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Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential

Proposal to re-design "Human Potential" portion

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The Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential was prepared and published by Mankind 2000 and Union of International Associations in 1976. This 1984 proposal resulted in the re-design of a major portion of it prior to its publication under the current title Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential (1986, 1991, 1994-5) and in its online variant.


The "human potential" portion is considered as all sections other than that on "world problems", but excluding introductory or annex texts. It also excludes sections which, if included, are directly tied to the world problems section, namely: human diseases (Q), commodities (e), economic sectors (E), and plant and animal species.

At this stage the proposed sections may be considered as forming 8 groups :

1. Intellectual tools, namely intellectual disciplines and integrative concepts.
2. Qualitative concepts, namely concepts of human development, states of consciousness and human values.
3. Communications tools, namely forms of presentation, metaphors and symbols.
4. Comprehensible patterns, including configurations, whether in structures or processes (over time).
5. Bridging conceptual discontinuity, whether through recognition of complementary perspectives, alternation between them, learning or concept management.
6. Social transformation strategies and processes.
7. Innovative techniques, whether in the form of meetings, networking or supportive uses of computers.
8. Individual roles and activities, including professional occupations and interactions.


The aim of these sections is to experiment with the portrayal of information on credible approaches to elaborating current under- standing of "human potential" and its relevance to adequate responses to the global problématique. By "credible" is meant that individual items should be credible to, or advocated by, some constituency. It does not mean that all information should be credible according to the criteria of one particular authority such as one particular school of social science only, or a particular community of organizations.

The approach is therefore deliberately designed to highlight contrasting perspectives which may in reality conflict or compete with each other. As an exploratory exercise, including such contrasting perspectives, risks must necessarily be taken in that many of the perspectives represented are questionable from some other point of view. Where possible pointers will be included to the viewpoints from which a perspective can be considered vulnerable.

This exercise is based on the belief that present efforts to contain the global problematique, however necessary they may be, are not proving themselves to be sufficient to the emerging nature of the task. Greater risks should therefore be taken in drawing attention to the variety of viewpoints or responses to which groups and individuals are currently committed. As pointed out by Donald Michael, "On the requirement to embrace error": "More bluntly, future-responsive societal learning makes it necessary for individuals and organizations to embrace error. It is the only way to ensure a shared self-consciousness about limited theory to the nature of social dynamics, about limited data for testing theory, and hence about our limited ability to control our situation well enough to be successful more often than not" (In: On Learning to Plan and Planning to Learn. Jossey- Bass, 1973).

In order to be practicable in the limited time available, guidelines such as the following are used:

  1. Make use, to the extent feasible, of materials collected or processed for the 1976 edition

  2. Concentrate on collecting and reprocessing new materials from appropriate sources, rather than endeavouring to generate new materials and original research on the topics. The originality should lie in the selection and juxtaposition of existing materials.

  3. Endeavour, to the extent feasible, to employ a systematic "entry-oriented" approach to a wide range of materials, rather than generating or including discursive reports aimed at providing an overview. This corresponds to the approach of the 1976 edition in which such discursive texts were included on an exceptional basis only. Overviews, if feasible, should be limited to section introductions as before.

  4. Sections and their component entries should be conceived as grouping concepts and/or information at a level of detail which is usually avoided in discursive articles. The emphasis is therefore on elaborating sections containing 100-500 entries each, rather than on elaborating only 10-20 entries per section at a higher level of generality. The tendency is therefore to include recognizable data rather than unfamiliar categories regrouping such data according to a particular theory. In this way it is hoped to relate the entries to the specificity of current understanding and to articulate the relationship between such specific viewpoints in a way which is not possible in a discursive text structured from a particular point of view.

  5. Establish cross-reference between entries when feasible.

  6. Adjust the length of entries according to the quality of source material received and the time available to process them. If necessary minimal entries only will be included to open categories to be expanded in texts for future editions. The objective is to be indicative of variety rather than, as is usual, exhaustive of some sub-set of that variety.

