzles at all, largely because they may
not have any solution....one of the things a scientific community acquires
with a paradigm is a criteria for choosing problems that, while the paradigm
is taken for granted, can be assumed to have solutions. To a great extent_these_
are the only problems that the community will admit as scientific or encourage
its members to undertake. Other problems,including many that had previously
been standard, are rejected as metaphysical, as the concern of another
discipline, or sometimes as just too problematic to be worth the time. A paradigm
can, for that matter, even insulate the community from those socially important
problems that are not reducible to the puzzle form, because they cannot be
stated in terms of the conceptual and Instrumental look the paradigm supplies....One
of the reasons why normal science seems to progress so rapidly is that Its
practitioners concentrate on problems that only their own lack of Ingenuity
should keep them from solving." (T.S. Kuhn. The Structure of Scientific
Revolution, Chicago University Press, 1962, pp. 36-37; emphasis added)
Gunnar Boalt has in fact distinguished different kinds of research using
the following degrees of relationship between problems and theory (The
Sociology of Research. Southern Illinois University Press, 1969.):
the problem Independent, not associated with theory
the problem independent with a secondary association with theory, which
is of lesser importance.
- the problem is of about the equal importance with the theory used. - the
problem is of some interest but the theory Is of more. - the problem consists
of the testing of a theory.
The "world problems" on which a focus is needed come under the
first two kinds.
One useful classification of world problems and crises by estimated time
and intensity has been produced by John R. Platt ( John R. Platt. What we
must do. Science, 166, 28 November 1969 p. 1115-1121.). This is only
intended to show the most visible problems and does not show their interrelationships.
It does not, for example, bring out the web of sub-problems which contribute
to the visible problems.
Clearly, there are other dimensions along which world problems can be distinguished.
Two other dimensions of Interest are examined in Annex B.
In order to build up as comprehensive a data base as possible, the
criteria for problem selection would be kept to a minimum. The emphasis would
not be on the determination of whether adequate proof existed demonstrating
that a problem was a valid and significant one according to some absolute
standard. The effort would be to include those "problems" which
well-established constituencies indicated as significant in terms of their
own frame of reference - even when the validity and existence of the problem
is challenged by the perspective from some other frame of reference. In
effect, all problems are sought which pose a threat to the continued well-being
of some international group (as defined by that group or its self-elected
supporters). The object is to register all the problems perceived as real
whether or not - as Stafford Beer notes (Managing modern complexity. In:
The Management of Information and Knowledge.. Committee on Science and Astronautics,
U.S. House of Representatives, 1970, pp. 41-62) - most of the problems with
which society believes it is faced, are bogus problems generated by theories
about social progress and the way society works. The existence of information
questioning the validity of a perceived problem is to be treated as information
about that problem. Each perceived problem is envisaged as having a certain
probability of existence for some group in society and is therefore treated
like a proposition carrying annotations commenting on its validity - but it
Even with the limitation mentioned in the previous section, great care must
be taken to avoid being swamped by
problems at too low a level of detail
problems which are too ill-defined
problems restricted to too narrow a geographical or specialist area.
A first attempt at a more elaborate set of criteria is set out in
Annex C. Needless to say, it is only hands-on experience in collecting
references to problems which will determine whether these criteria are adequate
or whether they need to be made more stringent.
The assumption would be made that most problems of interest would have been
noted in the literature. When an author states that "the fundamental
problem is X", X would be treated as potential candidate, provided it
conformed to the criteria set out above.
Of major interest to this project are the interstitial, behavioural, elusive
or "creepy" problems which are less visible than the standard social
and environmental problems, but nevertheless directly hinder action towards
the solution of the latter.
Number of World Problems
An empirically determined set of world system-wide problems has already been
proposed by Hasan Ozbekhan (Toward a general theory of planning. In: Erich
Jantsch (Ed.). Perspectives of Planning. Paris, OECD, 1969, pp. 45-155.). He
is the only author located who focuses on a comprehensive range of problems
as problems and not in terms of the priorities of a particular mission-oriented
agency. He arrives at a list of 24 problems (which he considers incomplete).
Elsewhere (in internal reports of the Club of Rome which appears to be evolving
a program remarkable for its lack of problem, discipline or institutional
bias) he extends this to some 50 problems. His criteria are that they should
each be, firstly, world system-wide in nature or better that they should represent
cases in the pathology of current reality when the latter is viewed as a system.
Secondly, he requires that they be both "continuous" and "critical",
meaning that none of them can be truly solved independently of the rest of
the entire set.
The question is whether this list
represents adequate coverage in terms
of a comprehensive world problem repertory. The problems in his
list are mainly types 1 through 3 with only a few psycho-social problems
as understood here. Aside from this,
the thrust here is to get at problems
at a lower level of detail at which the "continuity" may be less
This is considered essential in order to Isolate the specific problems to
which organizations and programs are specifically addressed or which
they encounter in tackling the more general problems in Ozbekhan's list.
Needless to say it is not the purpose of this project to repeat the work of
the many people producing "doomsday books". All of these focus at
an even higher level of aggregation than Ozbekhan and tend to end up
with something like one chapter per world problem in a ten chapter book
which focuses on a particular group of world problems, creating the impression that those groups
non-included are less critical.
Preliminary investigation has
already shown that it is quite easy to build
up to two hundred problems without taking into account the many aspects
of conventional world problems such as environmental pollution. For
this reason a first "guesstimate" of the total number of problems
would be isolated by this approach is something in the range of 1,500
Examples of World Problems
A selection of examples is given in Annex D.
Data to be included on each problem
It is clearly not feasible to provide a detailed review of each problem when
whole books have been written on some of them. The intention is to supply
a succinct statement defining the problem, its history, development, significance
(plus denials of its significance), solutions, etc. Short statistical summaries
of the problem would be presented in tabular form whenever available. The
headings under which this information would appear in a complete entry are
given in Annex E.
it might be useful to treat each heading as in the Human Area Resource File.
There each possible heading has a code number which facilitates filing and
There is a strong case for remaining flexible in the manner of handling the
data on Individual problems. In particular,it may be convenient to
group whole series of detail problems into one entry as in the case of Individual
diseases, and handle the class only. (Diseases, for example, would only
be handled Individually when they were considered to be uncontrollable, particularly
when likely to give rise to epidemics.) It may also be useful to work with
both adequately documented complete entries, and Inadequately documented
(candidate) short entries. If Information could not be obtained under
a particular heading, it would not be Included. Each entry might therefore
include from 3 (a minimum) to many headings.
Relationships between Problems
It Is now a matter of convention to refer to the complex interrelationships
between problems and the network of problems. The OECD Bellagio Declaration
on Planning, for example, noted that
"Many of the serious conflicts facing mankind result from the interaction
of social, economic, technological, political, and psychological forces and
can no longer be solved by fractional approaches from individual disciplines...
