What is GSSD?

Sketch of Sustainable Development

Excerpt from Cheating: The Origin, Nature, Importance and Improvement of Business and Other Ethics by Wallace R. Baker.
© 2017 Wallace R. Baker 

In this earliest sketch, my interest was particularly strong in highlighting the connection or link between different actions indicated by arrows. Note intensive agriculture pollutes ground water due to fertilizers. Increasing agricultural land by deforestation alleviates poverty but reduces the absorption of CO2 by the trees and is one of the causes of climate change. Pestilence limits population growth as does education which also affects ideological beliefs. Human activities, i.e., agriculture and urbanization, eliminate other species at an increasing rate.

Before one of her talks on sustainable development in France, I showed this sketch to Professor Choucri. She said she thought it was "interesting". She was inspired by it as she tried to develop a method to direct our attention in a way that involves our interaction and participation. With this germ of idea, she returned to MIT and began working on the key principles that could provide an underlying logic for addressing the elements in Figure 1. Her work would not be primarily directed to the man in the street or children but for policy-makers, international organizations, scholars, companies and other entities interested in gaining access to the latest detailed and usually complex reliable knowledge on specific problems of sustainable development. She was right that it was important to direct our attention this way in order to get the business sector, others and public opinion moving in the right direction. The education of children and ordinary people should happen in parallel. This effort would profit from the useful knowledge collected, created and disseminated by a knowledge system which she created, the GSSD. She enlisted the remarkable expertise available in the MIT faculty and the support of its able student body to help create this knowledge network. It took a number of years to design and define the concepts of the elements of the Global System for Sustainable Development (GSSD), to logically organize their relationships and create a useful knowledge network for sustainable development. An indirect method of securing a peer review of her accomplishment occurred when a U.S. patent was secured for the GSSD. This system has not been finished since other useful information needs to be added. In addition it needs to be dynamic and change in order to reflect new developments so it does not become out-of-date.

The work on the Global System for Sustainable Development continued with international cooperation of many people and institutions in order to incorporate websites of other reliable producers of knowledge and to collect, make available and encourage creation of new knowledge to add to the GSSD which will help us to reach sustainable development.

The 2007 Book published on Mapping Sustainability

Professor Choucri edited and wrote significant parts in a 2007 book: Mapping Sustainability1 which describes what she, her students, her colleagues at MIT and other providers of knowledge have accomplished since 1990.

The first part of the book is theoretical and analytical as well as methodological and computational. It is computational in that it explains how the GSSD rides on the information revolution with knowledge networking on the Internet using the power of computers to work on sustainability problems, which B.R. Allenby describes as "mutually reinforcing the dimensions of the human future".This book gives a description or inventory of the nature, definition and the construction of what is included in the GSSD and described as "ontology" by Professor Choucri, i.e., its "being". The MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory was instrumental in drawing upon a novel set of computational tools for exploring a range of system design and implementation issues.


[1] This book, Nazli Choucri, Dinsha Mistree, Farnaz Haghseta, Toufic Mezher, Wallace R. Baker, Carlos I. Ortiz (eds.), Mapping Sustainability: Knowledge E-Networking and the Value Chain, Springer, AA Dordrecht. The Netherlands (hereafter referred to as "Mapping"), of about 500 pages, which is based upon twenty years of research by political science Professor Nazli Choucri at MIT, is volume 11 of the Alliance for Global Sustainability (AGS) Book Series. The AGS annual conference reports on research done in academia and elsewhere. The aim of the series is to provide timely accounts by authoritative scholars of the results of cutting edge research into barriers to sustainable development, and methodologies and tools to help governments, industry and civil society overcome such barriers. The level of presentation is for graduate students in natural, social and engineering sciences as well as policy and decision makers around the world in government, industry and civil society. The Alliance is presided by the President of the University of Tokyo, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Chalmers University of Technology. Its members are chosen from leaders in industry, academia, foundations and government and others from Japan, the U.S., Switzerland and Sweden.

[2] Allenby, B.R. (2001). Information Systems and Environment, National Academy of Engineering. Technology p. 48.