1. Intellectual tools

1.1. Intellectual disciplines and sciences (Section D: 1845 entries)

(a) Rationale: A discipline is a body of principles and conceptual tools which is used to organize subject matter of a particular type. Many of the disciplines therefore constitute an intellectual resource which can, or could be, brought to bear upon world problems. (b) Present: The disciplines are briefly described then inter-related in order to highlight the emergence of inter-disciplines. (References between disciplines: 4800; to other series 3848). (c)Proposed: Include, when possible, indications of the value of the discipline in response to development and other problems, especially in an interdisciplinary context. Indicate, where possible, blindspots and susceptibility to abuse. (d) Information: To be obtained by questioning professional bodies, especially with regard to the issues before any committee they may have on ethical questions and issues of social responsibility.

1.2. Integrative, unitary and interdisciplinary concepts (Section K: 421 entries)

(a) Rationale: Partly in response to the need for more adequate approaches to the complexity of the network of world problems, an extensive range of "integrative" or "interdisciplinary" concepts has emerged. (b) Present: This section collects together descriptions of these concepts as a contribution to the clarification of thinking in this ill-defined but vital area. Also included: Bibliography of integrative, unitary and iterdisciplinary approaches (ca 1850 items); Interdisciplinary journals. (c) Proposed: Revise entries where appropriate. Add new ones. Include limitations and critiques of each concept where available. Improve cross-references to disciplines. Consider whether to revise and extend the bibliography. (d) Information: Invite collaboration of selected people and groups.

2. Qualitative concepts

2.1. Human development concepts (Section H: 228 entries)

(a) Rationale: Individual human development is frustrated and impeded by world problems. While world problems are the conventional area of organizational concern, human development is either the means or end of organized activity. The current meanings associated with "human development" are many and varied and rarely encountered in the same context. (b) Present : A wide range of literature was consulted to extract definitions of concepts relating directly to psychological development, integration, and the potential of the individual human being. Also includes: Bibliography of integrative human development and potential (ca 925 items) Human development journal list Document: Towards the Complete Man (Unesco) Document: The Unfolding of Man (Claudio Naranjo). (c) Proposed: Revise entries when appropiate. Add new ones. Improve coverage of non-Western concepts. Include limitations and critique of each concept when available. Improve cross-references to values. Consider cross-referencing to proposed new sections on metaphors and states of consciousness. Consider whether to revise and extend the bibliography. Consider the possibility of including other texts reviewing the range of concepts of human development. (d) Information: Invite collaboration of selected people and groups. For example: UNESCO, WHO, UNU/GPID, AHP, ITPA.

2.2. Human values (Section V: 704 entries)

(a) Rationale :Widespread recognition is currently given to the importance of identifying values as a guide to formulation of policy and action programmes in response to problems. Specific values are freguently cited in political discourse. It is therefore appropriate to clarify systematically the range of "concepts" that can, and possibly should, be cited in this way. (b) Present: Because of the confusion of terms, each entry identifies a list of synonyms of the value as well as an equivalent list of antonyms. The relationships of values to the problems they highlight emerges either from the antonyms, or because many problems are in fact labelled by the value which they violate (e.g."peace"). (c) Proposed: Rework the section in order to improve cross- referencing within the section. Add new entries. Improve coverage of non-Western values. Include limitations and critique of each value, when available, particularly when treated as the prime value. Improve cross-referencing of antonyms to problems. Consider improving cross-referencing to concerned organizations, human development concepts, and the proposed new sections on metaphors and states of consciousness. (d) Information: Given the nature of values, the possibi- lity of generating descriptive texts on each one should be avoided as a presumptuous and possibly sterile exercise namely an editorial trap at this stage. (This is less true of any assessment of limitations). A more creative approach could be to extend entries on the basis of material from collections of proverbs and quotations. This has the merit of highlighting the significance of each value in a succinct and pithy manner linking it to cultural lore. This very practical approach also has the merit of linking the volume into the world of literature and all that it represents for the clarification and reinforcement of values. The role of literature in focusing opinion on values is poorly recognized by the social sciences and those concerned with the world 'problematique. One strategy to be considered, perhaps for a future edition, would be to link specific values to internationally recognized works of literature (or art) which exemplify them. (Traditional fables are of special interest, e.g. Aesop, Nasruddin). This could be explored with UNESCO, especially in the light of their programme to enhance recognition of non-Western literature and arts.

2.3. States of consciousness

(a) Rationale: The variety of states of consciousness is a basic feature of some approaches to human development, especially "alternative" approaches and those originating in non-Western cultures. A clarification of this variety is therefore a way of establishing a bridge to active constituencies and to respected traditional frameworks. (b) Present: Not present as a section in 1976 edition, although occasionally represented by entries in the human development section. (c) Proposed: Establish entries on the 100-200 states of consciousness described in the literature. Cross- reference human development concepts and values when appropriate. Cross-reference the states of consciousness when appropriate. (d) Information: Available from a variety of reference books. Revision of drafts by selected individuals.

3. Communication tools

3.1. Forms of presentation

(a) Rationale: A variety of forms may be used for communicating new information. The importance of these has been explored by the Forms of Presentation sub- project of the United Nations University GPID project. It is useful to document these forms in terms of their strengths, but especially of their weaknesses. The goal would be to develop the notion of complementary forms required to convey a complex notion to people with preferences for different forms. (b) Present :Not present as a section in 1976 edition. Some problems of representing networks are discussed in Appendices. (c) Proposed: Establish entries on the characteristics, strengths and weaknesses of different forms of presentation. (d) Information: Materials collected for GPID project. Studies made by UIA. Revision of drafts by selected organizations.

3.2. Metaphors

(a) Rationale: Metaphors are a special "form of presentation". They are of unique importance as a means of communicating complex notions, especially in interdisciplinary dialogue, popularization of abstract concepts, in political discourse, and as a catalyst to creativity. Work on metaphors has not yet been undertaken in such a way as to facilitate the use of more powerful metaphors in support of innovative development. (b) Present: Not present as a section in 1976 edition. (c)Proposed: Establish entries on metaphors which can be used to illustrate different aspects of development. Explore possibility of cross-references to comprehensible patterns. (d) Information: Preliminary work has already been undertaken at UIA. Contacts have been made with people able to assist in the development of this section.

3.3. Symbols

(a) Rationale: Symbols are a special "form of presentat- ion". In any programme or campaign a symbol is considered to be of great importance in giving focus to the activity and establishing its identity in relation to other initiatives. Symbols thus act as a focus for attention. Their choice is not an arbitrary matter. It is a response to constraints which need to be better understood if human resources are to be more effective- ly mobilized. They give visual form to abstract concepts by which development processes are organized, especially in traditional cultures which do respond to conventional forms of presentation. (b) Present: Not present as a section in 1976edition. (c) Proposed: Explore the possibility of establishing entries on symbols relevant to the development process and cross-referencing other sections, especially that on configurations. (d) Information: Materials selected from standard reference books. Revision of drafts by selected individuals.

4. Comprehensible patterns

4.1. Configurations

(a) Rationale: In practice, beyond a certain threshold of complexity, efforts are made to represent interacting functions within configurations which permit them to be more readily comprehended as a pattern than if they were considered sequentially. Such configurations emerge in a wide range of settings and can provide insights into more integrated responses to the world problématique. They are particularly important in the way they structure the interrelationship of the forces in play or affecting any decision. (b) Present: Not present as a section in 1976 edition. (c) Proposed :Establish entries on different types of con- figuration highlighting their strengths and limitations as a response to complexity. Examples of such configuration are: war rooms, mándalas, cockpit design, negotiating tables, ikebana, tokamak reactors. Given the use of configurative diagrams to represent the relationship of management functions, some explora- tion could be made of the possibility of "management by configuration". (d) Information: Some work on this has already been done at UIA. In each case studies tend to be available.

4.2. Structures

(a) Rationale: Many of the concepts with which attempts are made to comprehend the complexity of the world problématique are based on very simple structural models such as the circle (economic cycles), the pyramid (organization hierarchies), the line (line of progress), the square (matrix), the cone (focusing resources). These structures may be. used as a basis for ordering space or processes over time. There is a need to identify somewhat more complex structures which might prove more appropriate for ordering understanding of some aspects of the problématique. (b) Present: Not present as a section in 1976 edition. (c) Proposed: Establish entries on different types of structure,, drawing attention to their strengths and limitations in containing complexity. Cross-reference configurations and metaphors when appropriate. (d) Information: Some work on this has already been done at UIA. Some sources of information exist. Submit to selected people for comment.