Scientific attack on these problems of complexity is a matter of the utmost
urgency..." (op.cit., pp. 7-9.)
The whole point of the world dynamics study is that the Implications of different
problems, together with programs to solve them, must be juxtaposed within
a common framework to determine what the dynamic interactive effect
will do to the system as a whole (Jay Forrester. World Dynamics.
Cambridge, Wright-Alien Press, 1971).
"A major deficiency in objective/goal statements today continues to
be the lack of identification of objectives relating to spillover and second-order
effects. The emphasis on objective/goal statements still seems too restricted
to the immediate, more obvious, intended purposes of the program. "
(H.P. Hatry. Status of PPBS in local and state governments in the United
States. Policy Sciences, 2, 1971, pp. 177-189.)
Despite this recognition, however, the general tendency is to treat the "network"
concept as a metaphor and to avoid an empirical relational by-relationship
collection of information concerning the manner in which individual problems
are linked together into the larger complexes. It is this empirical approach
which is advocated here. One difficulty in establishing hidden relationships
is the probability of a general expectation that those variables in the environment
which are related to each other should be those variables which are related
to one's own behaviour. (W.R. Garner. Uncertainty and Structure as Psychological
Concepts. Wiley, 1962, p. 340)
A major stumbling block is the confusion concerning types of relationship.
No widely accepted relationship categories have been developed. It is not
the intention of this project to set up a single rigid classification of
permissable relationships between problems. Just as no effort was made to
limit narrowly the types of problem that should be handled,it should not be
necessary to make the futile attempt to resolve the intellectual problem of
how many types of relationship are significant. That the attempt would be
futile on the part of any one group is shown by Eric de Grolier's excellent
chapters on the expression of relationships in various systems. (Eric de Grolier.
A Study of General Categories applicable to Classification and Coding in Documentation.
Paris, UNESCO, 1963.) He concludes in his UNESCO/FID supported review, that
it proved impossible to produce a systematization that was "sufficiently
satisfactory to warrant even preliminary publication."
Prior to any classification of relationships between problems however, the
mere existence of a relationship needs to be noted. The ambitions
of this project are at this stage merely to note the existence of relationships.
These relationships will be represented by cross-references between the
problem entries. For convenience, and without suggesting any form of definitive
or theoretically founded classification, an attempt will be made to group
these cross-references under five headings (see Annex E):
problems whose existence contributes to the aggravation of the problem
- problems which are aggravated by the existence of the problem in question;
- problems which occur simultaneously with the problem in question;
- problems of which the problem in the question is a part
- problems which form a part of the problem question.
This approach is not expected to result at this stage in a consistent classification
or neat hierarchies of problems. Relationships will be indicated when the
literature on a particular problem Indicates the relationship. The only concession
to consistency will be to ensure that if evidence exists for problem A being
related to problem B, then the relationship B to A will also be registered,
whether evidence for this is available in connection with problem B or not.
A computer system to handle many varieties of relationship required in terms
of the perspectives of groups with different models has been described elsewhere
in connection with models of relationship between concepts. (Anthony. Judge.
Relationships between Elements of Knowledge. Social Science Research Institute,
University of Hawaii, 1972, (150 p.), (Committee on Conceptual and Terminological
Analysis, Working Paper No. 3).)
Objective: a more adequate approach to interrelated
This protect constitutes the first of a series of steps which might
be envisaged in a strategy to achieve more powerful control of the problem
environment and greater coordination of response to it. The steps are outlined
in Annex F. These more sophisticated possibilities are
in some measure dependent upon the facility with which information may be
flexibly handled and displayed for ease of comprehension. The future use of
computer graphics techniques in the connection is discussed in Annex
G. One use of the data generated by this project would be to test out
and demonstrate the credibility of such techniques.
Summary of Advantages
Supplies a semi-official "register" of problems which is not
subject to short-term considerations of current political relevance. Offers
a means of referring without ambiguity to the particular parts of the problem
network to which an organization's programs are addressed. Provides a
channel for bringing attention to new- problems.
- Shows systematically, across all usual category and Jurisdictions! boundaries,
what problems there are, bringing together information scattered between national
and International agencies. (Where can information on all world problems
be obtained currently?)
- Supplies a currently unobtainable focus on what needs to done or is not
being done, rather than on what is being done the quantity of information
on the latter tends to obscure areas of inaction - particularly as reports
on government programs tend to merge into government propaganda, (This may
therefore be considered a negative image of the world to be used as a complement
to positive images of what is being done.)
- Focus on man's existing problems rather than on his possible goals or values
- the positive counterpart - may, Ironically, result In greater social cohesiveness.
A value or goal focus Invites expression of variety, encourages divergence,
and lack of concern for problem relevance, with little evidence an Increased
ability to converge on widely accepted programs of action. The negative emphasis
places man under creative tension at the foci of the network of problems and
face-to-face with the consequences of his existing goals. It encourages him
to link with others to respond adequately to the situation - to the "common
- The network of problems provides an external or objective framework with
respect to which individuals and organizations can position themselves and
their actions. Mapping out the universe of problems objectifies "social
- The emphasis on relationships between problems ensures that no problem
is conceived in a vacuum.
Juxtaposition of problems normally treated as different domains should
help to overcome each organization's difficulty in recognizing the significance
of a particular group of problems with which it is not familiar -
and perhaps its relationship to its own problem area.
- Emphasis on the interrelationship between problem area will tend to prevent:attempts
to treat complex situations in an uncoordinated manner, thus aggravating the
current spastic condition of society (Stafford Beer. Managing modern complexity.
In: The Management of Information and Knowledge. Committee on Science
and Astronautics, U.S. House of Representatives, 1970, pp. 41-62) attempts
to assess complex situations intuitively at a time when counterintuitive decisions
are required (Jay Forrester, World Dynamics. Cambridge, Wright-Allen,1971);
attempts to over-simplify the web of problems into a tug- of-war between a
few major political issues, rather than to conceive of it as a shifting, evanescent,
evolving, unstable network of many fine individual threads.
Shows degree of importance of some problems which are often assumed
to have been solved or to be only superficially importance, insignificant,
or of historical interest only - many of which prove on closer examination
to be active and highly related to others.
- Acts as a citable source to encourage interest in particular problems by
a given agency which has previously considers, the problems in question as
- Encourages individuals and organizations to locate problem which are of
interest to them and to work actively towards their solution in collaboration
- Encourages interest in the detection and registration of new problems.
- Draws attention to meta-problems,i.e. the problems of focussing on some
- Indicates in one place which countries are affected by the problem.
- Indicates in one place which governments and Intergovernmental agencies
recognize the existence of the problem.
