The Encyclopedia Online consists of six main databases, each complementing each other:
To provide a more comprehensive understanding of world problems in order to enhance the ability to deal with the challenges humanity faces.
The World Problems database includes profiles of the problems humanity faces and the relationships between them - from Absentmindedness, AIDS and Avalanches, to Xenophobia, Youth Unemployment and Zoonotic Bacterial Diseases.
In the past, much effort has gone into the focus on seemingly isolated world problems, such as unemployment, boredom, endangered species, desertification or corruption. The World Problems database shifts the focus to the hunt for complex networks and even vicious cycles of problems (see definition above).
Organizational strategies and programmes that focus on only one problem in the chain tend to fail because the cycle has the capacity to regenerate itself. Worse still is that such cycles tend to interlock, creating the complex of global problems which causes so many to despair. Identifying vicious cycles is a first step towards designing cycles of strategies to reverse or break them. Better still some problems are linked by serendipitous cycles in which each problem alleviates the next - and, even better, some strategies function in serendipitous cycles to reinforce each other and break vicious problem cycles.
To enhance the ability to formulate effective strategies to global problems.
The Global Strategies database attempts to record and map the relationships between strategies and solutions that humanity actually or potentially uses - from Awarding prizes, Breaking down cultural isolation and Campaigning, to Wishing and Using witchcraft.
The international community invests much time and energy in formulating and implementing strategies. However, the tendency is to perceive such strategies in isolation.
Whilst organizations may be able to identify precisely the set of problems to which they are responding, it is usually much less clear what strategy they are employing in the process. This is because organizations quite often have strategies which are not distinguishable within the organization from programme orientations, working style and the general objectives for which the body was originally established.
Also, the current approach limits strategy formulation. The conventional way of addressing any problem situation is to elaborate a strategy, but given the number, variety and interrelationships of the problems, as detailed in the World Problems database, it is uncertain whether any conventional strategy could be adequate.
Given this complexity, there is a great advantage in clarifying the range of strategies currently being pursued in response to global problems. This database of strategies indicates the merits and clashes of various strategic approaches which can then be rendered much more explicit to planners.
To promote understanding of the values, which are the guiding principles of human behaviour, in the hopes that a more comprehensive understanding will enhance the ability to deal with current global challenges.
The Human Values database attempts to record and map the relationships between human values - from Anarchy, Boredom and Creativity, to Xenophobia, Youthfulness and Zealotry - and which often occur in value polarities of constructive or destructive values.
The debate on social policy at the local, national or world level makes many references to concepts such as equality, justice and liberty. These are abstract concepts of great ambiguity and imprecision. However, in attempting to formulate social policy for the future, values must be fed into the decision-making process. Therefore, the utility of any such policy depends on an understanding of the complex and shifting architecture of values that regulates human behaviour.
What are values, how do they relate to one another, and how do they change? How do they relate to the problems with which society is confronted? Knowledge of these matters remains primitive relative to the needs of the time. And, no problem can be recognized, or adequately formulated, unless the values involved, and the apparent threat to them, are stated. Many world problems can be specifically associated with the values which they threaten or violate in some way.
To provide a context for concepts of human development that are used in essentially different and frequently non-interacting sectors of society, and to draw attention to those concepts of human development which have hitherto been excluded from serious consideration within the international community.
The Human Development database provides descriptions of human development approaches and the relationships between them, as perceived by different beliefs systems, disciplines, religions, and cultures - from Absolution, Balancing yin and yang and Chakra centres of consciousness, to Xenophrenia (or psychism), Yantra yoga and Zen meditation.
The term "human development" relates to concepts that people identify with, consider meaningful or reject in their search for growth and fulfilment in life. It points to a process which is of vital interest at a time when the organization and future of life on this planet is challenged by the consequences of past understandings of that same process. For it is human development, through its lack of restraint, which has given rise to a high proportion of the problems of the world.
The Human Development database describes briefly the complete range of concepts of human development. It includes concepts legitimated by the psychological and psychoanalytical establishments as well as those promoted by the various contemporary growth movements. It also includes concepts from religions and from belief systems of different cultures. Entries are included on explicit concepts of human development and on therapies, activities or experiences in which a particular understanding of human development is implicit.
Concepts are also compared, for instance between those that place importance on the psycho-social development of the individual as a unique human being, from those which effectively stress the development of the individual conceived merely as a socio-economic unit. The Human Development database also provides information on the range of modes of awareness, as well as on the states of consciousness with which people identify during the process of human development, indicating where possible how these are perceived as interrelated stages.
To identify classes of symbols considered significant in traditional and modern cultures; and to enhance understanding of the range of symbols that remain active in society and which can be called upon as a cultural resource to give focus to international programmes given that they embody special significance in establishing the identity of international campaigns in relation to other initiatives.
The Integrative Concepts database details the symbols - from Abstraction, Analogy and Adaptation, to Union, Visualization and World Unity.
Symbols are of special importance in embodying significance and giving focus to any campaign or programme and in establishing its identity in relation to other initiatives. Whilst much work has been done on symbols in order to market commercial products or political parties, almost none has been done on their value in communicating the key ideas associated with development strategies.
Furthermore, when advocating or imposing the use of particular international sets of values, needs or qualities, it is not recognized that these effectively compete as functional substitutes in traditional societies with other sets of qualities represented by hierarchies of gods, spiritual beings, or natural phenomena perceived as governing those qualities or some of them.
Given the relative rapidity with which such sets are now formulated it is not surprising if they are viewed as artificial, bloodless and unrelated to the complex pattern of qualities associated with traditional sets of symbols.
The lack of success of public information programmes, using a confusion of unrelated symbolic gimmicks, is therefore understandable. There would therefore seem to be a need to understand the range of symbols that remain active in society and which, as a cultural resource, can be called upon to give focus to international programmes.