Structural forgetfulness Biased recognition of problems
Problems are selected by humanity, whether in whole communities or within specialized groups (science, religion, technology, politics, education), in accordance with an editing process that excludes some kinds of issue because of their societal implications. Although those problems threatening the central values of the group are recognized by it as meriting attention, no attention is given to problems which are handled as part of the routine procedures of the institutions. More significantly, problems are ignored by scientific and political institutions when any recognition of them would call for such a radical shift in perspective that, in addition to threatening their most cherished values, would actually deconstruct the institutions based upon them.
The effects of structural forgetfulness have been noted in the relationship between genealogical structures in tribal societies and the nature of the political and judicial institutions they permit. It has been used to account for the socially constructed ignorance of historical processes and for the geographical constraints on political action in certain western societies. It has been argued that it is significant to understanding the establishment of boundaries between scientific disciplines.
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.