Loop Mining in the Encyclopedia of World Problems
Read the recent research paper "Loop Mining in the Encyclopedia of World Problems" prepared by Tomáš Fülöpp and his colleagues for the 17th International Futures Conference "Futures Studies Tackling Wicked Problems" in Turku, Finland, 11-12. June 2015 — www.futuresconference.fi/2015
Any effort to tackle one problem has to take into account its relations to others. For a deeper understanding of a problem's context, we also need to study the nature of the relations. One relation type is aggravation; the systemic notion of one problem worsening, or being made worse by, another.
This paper focuses on the intricate web of aggravating relations emerging from almost 57,000 issues collected in the databases of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential. The data is based on research started in 1972.
Several deep samples and a relatively shallow but full scan of the whole database show that most of the aggravating relation chains form straight strands. Some are short, other amazingly long. A very small subset of the chains loop back to their own initial or intermediate nodes. In such positive feedback loops, problems aggravate each other in a closed circuit, reinforcing each other ad infinitum — constituting structures familiarly known as vicious cycles.
A substantial amount of algorithmic optimization and sheer computer power is required to identify the rare circular chains. The effort and time needed to extract each subsequent layer increases steeply. Hence the name: "loop mining".
Due to the computation speed barrier we struggle to uncover the complete landscape of loops in the database. Nevertheless, we can report some interesting initial results, and there are troves of intriguing questions inspiring further research. This paper explores both.
An abridged, visual version of the research is summarized in the presentation below: