Bob Jacobsen

Bob will write about reflections, happenings and other insights in the forthcoming market communication field.

Bob Jacobsen

Bob Jacobsen

Describe your experiences and reflections of a planner and the work a planner do?
My early interests in ecosystems and public media led me eventually to pursue a PhD in urban planning from UCLA — but I’ve never planned a city or a region. Instead, I’ve work on planning information systems and services to support local autonomy and development at the urban and regional level. For my thesis, I organized a longitudinal study of then-new cellular telephony in the Nordkalott, how it empowered east-west autonomous, extra-national organization and action. That’s been the central theme of my life: human betterment through better understanding of one’s place in the world, the environments in which one lives (physical, social, and numinal), and what action one can take in behalf of one’s personal and collective interest. My work has been to make policy (in the California Legislature), to develop technology (as a start-up CEO), and most recently, to consult on the management of innovation, design, and change. My planning has all been at the level of process — which isn’t surprising, as UCLA when I attended was a leader in the development and application of planning processes. I was delighted in the last year to learn of two Swedish institutions that express ambitions for the future and a sense of wonder with which I can identify: Designboost in Skåne and the KKS Societal Entrepreneurship program, nationwide. I hope to be involved with each for years to come.

Describe how the future will be out of your perspective in your work and in your life?
I became interested in long-range planning and futuristics while in my high-school years and have been studying these disciplines and approaches ever since. I spent a good deal of time at SRI International in Menlo Park, California, learning the formal design and implementation of scenario-planning technology and techniques. I also worked there as the local futurist. To me, the future is possibility. A place to express aspirations. To go and explore. On the other hand, I am eternally fearful of dystopian futures since recent history, at least for the last 20 millennia, has been rife with conflict, disease, destruction, and desolation as much as progress and development. A student of history, I’m not Polyannish about the future. We are in continual struggle for a common future of peace, plenty, and prosperity — in a sustainable state — with individuals who feel no responsibility to others or to higher values now or in the future. It’s almost biblical, which is an interesting thing to say, because I am a Taoist for whom good and bad are merely frames on universal energy in perpetual flux. You might say I have perspective.

Mention the 3 most important and historically based inventions/events/episodes/experiences/etc to us, the human race/mankind?
1. Humanism, rationalism, and secular spirituality, liberating people to explore every possibility, challenge every claim, and cooperatively determine their own preferred ways of living now and in the future.

2. Electronic and digital technology leading to recorded, distributed experiences and networks of communication

3. Holisitic, ecosystemic, ecological awareness — rather late in the game — that could lead to a new relationship with the earth.

Mention the 3 forthcoming most important and historically based inventions/events/episodes/experiences/etc to the human race/mankind – i.e. they will come in the future?
1. Population management and resource-planning and –allocation for the Good Life, universally available.

2. Religious and cultural tolerance as a general principle, respectful of personal preferences but not imposing them.

3. Global monitoring and management of power production, consumption, and applications.

Those are positive items. There are three negative items:

4. Pandemics that disrupt all human societies and systems.

5. Economic collapses that lead to long-term chaos and devolution.

6. Resource depletion leading to huge decimation of human beings and a return to Neolithic lifestyles.

Describe shortly who you are, your background and what you do?
I consider myself a Californian more than an American, except when overseas where others define me as an American. I am a social critic and change agent. In an essay I wrote a long time ago, I suggested that a planner in a tuned-down future would be an itinerant sage travelling from one settlement to another, conveying stories of successes and failures in previously visited settlements to his or her new hosts. Somewhat like a sadhu in India, with a laptop in one hand and a rice bowl in the other. I was being speculative. In fact, that is how my life has turned out. I don’t seek to create lasting object or impressions, but to interact in the moment with clients and others to whom I am responsible, to help them improve their current situation, and then to move on. Although I sentimentalize about not having a permanent, settled home, I am at home almost anywhere. I’m adaptable. I work simultaneously with different teams of people, often pro bono, on projects that have common meaning. Having been a user of the original ARPANET (ancestor of the Internet), I’m comfortable online, although the increasing presence of yahoos online diminishes the experience. Nevertheless, my online virtual world is as important to me as the material and social world in which I physically live. In the time remaining to me, I hope to close the circle on several projects I conceived in earlier years and also to assume the role of trusted elder rather than a marginalized “retired” person or pensioneer. Although international travel will become unbearably expensive, it would be good to have a network of friends and colleagues with whom to spend some time away from what I hope will be a cozy redoubt on the US West Coast. And to contribute to productive change until I die.

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