Symbolic Atom Relationships are Fundamental
The symbol of the atom was one that John S Veitch chose in 1981 to represent an idea proposed by Jonas Salk; (Salk Polio Vaccine) that "Relationships are fundamental".
The atom as represented by a nucleus and electrons in the "shell" model illustrated above is a simple version of atomic structure. Those who now study particle physics would understand it as even more complex. The current modern understanding of the atom reinforces even more strongly the principle of relationships. An atom has a nucleus made up of protons and neutrons at it's center, held together by a residual strong force. Almost all of the mass of the atom is in the nucleus. There are even more fundamental set of electrical particles of no size, called quarks, held together by strong and weak forces in a relationship that is more or less stable. The electrons in the "shell" model illustrated are stable in some atoms and but tend to become unstable in larger atoms. They can be thought of both as particles and as waves, which for most of us is very confusing indeed. Scientists would agree that the standard model of the atom is messy, difficult to understand and incomplete. In this context an atom is almost pure information, or a set of relationships, rather than "stuff".
Some atoms also have the power to accept electrons from outside the "shell" and pass them on to the next "shell". Hence an electrical current can pass through a wire. The larger atoms like uranium, are unstable, giving off radiation, and over time this changes the form of the atom.
These are very useful ideas in the "information age". The Internet would be a good model of the principle of relationships. Like the atom, the Internet is really too complex for us to understand. At yet at our own level we do more or less understand it, and our degree of understanding or not understanding is itself part of the whole. Perhaps we can imagine web sites as very weak forces and email as a pushing force, and email from personal friends as an attention getting force. Seeing someone in public is also and attention getting force, while shaking hands with them is stronger again. Each of these forces has it's place.
Because "relationships are fundamental" a decision maker needs to consider how individuals, groups, known facts, and resources make the whole picture. One also needs to understand that missing facts may be critical to one's ability to make a good decision. In our life experience it's commonly the "facts" that later prove to be "not facts" that account for many decision failures. The atom as a model has all of these elements. In spite of a 100 years of research, the atom is not fully understood by physicists, much less the public. There have been several versions of the "facts" about the nature of the atom, yet always the thing we are describing escapes full analysis. So it is with all the problems that face us. The key is to understand the "relationships" but the facts will often be "changeable" or "missing" and no amount of research can be guaranteed to produce quality information. Given this situation the existence of principles and values that we can use as guides in the face of uncertainty is important.
With a topic as complex as developing an Open Future™ the idea that relationships are fundamental has significant value. We can see from the introduction of the Internet a significant improvement in the quality of the information many people are getting. Of course the skills to get better information have to be learnt and since we rely on other people to send us information we can rely on, we need to develop links to those people. You can see here, the possibility of having many weak connections and a few strong connections. If our knowledge base is improved we have a stronger platform on which to stand.
In The Brundtland Report of 1987, many of the complex relationships that are part of this web site were identified. Firstly, that there was a complex and difficult problem to solve, and the resolution of that problem was not possible with the knowledge and tools we have at hand. There is an imperative "for a renewed search for multilateral solutions and a restructured international economic system". "There are no trends identifiable today. (1987)" said Gro Harlem Bruntland in her foreword, "no programmes or policies, that offer any real hope of narrowing the gap between the rich nations and the poor nations. As part of our 'development', we have amassed weapons arsenals .... ." ... "The environment does not exist as a sphere separate from human actions, ambitions, and needs, and attempts to defend it in isolation from human concerns have given the very word 'environment' a connotation of naivety in some political circles." ... "The environment is where we all live: and 'development' is what we all do in attempting to improve our lot within that abode. The two are inseparable. ... Many of the development paths of the industrialized nations are clearly unsustainable. ... Development decisions ... place unprecedented pressures on the planet's lands, waters, forests, and other natural resources. ... The links between poverty, inequality and environmental degradation formed a major theme in our analysis and recommendations."
"Major changes are needed, both in attitudes and in the way our societies are organised. The question of population - or population pressure, of population and human rights, and the links between the related issues of poverty, the environment and development proved to be one of the more difficult concerns with which we had to struggle."
"We appeal to 'citizens' groups, to non-governmental organisations, to educational institutions and to the scientific community. They will play a crucial part in putting the world into sustainable development paths, in laying the groundwork for Our Common Future."
Go to three Self Understanding Assessments:
Gro Brundtland's Three IssuesOur Common Future12 Open Future Topics
As I read this report written 25 years ago, I'm impressed by how much wisdom it contains. It reminds me of the work of the Club of Rome, which in th 1970s tried to solve the same sort of global problem, which they called 'the problématique". I have a very simple version here.
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