Superficiality of collective comprehension in societal learning
There are two conventional responses to societal data overload; one extreme is the effort to achieve an overview of a problem situation by sacrificing any focus on detail. At the other extreme is the much favoured tendency to concentrate on some highly specific practical question, ignoring the context, in order to make concrete progress and achieve results. Information systems have not yet been designed to stabilize the shift of user focus between these different levels. As in the case of the individual, it is difficult for a group focusing on a given level to bear in mind more than the next broader level and the next narrower level. Where there are many relevant levels, much must remain out of focus. And in the dynamics of practical programmes and policy-making, levels acquire an independence from one another especially since they lend themselves to the establishment of user fiefdoms. These may well give rise to their own information systems by which that independence is justified and reinforced. Needless to say such divisions constitute a severe limit on innovative learning. The question is whether learning systems can be designed and used respecting the limits to comprehension inherent in cognitive levels different depths.
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.