Misleading Modelling of Global Crises


Anthony Judge | Laetus in Praesens – TRANSCEND Media Service

Unquestioned Bias in Authoritative Representations of Reality by Science?


30 Aug 2021 – The background to this exploration dates from a conversation in the early 1970s with John McHale, subsequently active in instigation of the World Futures Studies Federation, chairing its meetings, and as a member of the editorial board of the journal Futures. As former Executive Director of the World Resources Inventory, McHale had collaborated with Buckminster Fuller resulting in the production of a series of documents, including an  Inventory of World Resources, Human Trends and Needs (1963). The latter was part of the first phase of the World Design Science Decade (1965-1975).

The period was witness to the much-cited publication by Paul and Anne Ehrlich (Population, Resources, Environments: issues in human ecology, 1970). At the time of the conversation, however, McHale indicated that he was being asked to update the earlier study, but without any consideration of how his own thinking had evolved since then with regard to any such a compilation. He had declined.

That period was subsequently witness to the much-publicised study associated with the Club of Rome, namely The Limits to Growth (1972). The model from which this was derived was based on five variables: population, food production, industrialization, pollution, and consumption of nonrenewable natural resources. The selection of these variables by a group of academics as being central to such a model was especially striking from the perspective of involvement with the Yearbook of International Organizations. This profiled some 3,000 international bodies at that time, whether governmental or nongovernmental, with a spread of preoccupations necessarily far exceeding those which were the focus of that early model.

This contrast framed the initiative to produce a complementary Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential to identify a wider set of “variables”, namely preoccupations perceived by the profiled international bodies, in addition to those considered relevant to the Limits model. The first edition in 1976 finally included some 2,600 “world problems” interlinked by a network of 58,000 cross-references (World Problems and Human Potential: a data interlinkage and display process, Futures (the journal of forecasting and planning), 7, 1975, 3).

As an “open-source”, multi-issue model, rather than a single-issue model, its subsequent development online as the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potenial was partially funded by the European Commission and approved for funding by the World Bank. It now includes some 56,000 perceived “problems”. These profiles are notably complemented by a set of 32,000 “strategies” (whether implemented or not) articulated by international constituencies in response to those problems, together with other data sets, including a set of 600 human values. Its development was a feature of the First Global Brain Workshop (Simulating a Global Brain: using networks of international organizations, world problems, strategies, and values, 2001).

The acceptance by the Club of Rome of the Limits methodology merits recognition in the light of the dynamics in relation to the rejection as “too humanistic” of a more comprehensive counter-proposal articulated as a “prospectus” by Hasan Ozbekhan, Alexander ChristakisErich Jantsch, and Aurelio Peccei, as described separately and diagrammed below (The Predicament for Mankind: Quest for Structured Responses to Growing World-wide Complexities and Uncertainties, 1970).

Aspects of the subsequent history are noted in Club of Rome Reports and Bifurcations: a 50-year overview (2018). The continuing degree of credibility of the Limits approach has been noted more recently (Donella H. Meadows, et al, Beyond The Limits To Growth, 1992; Ugo Bardi, The Limits to Growth Revisited, Springer, 2011). That of Christakis and Ozbekhan has also been revisited (A Retrospective Structural Inquiry of the Predicament of Mankind: prospectus of the Club of Rome, 2006). Especially evident in the many reports to the Club is the avoidance of any integration of their many single issue perspectives.

As a reaction to the restrictive focus of the Limits approach, and in the light of general systems theory, the systems diagram by which it was characterized was used experimentally at that time as a template to suggest the possibility of modelling a more comprehensive system (World Dynamics and Psychodynamics: a step towards making abstract “world system” dynamic limitations meaningful to the individual, 1971).

Since that period, the focus of global modelling has become ever more specialized into sectoral preoccupations. Potential exceptions with respect to global simulation and world modelling include World3, the European FuturICT project, and the Joint Simulation System. The latter has seemingly now morphed, via the secretive Total Information Awareness program, into the Sentient World Simulation (SWS). This is intended as a “synthetic mirror of the real world with automated continuous calibration with respect to current real-world information” with a node representing “every man, woman and child”  (Towards a History of World Futures Studies — focusing on collective initiatives, 2010). The latter noted a number of methodological concerns of relevance to this argument. The multi-issue interactive transformation maps central to the controversial Greatl Reset initiative of the World Economic Forum merit particular attention in this respect (Transformation maps — as “strategic mandalas”? 2020).

The vast investment in global modelling of climate change as a single-issue focus is now the primary outcome of modelling, as evidenced by the current report of the IPCC (Sixth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, August 2021). Notable in that respect is the focus on the “physics” of climate change offering virtually zero insight into the psychosocial context. Understood as “anthropogenic global warming“, there is however no effort at complementary modelling of the “climate of world opinion” from which it is assumed that any remedial strategies might emerge sustainably.

Consequently the currently scheduled COP-26 UN Climate Change Conference (Glasgow, 2021) will focus on the need for global governance “to do something” urgently regarding global warming (framed by the sense of a “Red Alert”). There is little understanding of why such warnings have proven to be naive in the absence of commensurate psychosocial insights into the variety of perceived problems with which different constituencies identify as urgent (Recognizing the Psychosocial Boundaries of Remedial Action: constraints on ensuring a safe operating space for humanity, 2009; Michael S. Wogalter, Handbook of Warnings, 2006).

The argument here is however provoked by the current single-issue modelling of the global pandemic and the unprecedented consensus to which it has given rise regarding universal vaccination as “doing the right thing” and “for the benefit of all” — with zero consideration of alternative possibilities. Not only are these alternatives absent from public discourse, but any efforts at their articulation are reframed as misleadingly associated with misinformation — therefore requiring vigorous suppression, and censorship of those promoting such methodological consideration.

Given appreciation of the engendered consensus by authorities, there is every expectation that the mainstream narrative will be applied mutatis mutandis to the “elephant in the living room” (Application of Universal Vaccination Narrative to Climate Change: implications for biodiversity, human equality and anti-otherness, 2021). An unfortunate indication of this pattern is the constraint on articulation of climate change denial (Wikipedia deletes “List of scientists who disagree with the scientific consensus on global warming” in astonishing act of cenorship, Electroverse, 7 March 2020).

Expressed otherwise, the focus of the following argument is on the lack of self-reflexivity of global modelling regarding its own probable cognitive biases and how these affect what is included or excluded from any single-issue focus. In the absence of multi-issue modelling, how does global modelling deal with contrasting perspectives — and any crisis of crises? What of the probability of the emergence of other models in the future following the failure of those that have been previously favoured — as is only too evident from a historical perspective? Of considerable importance in this respect is the manner in which vested interests bias the selection of what is considered authoritatively relevant — and the uncritical complicity of academia in this process — as being in its own best interest.

The argument follows from recognition that the pandemic is equally significant as a memetic disease (COVID-19 as a Memetic Disease — an epidemic of panic, 2020).

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