- Clarifies which international organizations are Involved with which problems,
to minimize duplication and competition for scarce resources.
Indicates in one place,and to the extent possible, the resources devoted
to each problem area.
- Indicates key information sources on each problem area.
- Stimulates interdisciplinary research on the network of problems.
- Suggests the creation of multidisciplinary and multi-agency action programs.
Travel (to USA - 4 weeks) $ 1,500 Travel (Europe) $ 600
Purchase of books, documents, journal back issues (o be cut up to avoid
note-taking, extra typing or xeroxing and speed up creation of files on each
problem.) $ 500
Photocopying $ 500
Secretary (9 man months) $ 3,600
Research Assistant (12 man months) S 4,800
Editor/Compiler (12 man months) $10,800
Postage, questionnaires, automatic letters $ 500
Administrative overheads (10%) $ 2.300
Total $ 25,000
Cost of publication would be met by the Union of International Associations.
This project is an attempt to break out of the setting constituted
by responses to attempts at change which are governed by Stafford Beer's
adaptation of LeChateller's Principle to social systems:
"Reformers, critics of Institutions, consultants, in innovation, people
in short who 'want to get something done', often fall to see this point. They
cannot understand why their strictures, advice or demands do result in effective
change. They expect either to achieve a measure of success in their own terms
or to be flung off the premises. But an ultrastable system (like a social
institution)... has no need to react in either of these ways. It specializes
in equilibrial readjustment, which Is to the observer a secret form of change
requiring no actual alteration in the macro-systemic characteristics that
he is trying to do something about. "( Stafford Beer. The cybernetic
cytoblast - management itself. Chairman's Address to the International Cybernetics
Congress, September 1969.)
Many well-meant attacks on world problems are met,if "successful",
by social systemic responses which merely cause the pattern of criticality
within the network of problems to be slightly modified - a problem is "solved"
but new sets of problems are forced into criticality as second or third order
In this environment, action against world problems must be based on a strategy
against the network of problems - great and, apparently, small. A more outgoing
and powerful means of pinpointing problems prior to criticality is needed.
The attitude required in detecting emerging world social system problems is
similar to that recommended for NASA in the following:
"The program of a large organization, whether intended or not.. .affects
a wide sector of the organization's environment, one much wider than the organization
may understand to be its surrounds... Organizations that wish to deal responsibly
with their social surrounds must be capable of eliciting and evaluating responses
from those who realize they are affected but who are ordinarily silent, and
from those who are affected but may not realize it..." (R.A. Rosenthal
and R.S. Weiss. Problems of organizational feedback processes. In: R.A. Bauer
(Cd.). Social Indicatators MIT Press, 1966.)
This project is a step towards mapping and further objectifying the problem
network, and facilitating the sort of "configurative" counter-offensive
envisaged by Harold Lasswell (From fragmentation to configuration. Policy
Sciences, 2, 1971, p. 439-446.). Hopefully this will reduce the necessity
for decisions to be made at levels where the possibility of individual participation
of those affected is increasingly remote. Democratization and peace depend
on relatively equal access, by territorial and pluralistic groups, to knowledge
about the problems faced. In a learning society faced with crises, the "look-out"
function of these
groups should also be remembered.
The ultimate concern of this project may perhaps best be summarized as that
of improving the current societal attitude towards problems - whereby different
groups, because of the limited information to which each is exposed, become
heated advocates or opponents of particular problems as the key problem. The
different enthusiasms, although sincere, create chaotic competition, and even
conflict, for attention and resources.
Government, agency and media control of information aggravates this situation
since it provides an increasingly potent basis for "adjusting" the
outside world so that it is compatible with the survival and growth aims of
the agency. The agency is at the same time internally adjusted so that it
responds best to what it perceives as pertinent to it in the evolving complex
environment. Those with any control over information are able to put forth
interpretations of "social reality", the criticality of a given
problem, programs to deal with it, and evaluations of those programs as implemented,
based on knowledge either unavailable to those who could challenge the interpretation
or unavailable at the time that a challenge might be most effective.(This
paragraph based on: D.M. Michael. On Coping with Complexity: planning and
politics. Daedalus, Fall 1968, pp. 1179-1185.)
However, as soon as a challenge is
made sufficient and the problem
proved publicly to be non-critical
or dependent upon some other problem,
the problem's value as a "territory", with respect to which the
bodies can distinguish themselves, Is lost.
New "territories" are quickly
sought in another part of the problem network to which resources can be
"justifiably" allocated, and
the cycle re-commences - to the confusion of on-lookers. There are always "fresh"
problems onto which agencies
can quickly move to escape the recognition of the part their narrow
focus plays in maintaining this process.
Unless the problem network can be mapped so that the moves of each
advocating group can be tracked in relation to one another, then no understanding of the adequacy or inadequacy of the attack by society's organizational resources on the whole problem complex will emerge. Perhaps the
tableau that best summarizes the current situation is that of tribes of howler
monkeys (organizations) in a forest of inter-weaving branches (the problem
network) which they fragment into noisily and ardently defended family
territories which shift unpredictably according to
the changing fortunes and
humours of each family. Current
problem data projects focus on a few
groups of "trees" according to the current fashion. A "forest-oriented"
data collection is required.
Part II: Human Development (Part II)
[to be included ****]
Background of Project (Annex A)
The project emerged as a powerful means of attacking a vicious circle constituted
the resistance of organizations to the idea of working together and to
the possibility of catalyzing a higher density of such collaborative (preferably
ad hoc) contacts using a user-oriented data bank of organization profiles
and addresses. The issues have been detailed in the following papers by
- Inter-Contact; an information center and a technique. Brussels, Union
of International Associations, 1969, 37 p. [text]
- The Next Step in Inter-Organizational Relationships; the use of information
rather than organization, as the foundation for the inter-organizational
activity of the future. Brussels, Union of International Associations,
1971, 90 p. [text]
- International Organizations and the Generation of the Will to Change;
the information system required. Brussels, U.I.A., 1970, 102 p. [text]
- Information systems and inter-organizational space. Annals of the American
Academy of Political and Social Science, January 1971, pp. 47-64 [text]
- the difficulty of obtaining support from disciplines for an inter-organizational
project which was primarily justifiable only in interdisciplinary terms.
This had its counterpart in the difficulty of obtaining support from agencies
for a multi-program oriented project which was primarily justifiable only
in terms of a problem network perspective - thus reinforcing the resistance
The idea for the project arose during the course of work on the design of
a computer data bank to handle information on international organizations
to supply a more integrated and action oriented overview of the world system.
Each organization is concerned with a number of "subject" areas
which in some cases take the form of specific "problem" areas. There
is much overlap and cross-linking between problems which prevented any simplistic
classification of organizations and demanded a network-oriented databank.
