Responsibility limited by measurable factors Disregard for soft variables Neglect of qualitative factors
The claims of posterity tend to be excluded from policy deliberations not because of a belief that future generations will be unaffected by them but because there is no clear idea of how to set about attaching value to their interests. This is an instance of the familiar problem of dwarfing of soft variables. Another instance is the neglect of economically unimportant species of plants and animals in policy deliberations. In settling conflicts of interest, any consideration which cannot be precisely quantified tends to be given little weight, or more likely, ignored altogether. The result of ignoring soft variables is a spurious appearance of completeness and precision, but in eliminating all soft variables from cost-benefit calculations, the conclusion is decidedly biased. If, as seems plausible, it is in principle impossible to do justice to soft variables, it may be that the dependence on economic models needs to be abandoned as a means of resolving conflicts of interest.
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.
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