4.3. Pattern language

(a) Rationale: The development of a "pattern language" has been explored in detail by the architect Christopher Alexander and used in a uniquely democratic design process to enhance the quality of urban environments. It would be valuable to explore the possibility of elaborating a similar language for the non-material features of the environment, especially in relationship to the needs of self-reliant development. (b) Present: Not present as a section in the 1976 edition. (c) Proposed: Establish entries identifying possible patterns which could be combined together by users in different ways to design a qualitatively superior psycho-social environment. Explore constraints on the interfacing between such patterns and the nature of an ecology of such patterns. (d) Information: Extend the approach used by Alexander, especially in the light of de Bono's Atlas of Management Thinking. Submit to selected people for comments.

4.4. Patterns of concepts

(a) Rationale: Most conceptual schemes, whether purely theoretical or basic to the practical design of a development programme, are organized into sets of concepts, principles, priorities, or functions. Several such sets may be interrelated in a more elaborate scheme. It is the pattern of such interrelationships which ensures the coherence and integrity of the approach. It is therefore useful to clarify the distinction between richer schemes and those which, for structural reasons, are inherently less adequate as a basis for comprehensive programmes. (b) Present :Not present as a section in the 1976 edition. (c) Proposed: Elaborate entries on significant conceptual schemes from different disciplines and cultures in such a way as to highlight structural parallels and differences between them. (d) Information: Some work on this has already been done at UIA (in connection with the UNU/GPID forms of presentation and methodology sub-projects).

5. Bridging conceptual discontinuity (Disagreement as an art)

5.1. Negation

(a) Rationale: In this period characterized both by profound disagreement and by intense efforts at consensus formation, there is widespread recognition of the disadvantages of the former compared to the advan- tages of the latter. This recognition is itself a danger however when it detracts from complementary efforts to recognize the advantages of disagreement processes as compared to the corresponding disadvant- ages of consensus formation. Typically this leads to characteristic difficulties in handling differences, "otherness", discontinuity, uncertainty, ignorance and the underdefined, which all arise frequently in social processes, especially in any transitional period of social transformation when there is a possibility of a "new" or "alternative" order. Associated with this is a marked tendency to "escape" into the elaboration of solutions and to avoid clarification of the nature of the problems for which they are supposedly designed. There is therefore a need to draw attention to the positive aspects of negation and to the negative aspects of avoiding negation under all circumstances. (b) Present :Not present as a section in the 1976 edition. (c) Proposed: Elaborate entries on categories with which difficulties are experienced when they are perceived as different in some way or even as representing opposing forces difficult to "tolerate". Examples of such "opposing" categories include: other countries, other types of institution, other occupations, other disciplines, other ideologies, other values, other strategies, other races, other religions, other languages and the other sex. The section could also include a discussion of the implications for social transformation, especially in the light of efforts to arrive at consensus on one set of values or one strategy. (d) Information: In most cases studies exist on which entries can be based. Information is available from the literature on stereotypes, for example. Much is also available from jungian discussion of the "shadow". Texts can be submitted to selected people for comment.

5.2. Alternation

(a) Rationale :Many "answers" have been produced in response to the curent crisis, however it is perceived. There is considerable confusion about how these are to be integrated, unless all but the favoured one are rejected. A plurality of answers is not in itself an adequate response, especially since each fails to internalize the discontinuity, incompatibility and disagreement which its existence as an alternative engenders. It is therefore useful to explore the possi- bility that a more appropriate answer might emerge from alternation between alternatives. This calls for a focus on the models of alternation by which the pattern and timing of cyclic transformation between such opposed alternatives can be ordered. (b) Present: Not present as a section in the 1976 edition. (c) Proposed: Elaborate entries on different models of alternation to clarify understanding of how discontinuity is bridged in practice. Discuss their significance in the light of recent explorations of fluctuation (Prigogine), complementary languages (de Nicolas), opening and closure in groups (Klapp), etc. (d) Information: Work already undertaken by UIA, partly in connection with UNU/GPID project.

