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World Dynamics and Psychodynamics

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World Dynamics and Psychodynamics
Experiment
Concluding comments
ANNEX I: Preliminary Conclusions of the Club of Rome Study of World Dynamics
ANNEX II: Levels in psychological systems corresponding to selected world system levels
ANNEX III: Complete world model described in World Dynamics
ANNEX IV: Terms in psychological systems corresponding to those used in the model of the world system

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Distributed by the Union of International Associations and Mankind 2000 as Study Paper ORG/2


Introduction
Experiment
Concluding comments
Annex I: Preliminary Conclusions of the Club of Rome Study of World Dynamics
Annex II: Levels in psychological systems corresponding to selected world system levels
Annex III: Complete world model described in World Dynamics
Annex IV: Terms in psychological systems corresponding to those used in the model of the world system


Introduction

Any academic study of the world system is based on a treatment of individuals as units whose actions can be aggregated to constitute the general processes which are examined within the world system model used. The conclusions of such studies result in recommendations for political actions which are either meaningless for individuals or, if understood, are viewed with suspicion, low credibility or, at best, as interesting hypotheses "worthy of further study". They do not incite commitment or a change in behaviour at a grass-roots level - thus leaving politicians free to support current trends without modification.

With regard to The Club of Rome study published as "World Dynamics"(Jay Forrester, World Dynamics. Cambridge, Wright-Allen Press, 1971 (see review in "International Associations", October 1971)), it would seem valuable to attempt to render its approach (and conclusions given as Annex I) more meaningful. To this end, we can consider in more detail the individual's end of the actions which are aggregated into world processes tracked by the model. And, instead of looking at his physical actions, we can attempt to use the system dynamics approach to concretize the person's own psychological processes which give rise to the physical actions which are aggregated. For unless the interactions between these psychological processes and their consequences are understood by the individual responsible for them, we should not expect the individual, or even ourselves, to accept any arguments in favour of modifying the consequences of such processes in terms of physical behaviour. In other words, we cannot expect rational consideration of arguments for immediate self-restraint and self-privation made on the basis of highly abstract analyses of long-term future probabilities, however objective to the investigator.

At first sight, individual psychological considerations may seem to have little connection with a computer analysis of the world system. But Jay Forrester, author of "World Dynamics", himself establishes the link:

"There is nothing new in the use of models to represent social systems. Everyone uses models all the time. Every person in his private life and in his community life uses models for decision-making. The mental image of the world around one, carried in each individual's head, is a model. One does not have a family, a business, a city, a government, or a country in his head. He has only selected concepts and relationships which he uses to represent the real system. A mental image is a model. All of our decisions are taken on the basis of models.. . .The mental model is fuzzy. It is incomplete. It is imprecisely stated. Furthermore, even within one individual, the mental model changes with times and with the flow of conversation. The human mind assembles a few relationships to fit the context of a discussion. As the subject shifts, so does the model" (p. 14-15)

These points do not offer an explicit clue to the method to be adopted to render "world systems" meaningful to the individual. The argument is however the same that Forrester must have used in converting his approach from corporations and industries, to urban systems to the world system. (The city to world switch appears to have been made between June 29th when it was proposed in Bern and July 20th, 1970, when it was demonstrated in Cambridge, USA.) The assumption is that at every level we are dealing with systems:

"The most important concept in establishing the structure of a system is the idea that all actions take place within feedback loops.. . .The feedback loop is the closed path that connects an action to its effect on the surrounding conditions and these resulting conditions in turn come back as "information" to influence further action... .The principles of system structures tell us that two kinds of variables will be found - levels and rates. .. .The levels are the accumulations within the system. The rates are the flows that cause the levels, to change.. . .Levels exist in all subsystems - financial, physical, biological, psychological and economic." (p. 18)

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