A design for this was developed. (International Computers Limited. System
Definition for for Type Setting Yearbook of International Organization.
ICL Program Specifiation for Type SettingYearbook of International Organization.
London, ICL, 1971, 2 vol., var. pag. .)
Further investigation with a view to data collection showed that the concept
of a "world problem" was Ill-defined, despite its frequent use in
documents and the media. No systematic list existed, only scattered collections
of sub-problems considered to be grouped within major problem areas such as
"environment", "youth", "peace", etc.
The Union of International Associations' Executive Council therefore agreed
in November 1970 to the proposal to produce a "Yearbookof World
Problems" on the same lines as its existing "Yearbook of
International Organizations" - provided that the international
organizations responded adequately to a request to each to supply information
on the problems they recognized in their area of competence.
A questionnaire was sent out in early 1971 and reprinted in the UAI's periodical
"International Associations". The response was not good - even
from the Specialized Agencies of the United Nations. Some organizations assumed
the information already existed, others could not seethe relevance of it,
and finally some offered the facilities of their physically inaccessible libraries.
This meant that this source could only be used as a supplementary one -
it also meant that this source could not get the volume rapidly into print
without extra funding.
These results seemed to indicate that many organizations were not highly
(or at least explicitly) conscious of the specific problems to which they
were addressing themselves. Few are capable of giving an immediate response
to a request for a precise description of the problems with which they are
concerned. The network of problems may In general appear as a blur of issues
rather than In sharp focus. This is partly due to a lack of systematic handling
of Information on problems. A sharper focus may be facilitated by a project
of this kind.
In parallel thrusts, the proposer was involved in the production of a working
paper on a computer system to handle the interrelationships between "concepts"
in the social sciences. This has been completed and is sufficiently general
to handle "problems" as well. (Anthony Judge. Relationships between
Elements of Knowledge; use of computer systems to facilitate construction,
comprehension and comparison of the concept thesauri of different schools
of thought. (Working paper prepared for the Committee on Conceptual and Terminological
Analysis of the International Political Science Association) Brussels,
Union of International Associations, 150 p.) Data collected under this proposal
could be coded for use with the concept system when implemented.
Types of Problem (Annex B)
PROBLEMS AND ORGANIZATIONAL STRATEGY
The main problem in the study of "problems - and the organizations attempting
to solve them is that the environmental context of organizations is changing,
at an increasing rate, and towards increasing complexity, in many cases, the
changed texture of the environment is not recognized by the executive body
of an organization until it is too late. It fails entirety to appreciate that
a number of outside events are becoming connected with each other in a way
that leads up to irreversible general change. The first response to the situation
is to make an herculean effort to defend the traditional approach. When this
does not succeed, many upheavals and changes in approach take place, until
a "redefinition of mission" is agreed, and slowly and painfully
the organization reemerges with a very much altered programme, and something
of a new identity.
It was the experience and a number of others not dissimilar by no means all
of them industrial (and including studies of change problems in hospitals,
prisons, and In educational and political organizations. that gradually lad
two scholars F.E. Emery and E.L. Trist, to feel a need for redirecting conceptual
attention to the nature of the organization environment . They isolated four
"ideal types" of organization environment. An attempt has been made
below to define the four types of problem which may be associated with each
of the four types of organizational envronment described by Emery and Trist
(F.E. Emery and E.L. Trist The Causual Texture of Organizational Environments,
Human Relations, vol. 18 (1965), pp. 21-62)
Type 1 : Docile, isolated problems.
The simplest type of problem is relatively isolated. This means that it is
in effect "contained" by an organized and orderly environment An
organization is there fore free to locate such problems and move towards them.
attack, and eliminate them. Because such problems are randomly distributed,
there is no necessity for an organization to make any distinction between
tactics and strategy. The optimal strategy is just the simple tactic of attempting
to do one's best on a purely local basis. The best tactic, moreover, can be
teamed only by trial and error, and only tar a particular class of local environmental
variances. This means that organizations can easily adapt to each new problem
as it is located with in their domain.
Type 2 : Docile problem groups.
The situation becomes more complex when the problems are no longer isolated,
but are grouped or clustered together in certain ways. The solution to a problem
is one part of the structure may be compensated by some increase in strength
of some other part of the problem cluster.
An organization under these circumstances
longer afford to attempt to deal tactically with each new
environmental variance as it occurs. Some form of strategy
is required. The organization
needs to know how to
manoeuvre in its environment around the problem cluster
In order to find the most useful method of attack. To pursue a goal under its nose may lead
H into pan of
the field fraught with danger, while avoidance of an immediately difficult issue may
lead it away from potentially rewarding areas.
The organization has to learn to concentrate its resources, organize them in
terms of a general plan, and develop a distinctive competence in handling
certain types of problems. Organizations under these conditions. therefore
tend to grow in size and become hierarchical with a tendency towards centralized
control and coordination.
|4 Types of Problem
Type 3 : Dynamic interactive problems.
This is a situation whim changes In one problem area give rise to changes
in another problem area. The situation is complicated because it is no longer
possible (or an organization to assume that it can act without taking into
account other organizations. Several, or even many, organizations may be concerned
with the same group of interacting problems. The solution of one problem by
one organization may create several new problems for other bodies.
The goal of one organization may be the same as the goal of another organization.
Noting this, each will wish to improve its own chances by hindering the others,
and each will know that the others must not only wish to do likewise, but
also knows that each knows this. Unfortunately, this attitude is not only
applicable to profit making organizations, but also to non-profit organizations.
Thus two organizations with the same non-profit objective (whether it be "development-,-refugee-relief
-, etc). Will not always be purely cooperative in their relationships with
one another. As soon as one organization feels that the other is intriguing
upon its -territories-, it starts, indirectly, attempting to hinder the other.
It now becomes necessary to define the organizational objectives in terms
of capacity or power to move more or less at will, i.e., to be able to make
and meet competitive challenge. This gives particular relevance to situations
in which stability can be obtained only by a certain to-terms with competitors
whether enterprises, interest groups, or governmental agencies. One has to
know when not to fight to the death.
Type 4 : Aggressive interactive problems.
In the final stage of complexity, the interactive problems do not merely
respond unpredictably to the actions of the organizations tackling them, but
appear to have a momentum and aggressive initiative of their own. They increase
or decrease in importance and manner of interaction without it being possible
to determine the original cause of the change. The organization's environment
may now be called turbulent and the assumptions upon which the organization
bases its action are threatened by this turbulence. The -ground"is in
For organizations, these trends mean a growing increase in their area of
relevant uncertainty. The consequences which now from their actions lead off
in ways which becomes increasingly unpredictable : they do not necessarily
fail off with distance but may at any point be simplified beyond all expectations;
similarity, lines of action that are strongly pursued may find themselves
attenuated by emergent forces.