5.3. Societal learning

(a) Rationale: The ability of a society to respond more effectively to world problems is directly dependent on its ability both to learn and to retain its learning. Learning is one of the principal means whereby concept- ual discontinuity is bridged. Despite its significance, little recognition is accorded to societal learning, whether in its adaptive mode or its innovative mode (according to Club of Rome terminology). It is there- fore appropriate to assemble materials which highlight this process. (b) Present :Not present as a section in the 1976 edition. (c) Proposed:Explore the possibility of including available materials which clarify the process of societal learning and collective memory, especially in relation to the international community of organizations. (d) Information: The topic has been explored in a UIA report for a conference on intergovernmental documentation. It is a theme central to the concerns of the UN University.

6. Social transformation

6.1. Strategies

(a) Rationale: Whilst there is much awareness of the need for strategies, there is little effort to juxtapose the different concepts of viable strategies. As a result strategies of a type favoured by one set of constituencies are rarely to be found together with others perceived as "irresponsible" or "irrelevant", however large the constituencies to which the latter appeal. As a consequence the variety of ways in which people are acting, or are prepared to act collectively, is obscured or devalued. (b) Present: Not present as a section in the 1976 edition. (c) Proposed :Elaborate entries on collective strategies for social transformation favoured by different constituencies. Such strategies should include those of the development community, the research communities, trade unionists, activists, religious communities, environmentalists, etc. The strategies considered could be both abstract plans of action as well as concrete modes of action which might otherwise be considered as tactics (e.g. conferences, periodical circulation, demonstration). They may therefore be macro-strategies or micro-strategies. (d) Information: A wide range of strategies is used by the international organizations documented by the UIA. Material can also be obtained from the results of the GPID sub-projects on strategies and alternative ways of life. Materials should also be available from the PRIO Bulletin of Peace Proposals and the results of other exercises such as WOMP, Brandt Commission, etc.

6.2. Transformation processes

(a) Rationale: As with strategies, there is little effort to juxtapose the concepts of useful transformation processes. Those of one type are not perceived as significant when considering those of another type. In particular micro-level processes are not considered relevant when dealing with macro-level processes. In this way the variety of transformation processes is obscured or devalued. (b) Present: Not present as a section in the 1976 edition. (c) Proposed: Elaborate entries on different types of transformation processes. These should include types such as socialization/ acculturation, politicization, monetarization, informatization, as well as those associated with personal transformation and those advocated in various alternative movements. (d) Information: Many such processes are explicit concerns of international organizations documented by the UIA. Material can also be obtained from the results of GPID sub-projects.

7. Innovative techniques

7.1. Conferences

(a) Rationale: Meetings, and particularly international meetings, are a vital feature of social processes. They are principal means whereby different perspectives are "assembled". Through such occasions resources are brought to bear on a question of common concern or they may provide the environment in which supposedly unrelated questions can emerge simultaneously. But despite the assistance of professionals and the increasing number of such events, there is rising concern that many do not fulfil the expectations of participants and of those whose future may depend upon their outcome. This is particularly true of events most concerned with social transformation. Current meeting procedures tend to give rise to little more than short- term public relations impact and may thus be considered as constituting a principal obstacle to social change. In a very real sense meetings model collective (in)ability to act and the (in)effectiveness of collective action. The challenge is therefore to elabo- rate a new attitude or conceptual framework by which a meeting may be perceived and organized in order that it may fulfil its potential role in society. (b) Present: Not present as a section in the 1976 edition. (c) Proposed: Elaborate entries on new approaches to meetings, on new techniques, or on new ways in which meeting processes may be perceived. (d) Information :The UIA has been responsible for an ongoing series of international congresses on congress organization in collaboration with the International Association of Professional Congress Organizers. The UIA assembles documentation in this area as well as producing various reports and studies.

