Software Provides Opportunity To Think Globally The World Game Institute Has Put Its Ideas On Computer Disk.

Posted: May 20, 1993

The architect and visionary R. Buckminster Fuller believed we could solve all our problems on "Spaceship Earth" if only we thought globally.

He envisioned an assembly of international leaders in a coliseum not unlike Veterans Stadium, the floor of which would be covered with an enormous world map. Beneath it would be a giant computer, programmed with all the data they'd need to tackle any problem on Earth - facts about, say, weather patterns, oil reserves, food production, infant mortality rates.

Instead of battling enemy armies, the nations would unite to conquer starvation or pollution or disease.

Fuller died in 1983, his "World Game" still a dream. But now, his friend and disciple, Medard Gabel, has taken it a step closer to reality.

The World Game Institute in West Philadelphia has begun selling educational software, called Global Recall, to high schools and colleges. It not only puts a wealth of data at the students' fingertips, but also leads them toward solving global problems.

Best of all, students can enter the strategies they devise in the Global Change Tournament, to be judged by United Nations environmentalists. The winner, who will be chosen in January, will be given a cash prize - an amount as yet undetermined - to try to implement the strategy.

"Not only is there a winner," said Gabel, executive director of the nonprofit institute, "but we want to take the top 50 strategies every year and put them out as a book and send them to leaders of the world and to international organizations."

Global Recall, he said, lets "students use their ingenuity, creativity, chutzpah - whatever - to have an impact on the world. In a sense it's like a Jeffersonian democracy. Jefferson said the best defense of democracy is an informed electorate. And what we're trying to do is make informed global citizens."

Gabel conceived the idea, and folks at the institute spent the last three years making it happen. So far, they've sold out of their first batch of 500 disks.

The software, designed for grades eight through 12 and college introductory courses, requires an Apple computer and costs $69.95.

In a review of a dozen electronic atlas programs, a writer for Technology & Learning described Global Recall as "unique, often cumbersome, always informative and ultimately fascinating."

His major complaint was that the program required a significant amount of disk space, and at times was slow because of the size of its database. Gabel said the program worked best when loaded onto a hard drive.

Global Recall is divided into three sections - global data and maps, an encyclopedia of world problems and a "solutions lab."

The first section includes the most complete database available in atlas format, said Gabel, with 650 "common indicators" for every country in the world - information about the environment, energy use, natural resources, population, education and much more.

The section also includes more than 300 maps, satellite photos and a wide range of bar charts, pie diagrams and time series graphs.

The charts reveal the vast sweep of trends: How polio was virtually wiped out everywhere but in India; how smallpox had been gradually eliminated from the planet; how the number of AIDS cases has exploded globally since 1982.

Gabel gathered the data from a wide variety of sources, from the United Nations to the World Health Organization to the World Bank. The information will be updated twice a year so users can remain current.

In the second section of the program - global problems - students can read essays on a wide variety of international issues, from global warming to energy consumption to infant mortality.

This section also includes several of what Gabel calls "worldometers" - global data that change before your eyes. For instance, click your mouse and the screen will read: "Today, May 13, 1993, the world population is 5,598,240,057 . . . 60 . . . 63 . . . " The number increases every second as the world population grows.

Along with a bibliography, this portion lists national and world problem- solving organizations.

Then comes the "solutions lab."

The software takes you through a series of exercises and helps you formulate the right questions about the problem you hope to solve.

Ultimately, you write an essay, outlining your plan of action.

"A student could select a problem on homelessness in Philadelphia or Kensington's drug problem," Gabel suggested. "It will be nice if they have some global implications. For instance, if they solve South Philly's litter problem, could it be expanded to all of Philadelphia?"


* The World Game Institute, 3215 Race St., Philadelphia 19104.215-387-0220.

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