This turbulent environment demands some new form of organization that is
essentially different from the hierarchically structure forms to which we
are accustomed. Whereas Type 3 problems require one or other form of accommodation
between like, but competitive, organizations, whose fates are to a degree
negatively correlated turbulent environments require some relationship between
dissimilar organizations whose ates are. basically. positively correlated,
This mains relationship that will maximize cooperation and which recognize
that no one organization can take over the role of "the other"and
become paramount It is in this type of environmental matrix organizatios should
be considered, (Matrix organizations were discussed in an article in - International
Associations, 1971, March, pp. 154-170).
PROBLEMS AND THEIR IDENTIFICATION
Another approach to identifying problems is to distinguish different level
of ease with which they can be detected, in the previous section, the four
groups of problems differ along the dimension simplicity/complexity, A slightly
different approach below is based on the degree to which the difficulty of
perceiving certain problems inherent in the organizationsal,cultural, or psychological
assumption of the people attempting to detect each problems.
The following seven problem levels are an indication of the:
1. First level problems : direct consequence of lack of adequate economic
resources, e.g. malnutrition, disease, rich-poor gap, etc,
2. Second level problems : social consequences and repercussions of the presence
of primary problems, e.g. refugees,illiteracy, crime, etc.
3. Third level problems ; economic and social consequences of adaptation to
an environment modified by the presence of primary and secondary level problems,
e.g.. population explosion, impoverishment of social structures, urban decay,
mental health, delinquency, discrimination, etc.
4. Fourth level problems ; organizational (or societal) coordination and resource
allocation problems (arising from the institutionalization of organized response
to past low level problems) which prevent adequate response to current problems,
e.g. problems of coordination and resource allocation between agencies interested
in lower-level problems previously considered to be Isolated and now recognized
to be interacting, selection of high priority projects, design of adequate
systems, value-related problems, problems of relevance, credibility, etc.
5. Fifth level problems : conceptual, psychological and cultural problems
(deriving from the difficulties of communication in the fragmented environment
characterized by the presence of fourth level problems) which prevent decision-makers
and their supporters from being able to justify inter-territorial, interdisciplinary
or inter-jurisdictionalsolutions - thus reinforcing fourth level problems
and positions, e.g. problems of meaning of tame terms in different cultures
or disciplines, problem of establishing criteria of relevance to a spectrum
of disciplines and Interests, problem of focusing on the interdependence of
disciplines and interests, problems of defining integrated closed systems.
6. Sixth level problems : conceptual and cultural problems opposing awareness
of society as an ongoing integrated process with a multiplicity of social
entities and sub- processes in ecological balance - providing
a framework for the solution of fifth level problems.
7. Seventh level problems : problems deriving from lack of awareness on
the pan of social entities of their particular positive end negative functions
in the social process in which they are embedded -namely feedback sensitivity
of organizations, disciplines and individuals.
The first two levels am generally recognized within governmental programmes,
the third in the more farsighted government programmes (e.g. Unesco), the
fourth level by those studying the problems of planning and decision-making,
the fifth level and above are only noted in isolated studies and analyses
of the social crisis.
Problem criteria (Annex C)
Geographical spread. Recognized in at least 3 countries or considered
to exist in more than 3 countries (i.e. not the problem of one country only).
Disciplinary spread. Common to, or with Implicit- liens for more than one
discipline (i.e. not a problem internal to one discipline only) and preferably
those which have implications (or different classes of disciplines (e.g. natural
sciences and social sciences).
Expert recognition. Recognized by more than one expert, preferably
by experts In different countries, and more preferably by national or International
bodies (l.e. aim Is to determine that the problem has an adequate constituency
Expert documentation. Problems must be the subject of serious article(s),
scholarly studies, official reports, or reported meetings with a minimum of
3 citable articles referring to the problem. Problems must be adequately documented
or their recognition must be adequately argued.
Time period. The problem must be noted over the past 5 years. Problems
become "dead" when society no longer recognizes their existence
- there is however a difficulty over publication dates of cited sources
Non-secret It is obvious that " problems"* legitimized by
classified material or secret knowledge cannot be included.
Non-routine. No problems which arise, are encountered and solved as
part of normal technical, academic, research, legal, administrative or political
activity (i.e. "contained" problems). World problems must
constitute a definite obstacle to routine procedures.
Institutionalized. Problems may become the subject of specific institutional
activity (i.e. an organization is deliberately created to solve the problem)
which should normally cease once the problem is solved.
Developed implications for society. No problems whose implications
for society as a whole have not been clarified (i,e. no problems seen as *
fundamental "or of general implication from one perspective; but for which
the wider implications have not been developed),
Resource allocation. Preferably problems to whose solution resources
from different countries are being allocated.
Autonomous. Preferably problems rather than "subproblems"
(i.e. problems should be clearly isolateable). But where the "nesting"
is not immediately apparent, or the dependence of one on the other is questionable
or ambiguous, sub-problems should be treated as problems in their own right
(possible dependence will be indicated within the entry).
Potential problems. Problems can be potential or future problems (i.e.
problems which do not currently exist because some threshold has not yet been
passed but whose emergence Is predicted for some future date (within the next
thirty years) and for which preventive action Is advocated now).
Moral /ethical problems. No problems concerned with such questions as
such, unless expressed in terms of their Impact on society and recognized
within contexts not normally concerned with such problems In their own right
(e.g. bribery and corruption ere ethical problems which could be accepted
because of their significance for economic and social development).
Seriousness. Must be some indication that the " problem "
If not solved will aggravate or cause social tension, or alternatively is
a key factor in- preventing the solution to other problems which result in
Anti-group problems. No problems documented by s group of bodes as being
caused by the * dangerous activity of another group (i.e. no inter-
group problems), unless this may be considered as a more general problem in
the light of other independent sources of information.
Non-abstract. Conceptual, abstract or Intellectual problems only in
so far as their social implications, or those of their eventual solution,
can be demonstrated.
Duration. Short-term calamities or other natural disasters should not
be treated as problems, although the class of such disasters (e.g. earthquakes
in general) can be so treated (I.e. no isolated one- off problems),
Conflict and disputes. Territorial or political conflict or disputes
should only be treated as problems when there is recognition that it may precipitate
a regional or international conflict (I.e. continuing tensions between communities
would be registered where this is seen to be critical to the survival of the
country as an integral) unit).
Examples of world problems
The following problems represent a selection from a preliminary list of candidates.
They include a number of less well-known ones which to the expert in the area
in question have many repercussions on others.
It is not feasible to mention here many of the dynamic, psycho-social problems
as they are not known by simple keywords. The following are examples of possible
candidates, mainly from the policy sciences:
"...how Is a practitioner of any one discipline to know in a particular
case if another discipline is better equipped to handle the problem than
is his? It would be rare indeed if a representative of any one of these
disciplines did not feel that his approach to a particular organizational
problem would be very fruitful, if not the most fruitful..." (R.L.
Ackoff. Systems, organizations, an interdisciplinary research.)
"...the world is becoming so complex and changing so rapidly and
dangerously and the need for anticipating problems is so great, that
we may be tempted to sacrifice (or may not be able to afford) democratic
political processes." (H. Kahn and J. Wiener. Faustian powers and
"What finally makes all of our crises still more dangerous is that
they are now coming on top of each other. Most administrations.. are not
prepared to deal with.. .multiple crises, a crisis of crises all
at one time.. .Every problem may escalate because those Involved no longer
have time to think straight." (John R. Platt. What we must do.)
Counterintuitive nature of solutions to problems
- conflict between short-term and long-term consequences of a policy change.
- conflict between goals of a subsystems and the welfare of the broader system
- inherent insensitivity of social systems to most policy changes selected
as likely to alter behavior.
- new social system problems tend to appear as a result of solving the old.
- statistical indeterminacy: no significant quantitative generalization can
now be made about the social system with a high degree of precision or probability.
- "Throughout our society we are experiencing the actual threatened dissolution
of stable organizations and institutions, anchors for personal identrty and
systems of values. Most important, the stable state itself is becoming less
real." (Donald Schon. Beyond the Stable State.)
"This crisis is conceived as due not to any lack of means to transmit,
store, and process information... but to the absence or breakdown of those
shared systems of interpretation by which alone communications have meaning
and enable human beings to influence each other. And this failure is found
to be due partly...to the eroding of one interpretative system by
another." (Geoffrey Vickers. Value Systems and Social Process.)
"The existence experimental methods makes us think we have the means
of solving the problems which trouble us; though problem and method pass
one another by." (Ludwig Wittgenstein. Philosophical Investigations)
Layout of entries in "Yearbook of World
Problems" (Annex E)
As modelled on the entries in the "Yearbook of International Organizations".:
4356 (reference number).
Water pollution - Pollution des eaux - etc. -etc. (Common title in 4 languages)
c/o International Information Institute on Water Pollution, 4 Lasweg.
Utrecht, Netherlands, (Name and address of main clearing house for information
on the problem -- if such a body exists.)
Description (summary description of the nature of the problem, in
effect its definition.)
History (background to problem: when it was first noted)
Development: (brief details on how the problem has developed overtime,
e.g. some comparative statistics where the problem merits this)
Occurrence (list of countries in which the problem has been noted.)
Significance (extract of text showing the vital importance of this
particular problem, why action is urgent,and when the situation is likely
to become critical; this could be a quotation.)
Denials of Significance (this section might be included to balance
the previous one; the counter-quotation would indicate views on the relative
insignificance of the problem.)
Solutions (brief details of the difficulties and cost of solving
Contributing Problems (problems whose existence contributes to the
aggravation of this problem - with reference number(s) (**)
Consequential Problems (problems which are aggravated by the existence
of this problem - with reference number(s) (**)
Associated Problems (problems which occur simultaneously with this
problem - with refer number(s) (**)
Meta-problems (problems of which this problem is a part - with
reference numbers (**))
Problem Subdivisions (problems which form part of this problem -
with reference numbers (**))
IGOs Concerned (indicating which Intergovernmental and United
Nations agencies recognized the existence of this problem)
INGOs Concerned (indicating international nongovernmental organizations
which recognized the existence of this this problem)
Governments Concerned (indicating which governments have formally
recognized the existence of this problem.)
Programs (indicating international programs concerned with this problem.)
Program Areas (indicating which countries have programs to deal with
Information (addresses of documentation centers,
possibly national information clearing houses, if
any, on this problem.)
Publications (standard reference book on this problem.)
Periodicals (periodicals and bibliographies covering this problem
Meetings (regular meetings held on this problem.)
(**) Each of the problems referred to here would be described in their own
entries elsewhere in the series.
Objective: a more adequate approach to interrelated
problems (Annex F)
It is useful to envisage a sequence of stops which would provide the foundation
for more systematic handling of problem networks.
1.1 Existence of problem. Some means of registering centrally,
and semi-officially, the existence of a problem is required. Clearly the "existence"
of a problem is always subject to query. One group states or "proves".
In the light of a favoured model, that a problem exists and another group
with a different model contests the claim. It is because of this nullifying
effect that no consensus can be reached on the universe of problems or the
information system to handle it. The approach advocated here is that each
"problem", whose existence Is postulated by some group, should be
handled in the same administrative way to get it filed within the system (the
behavioural event of the postulation of its existence is also significant.)
Judgement is suspended. Only at later stages should sophisticated models
and criteria, be imposed on the universe of problems to classify them, eliminate
some as irrelevant or duplicates, and evaluate others for criticality.
When resources permit, statistical data on the growth of the problem over
time may also be added to give a dynamic picture.
1.2. Existence of relationships. The relationships declared to exist
between problems are many and varied. They are as subject to dispute as the
existence of the problems themselves. A similar approach to that of the registration
of postulated problems is required. Judgement is suspended. Only at later
later stages are models imposed on the data to eliminate some relationships
as irrelevant in terms of a particular perspective.
When resources permit, any statistical or mathematical expression for the
relationship between problems may be added to obtain a dynamic picture.
Stage 1. is as far as it is
proposed to go under this proposal - with extra effort on inclusion
of systematic statistical data on each problem only in exceptional cases,
or where it is easily available. Stage 2, is envisaged as one means of using
the data base created.
2.1. User problem classification. Each group of users needs
to classify and select problems in some especially relevant way. Providing
a comprehensive universe of problems, obliges users to ensure that they do
not omit certain problems which may be Indirectly significant to their perspective.
2.2 User relationship classification. (see 2.1)
Stage 2 results in a selection and primitive ordering of the universe which
a group wishes to consider. The next stage concerns the more delicate process
of weighting the elements of this universe for relative importance.
3.1. Relative weighting of problems. Aside from the preliminary
ordering by subject or type accomplished in stage 2, a group must continue
to order problems in terms of their perceived relative importance. It is possible
to envisage some ranking scheme in terms of which each problem could be coded
by the group.when resources permit, some evaluation of tolerance zones of
criticality maybe incorporated.
3.2. Relative weighting of relationships (see 3.1.)
Stage 3 establishes the ordered universe which the group has to handle to
handle. The next stage concerns the action priorities.
