The modern age is increasingly characterized by a relentless energy that preys on speed records and shortcuts, unmindful of the past, uncaring of the future, existing only for the present moment and the quick fix. Industrialized societies have quickened the pace of life only to become less patient, less spontaneous and less joyful. People are better prepared to act on the future, but less able to enjoy the present and reflect on the past. Developed societies have learnt how to extract and make things at a faster pace, but with the consequence that people exploit and devalue each other's time at the workplace in order to increase production quotas. The commitment to producing and consuming at a frantic pace has resulted in an increasing depletion of nature's endowment and a degradation of the biosphere.
Although it is frequently claimed that the increased pace and stress of modern times may lead to a higher incidence of mental illness, this has not been proved by quantitative research. From the information currently available, it would appear that psychoses do not increase although it is possible that psychoneuroses may. Under very difficult conditions, such as disasters, riots, and wars, unusual mental syndromes are observed. Some of these may be temporary and quite normal as part of the organism's readjustment phase after disturbed homeostasis; others may be pathological states precipitated, but probably not actually caused, by severe stress.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
The Encyclopedia includes problems which such groups choose to perceive and act upon, whether or not their existence is denied by others claiming greater expertise. Indeed such claims and counter-claims figure in many of the problem descriptions in order to reflect the often paralyzing dynamics of international debate. In the light of the interdependence demonstrated among world problems in every sector, emphasis is placed on the need for approaches which are sufficiently complex to encompass the factions, conflicts and rival worldviews that undermine collective initiative towards a promising future.
Non-profit, apolitical, independent, and non-governmental in nature, the UIA has been a pioneer in the research, monitoring and provision of information on international organizations, international associations and their global challenges since 1907.