XIII World Conference of World Futures Studies Federation, WFSF 1993

V i s i o n s, M e a n s, A c t i o n s

Poster and Sessions and Workshops - Turku, Finland, August 23-27, 1993

12 Theses about new forms of education for Positive Futures:

Our View of the World is too Flat

Heiner Benking

Thesis 1: A framework is required to allow the individual to find his place in the universe and develop an overall perspective. It is also necessary to relate information in repositories with observations about the world and with individual viewpoints. Some sense of harmony will result when one comes to understand the global perspective and realises that each individual is an integral part of the whole, just as each brick is an integral part of the wall. This realisation will help to combat feelings of apathy and futility. It is important that this concept models only the physical universe, and thus leaves open the possibility of influence by spiritual forces.

Thesis 2: Children grow up in a world of separated fields, and are encouraged through intense competition to specialise at an early age. The increasing demand for holistic and integrated approaches to system- and process-oriented concepts is contradicted by efforts to limit the natural exploratory tendencies of children. Once these tendencies are suppressed, it is often not possible to counteract a transformation which has resulted in an analytic being devoid of spirituality and creativity.

Thesis 3: Ecology is not presented as a multi-disciplinary field because only sector-oriented and causal thinking, as opposed to system-oriented thinking, are taught. Such a multi-disciplinary perspective can thus only be obtained through broad practical and physical experience. A conceptual image, which is more than just a mental framework and an associated paradigm, is therefore difficult to achieve.

Thesis 4: Individuals feel helpless and powerless because they don't perceive their contribution or their relationship to the world as a whole. The result is apathy and abdication of responsibility based on the lack of a perception that action or inaction on the part of the individual will have an impact on the overall system.

Thesis 5: Only through localisation of effect in space and time is a feeling of deep knowledge created. Reference to the environment or neighbourhood are essential to developing practical approaches to problems and to the optimisation of learning.

Thesis 6: There is a necessity to develop a new network nomenclature, which can additionally contain imagery of various dimensions and metaphors. Such catalytic "concept-language" simplifies and speeds communication and allows mediation of complex decision scenarios. The resulting unified "terminology/"imageology"/"metaphorology" allows multi-dimensional thought and helps to identify cultural differences in expression and understanding. The present use of language does not allow distinct terminology, only relative terms, which require pictures and metaphors to make the point, especially in multi-dimensional domains.

Thesis 7: Since children appreciate the use of simple pictures and stories to explain complex relations, this form of communication should be seriously considered. Children seem to think visually, but this technique is underexploited and not completely understood. That catalytic powers of thinking and speaking in pictures are suppressed is readily seen in comparing cultural differences in memorisation.

Thesis 8: The process self-discovery and the development of self-esteem are strongly related to the concepts of home and intimacy. If the boundaries of thought and perception are extended, for example from village to country to planet, adequate concepts for thoughts are required for improved imagination, mapping, and living according to such expanded perceptions. Imagery which supports this expanded context, the reference to details, and related knowledge and experience creates advanced creativity and catalytic possibilities, and thus allows for deeper insight.

Thesis 9: One major problem is the lack of experience with and feeling for spatial and time scales. They must be experienced outside of the conventional range of individual observation, and have direct implications for relationships with and management of natural resources. Without a perception of scales and dimension, there is no space for responsibility and ethics.

Thesis 10: Imagination and creativity are wasted if an early "fun and games'' approach to obtaining a capability for making mental transitions between structures, subjects, scales, and relationships is not taken. The word intuition in the Greek and Roman sense included inspiration in a parallel mode: seeing the overall picture at a single glance, followed by perusal of the details. The trick is to learn to oscillate between these forms of mental exercise and thereby foster ingenuity.

The definition of ecology as "interaction along and across hierarchical scales" requires techniques such as zooming, panning, overlaying, system dynamics oriented functional linking. The use of imagery, concepts, and metaphors to trigger mental traversal of these scales is crucial. These techniques utilise creative and analytical capabilities in parallel, and therefore result in dramatic increases in quality and speed of response.

Thesis 11: If we can show the various phenomena of nature in a single framework, we will have a universal system for perceiving nature in time and space (Natur-Raum-Zeit). Understanding the interaction and communication between individual processes, and the unique position and importance of each contribution, a new sense of responsibility and community-oriented thinking may develop.

Thesis 12: A new dialogue with nature requires the concept of a web forming the whole (llya Prigogine). With hierarchical self-similar structure (as in the Chinese Feng-Shui concept), a new cosmopolitical and universal thinking may develop. This requires visualisation and abstract and consistent images of unified depth, which assist in bridging dimensions. If children can be enticed by such simple pictorial content, and take pleasure in exploring these concepts, a first step has been made. Detail to any desired depth may be added later using electronic referencing and documentation aids.

Heiner Benking

in co-operation with FAW - Research Institute for Applied Knowledge Processing, Helmholtzstrasse 16 89081 Ulm, Germany

Full paper and more: "Proposing a New World View - Our View-of-Life is too flat" - Techniques for Indexing and Teaching FAW - Technical Report FAW-TR - 93019

Press and Newsletter: Helsingin Sannomat and Children Knowledge Spiral Newsletter