7.2. Networking and beyond

(a) Rationale: The value of networks as opposed to conventional organizations, is now widely recognized. There is however little written recognition of how networks work, when they do, and where the weaknesses of networking lie. There is also a need to envisage the kinds of structure/process which would be immune to the particular weeknesses of networks or of the structures for which they substitute with partial success. (b) Present: Not present as a section in the 1976 edition. (c) Proposed: Elaborate entries on aspects of networking as a set of guidelines for the operation of networks and for the process of innovation from which even more appropriate structure/processes may emerge. (d) Information: The UIA has produced or published a variety of studies of networking over the past decade. Some of these materials were grouped within the framework of the GPID sub-project on networks. Contacts are maintained with a number of other bodies concerned with this question who could be consulted.


(a) Rationale: The impact of computers on the organization of society is well-recognized. It is however much less clear in what ways computers (and artificial intelligence) could be used creatively to enhance and support innovative social transformation. There is therefore a need for a focus on such positive uses to counter-balance the massive investment in the use of computers for conventional economic, research and military purposes. (b) Present : Not present as a section in the 1976 edition although some possibilities were suggested in annexes. (c) Proposed: Elaborate entries on innovative uses of computers of direct relevance to human and social development, taking into account the associated technologies of computer graphics, video, data networks and artificial intelligence. (d) Information : A number of studies at the UIA have touched on these questions. The UIA has participated and organized computer conferencing experiments and has produced a film on other possibilities. There are many sources that can be tapped for information of this kind. (There are possible links to the proposed UNU project on Information Overload and Information Underuse.)

8. Individual roles and activities

8.1 Professional occupations (Section J : 428 entries)

(a) Rationale: Many problems are related to the employment or working conditions of people in particular occupational categories or to the instabilities resulting from their action. Occupational skills also constitute a vital resource which can be brought to bear upon world problems. (b) Present: As Section J in the 1976 edition, the entries include a brief description of the occupation and are ordered according to the International Labour Office's International Standard Classification of Occupations in terms of which many statistical series are maintained. (c) Proposed: Update existing entries and cross- references. Consider the possibility of enriching this section by avoiding the limitations of the ILO Classification and using the broader range in the classification of the US Department of Labor. Consider the interface with the possible section on ideas discussed below. Consider introduction of a paragraph in each entry on the ethics (or lack thereof) of each profession, in the light of an equivalent concern in the case of disciplines. (d) Information: US Department of Labor publication. Mailings to selected professional and occupational organizations.

8.2 Roles

(a) Rationale: In addition to the economically defined roles which are the subject of the previous section, there are many others which are essential to the present structure of community life. The richness and satisfaction of social life is partly determined by the ' variety of roles active in its processes and by the opportunity of the individual for personal expression through a range of roles. Many world problems act to reduce this variety. The unchecked proliferation of some then ensures the existence of certain world problems, whereas other roles emerge in connection with such problems. It is therefore valuable to explore the range of roles as providing one approach to quality of life and its vulnerability. This should also provide a clear idea of the range of roles which must be taken into consideration in any process of social transformation. Such roles also indicate opportunities for non-economic "employment" in a society threatened by "unemployment" and the spectre of lack of opportunities for expression (as in the case of youth). (b) Present: Not present as a section in 1976 edition. (c) Proposed: Elaborate minimal entries on non-economic (or illegal) roles, or classes of roles, which are currently recognized as providing opportunities for personal expresssion and a sense of identity, (d) Information :Reference book scanning.

8.3 Social interaction

(a) Rationale: Social processes subject to transformation may be conceived as being partly made up of interactions between occupational or other roles (as outlined above). But, as with non-economic roles, it is not clear how many kinds of interaction are currently recognized. Consequently the ecosystem of roles is only perceived at a high level of generality or in relation to very specific cases. It could be argued that an intermediate approach would be fruitful in understanding the obstacles to and opportunities for social transformation. (b) Present: Not present as a section in 1976 edition. (c) Proposed: Elaborate entries on the recognized interaction between roles taken as a pair (or less frequent as a triadic relationship). Examples are : employer-employee, seller-buyer, doctor-patient, prisoner-torturer, husband-wife. In the introductory text an effort could be made to relate such social "micro-patterns" to the social possibilities implicit in Christopher Alexander's efforts to construct a "pattern language" as a way of rethinking the way such patterns can be fruitfully combined and meshed together. (d) Information: From the scanning process envisaged for roles.

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