4. Relative priority of problems. An action oriented group must
examine the network of problems, each element duly weighted for importance,
and decide on the strategy by which to attack it. It is obviously not simply
a question of tackling the most important problems first. Some important problems
can best be tackled indirectly via some minor problem on which the major problem
is dependent. Some major problems cannot be tackled without :. care of the
minor problems which contribute directly to their continued existence.
One may be that the body from which resources have to b does not recognize
as politically significant - hence unfundworthy - certain key portions of
the network. An Indirect strategy is therefore necessary.
5. Deadlines. Given the importance of each problem and trends to
increasing criticality of particular problems or problem complexes, decisions
must be taken on (a) Ideal, (b) optimum and (c) final deadlines by which given
problems must be solved to provide a true requirement range for each problem.
Stage 4 results in an action strategy. Stage 5 results in a schedule of
deadlines. The decision must then be taken as to the allocation of resources
in support of that strategy.
6.Resource allocation. The solution to each problem requires the
allocation of certain resources. A decision on the (a) ideal, (b) optimum,
and (c) minimum amounts required must be taken to provide a funds requirement
range for each problem.
7. Critical path. Optimal critical path(s) through problems can
now be computed in terms of the resources available. Clearly this computation
requires much trade off between problem solution pay-offs and much feedback
and interaction between Stages 4, 5 and 6, in order to arrive at an optimum
path within the framework of the groups expressed preferences.
In Stages 2 through 7 it has been convenient to forget that other groups
approach the universe of problems in terms of different dimensions am value
preferences. This results in a different weighting of the relative importance
of problems, a different priority preference, a different deadline evaluation,
different resource allocation, and hence different critical paths through
the problem network. In some cases, the preferences of other groups may be
ignored, in others acquisition of adequate resources for a particular strategy
requires their support and hew. ; upon negotiation and a knowledge of the
other group(s) preferred critical paths.
It is at this point that a major advantage of this approach emerges. If other
groups have all started from the same universe of problem elements, although
weighting the elements differently at each stage, then there is still much
in common between the parties. If on the other hand, each has started in
terms of its own universe of problems, there is little basis for element by
element discussion and negotiation.
8. Comparison of different critical path preferences. At this stage,
a discussion-negotiation procedure is set up to compare and optimize between
the critical paths favoured by different groups. Hopefully from this emerges
a final optimal critical path or alternatively several partially unintegrated
parallel paths through the problem network.
Up to this point, the focus has been mainly on the problem network with the
assumption adequate organizational channels can be found via which to apply
resources to each problem. Most often this is not the case. The map of
organizations, agencies and programs that make up society is as it were, a
sort of clear overlay against the page underneath it which represents the
problem realities of the society. And the overlay is always out of phase
in relation to what is underneath: at any given time, there is always a
mis-match between the organizational map and the reality of the problems that
people think are worth solving (Donald A.Schon. Beyond the Stable State; public
and private learning in a changing society. Temple Smith, 1971.).
(Or as the French say:"Les yeux ne sont pas en face des trous.")
In order to channel the funds in the best possible way, some display of the
network of existing and proposed organizations, agencies and programs is required.
9. Comparison with existing organizational channels. the network
of problems, structured in terms of the critical path emerging from the last
stage must now be matched against the network of organizational resources.
Ideally funds are made available to solve problems and to maintain the structure
of society - but many organizations are simply memorials to old problems
(Schon, op.cit.) . Clearly a similar weighting procedure must be established
and negotiated between groups to arrive at a consensus on the viability of
each organization as a channel for funds for a particular problem. The non-viable
organizational elements must then be examined to determine whether program
funds should be used to maintain them in existence (e.g. for socio- cultural
reasons or whether they should be disbanded or restructured into the more
viable new organizational element required. Clearly decisions not to continue
to support existing organizational structures can bring problems into existence.
There is a trade-off between the now problems created and the old problems
solved by a given use of funds. The same discussion - negotiation stages
on the part of different groups is required.
10. Continuing check of information exchange patterns. A given network
of organizations results in a certain information exchange pattern. This
is reinforced by tradition and the models of reality supported by different
schools of thought. It is important - as a continuing procedure - to check
that this pattern parallels the relationships between the problem areas.
If it does not, then organizations develop structures and programs which ignore
relevant information on problems related to the ones with which they are primarily
The knowledge structure - particularly the interdisciplinary and cross-modal
features - should be sufficiently complex to match the complexity detected
In the network of problems in order to be able to provide an adequate framework
for program formulation.
Stages 2 through 10 demand progressively more sophisticated means of handling
and displaying data. The use of interactive computer graphics for this purpose
is discussed in Annex G.
The networks of problems and the methods by which it is suggested that they
should be handled have many points in common with "relevance tree"
techniques and network planning techniques such as Critical Path Method and
Program Evaluation and Review Technique - as used in technological recasting
(Erich Jantsch. Technological Forecasting in Perspective. Paris, OECD.
1967, pp. 211-240).
Advantages of later use of graphics data handling
technique (Annex G)
Mention has been frequently made above of handling representations of problem
(and even organizational) networks. Unless the objective is strictly limited,
as in this proposal, conventional manual manipulation of complex networks
of relationships is extremely cumbersome and self- inhibiting.
In Annex F, Stages 3 through 10 require very responsive interaction between
a group and the representation of the problem network. Groups must be able
to maintain the momentum of thought, discussion and negotiation concerning
each element of the network, whilst maintaining a constant overview of the
particular portion of the network within which they are engaged. At the negotiation
stage, there is a need to switch between each groups problem network and to
be able to match or over. different groups versions of the network and its
critical action path. There is a need to be able to call up back-up statistics
and explanatory text. In summary, there is need for Increasingly powerful
means of penetrating and comprehending the data.
One approach to this is suggested by the work of Douglas Engelbart at the
Augmentation Research Center (Stanford Research Institute). By the concept
of"augmenting human intellect" is meant:
"increasing the capability of a man to approach a complex problem
situation, to gain comprehension to suit his particular needs, and to derive
solutions to problems. Increased capability in this respect is taken to mean
a mixture of the following: more-rapid comprehension, better comprehension,
the possibility of gaining a useful degree of comprehension in a situation
that previously was too complex, speedier solutions, and the possibility of
finding solutions to problems that before seemed Insoluble. And by "complex
situations" we Include the professional problems of diplomats, executives,
social scientists, life scientists, physical scientists, attorneys, designers
- whether the problem situation exists for twenty minutes or twenty years.
We do not speak of Isolated clever tricks that help in particular situations.
We refer to a way of life in an integrated domain where hunches, cut- and-try,
intangibles, and the human "feel for a situation" usefully co-exist
with powerful concepts, streamlined terminology and notation, sophisticated
methods, and high-powered electronic aids.
Man's population and gross product are increasing at a considerable rate
but the complexity of his problems grows still faster, and the urgency
with which solutions must be found becomes steadily greater In response to
the increased rate of activity and the increasingly global nature of that
activity. Augmenting man's intellect, in the sense defined above, would warrant
full pursuit by an enlightened society if there could be shown a reasonable
approach and some plausible benefits." ( D.C. Engelbart. Augmenting
Human Intellect: a conceptual framework. Stanford Research Institue, 1962,
134 p. (AFOSR-3223).)
A multi-access system has been developed to meet these needs and is now operational
- providing a very sophisticated "intellectual workshop". (D.C.
Engelbart. Advanced Intellect-Augmentation Techniques. SRI, 1970 (Project
7079); Intellectual implications of multi-access computer networks. (Paper
for the Proceedings of the Interdisciplinary Conference on Multi-access Computer
Networks, Austin, 1970)
Another approach, which is essentially complementary, but is at this stage
less costly, is the use of computer interactive graphics for data handling
(See: Anthony. Judge. Computer-aided visualization of psycho-social structures.
op.cit.; Visualization of Organization. Brussels,Union of International Associations,
1970, 16 mm film showing use of the technique.) This is basically a TV screen
attached to a computer. The user sits at a keyboard in from of the screen
and has at his disposal a light-open (or some equivalent device) which allowshim
to point to elements of a representation of a network of problems displayed
on the screen. He can manipulate this structure in useful ways - corresponding
to the requirements of Stages 3 to 10 in Annex I .
In effect, the graphics device provides the user with a window or viewport
onto the network of psycho-system entities. He can instruct the computer,
, via the keyboard, to
move the window to give him, effectively, a view onto a different
part of the network - another conceptual domain.
- introduce a magnification so that he can examine(or "zoom
in" on) somedetailed sections of the network.
- introducediminution so that he can gain an overall view if the structure
of the entity domain in which he is interested.
- introduce filters so that only certain types of relationships and entitle;
displayed - either he can switch between models or he can impose restrictions
on the relationships displayed within a model, i.e. has a hierarchy of filters
at his disposal.
- modify parts of the network displayed to him by inserting or deleting
entitles and relationships. Security codes can be arranged so that (a) he
can modify the display for his own immediate use without permanently affecting
the basic store of data, (b) he can permanently modify features of the model
for which he is a member of the responsible body, (c) and so on.
- supply him with text on features of the network with which he
is unfamiliar. If necessary he can split his viewport into two (or more)
parts and have the parts of the network displayed in one (or more) part(s).
He can then use the light-pen to point to each entity or relationship on
which he wants a longer text description (e.g. the justifying argument for
an entity or the mathematical function, if applicable, governing a relationship)
and have it displayed in an adjoining viewport.
- track along the relationships between one entity and the next by moving
the viewport to focus on each new entity. In this way the user moves through
a representation of "psycho-social space" with each move, changing
the constellation of entities displayed and bringing new entities and relationships
- move up or down levels or "ladders of abstraction". The user
can demand that the computer track the display (see point 7) between levels
of abstraction, moving from sub-system to system at each move bringinginto
view the psycho-social context of the system displayed.
- distinguish between entities and relationships on the basis of user-selected
characteristics. The user can hove the "relevant" (to him) en:
with more prominent symbols and the relevant relationships with heavier
- select an alternativeform of presentation. Some users may prefer block
diagram flow charts to Illustrate the relationship between entities, other
may prefer a matrix display, others mayprefer Venn diagrams, or "Venn
spheres" In 3 dimensions, etc. These are all interconvertible (e.g.
the Venn circles are computed taking each network node as a center and giving
a radius to include all the sub-branches of the network from that node.)
- copy a particular display currently on the screen.
A user may ant to keep a personal record of parts of the network which are
of interest to him. (He can either arrange for a dump onto a tape which
can drive a graph plotter, a microfilm plotter, or copy onto a video-cassette,
or obtain a direct photocopy.)
- arrange for a simultaneous search through a coded microfilm to provide
appropriate slide images or lengthy text which can in its turn be
- select significance of coordinate axes to order structure to highlight
features of interest in terms of the chosen dimensions.
- simulate a three-dimensional presentation of the network by introducing
an extra coordinate axis.
- rotate a three-dimensional structure (about the X or Y axis) in order
to heighten the 3-D effect and obtain a better overall view "around"
- simulate a four-dimension
presentation of the network by using various techniques for distinguishing
entities and relationships (e.g. "flashing" relationships at frequencies
corresponding to their importance in terms of the fourth dimension.)
- change the speed at which the magnification from the viewport is modified
as a particular structure is rotaded.
- simulate the consequences of various changes introduced by the user in
terms of his conditions. This is particularly usefull for cybernetic displays.
- perform variousgraph or network analyses on particular
parts of the network and display the results in secondary viewport (e.g.the
user might point a light-pen at an entity and request its centrality or
request an indication of the inter-connectedness of a particular domain
delimited with the light-pen.)
This is not the place to do more than outline some of the other present and
future possibilities in this area. Video-cassette copies of system structures
can be widely distributed and used lor university or public TV documentaries
on complex eco-systems. Microfilm and other plotters can be used to map
large and complex systems. Colour graphics units (some up to 150 x 150 cm)
are in use with the possibility of 512 colours.
This allows even more information to be conveyed in one image.
Thepotential importance of this tool for handling complex networks of problems
may perhaps best be illustrated by the complexity of natural eco-systems.
There is a multiplicity of inter-specific "food chains", together
with many branches and cross-connections among food chains making a structure
of interactions called "food webs". The complexity of these food
webs is such that no one has yet worked out the complete pattern of
food relationships and interactions in any natural community. The relationships
between 50 species in a given community results in a diagram "so full
of lines that it is difficult to follow" and this only represents one
quarter of the 210 known species in a "simple" community. (David
Pimental. Complexity of ecological systems and problem. in their study and
management. In: K.E.F. Webb (Ed.) Systems Analysis in Ecology. New York, Academic,
1966, pp. 15-35.)
The computer is the ideal tool for handling all these relationships and simplifying
their presentation to the user so that he is not overloaded. Clearly, such
a device should be even more essential where the problem network extendsinto
the psycho-social system.
This powerful data handling approach needs to be tested out on a non- trivial
problem.One purpose of this project is to provide a data base which would
lend itself to manipulation by this sort of device during the course of complex
negotiations in which step by step compromises between value preferences of
different groups require responsive modifications to the representation of
the universe about which they are negotiating. (Kenneth Hammond at the Institute
of Behavioral Sciences, University of Boulders, has experimented with computer
graphics in a labour dispute as a means of bringing out preference differences
with respect to different contract conditions in order to facilitate convergence
on a mutually agreeable solution.)