Jeffrey Schnapp

Faculty Director of metaLAB at Harvard &
Co-founder of Piaggio Fast Forward

How can the combination of an ageing intelligence and tech can help create a better planet? 

“My experience has taught me that, contrary to conventional assumptions, senior citizens are no less engaged by and enmeshed in the world of technology than are their children and grandchildren. So-called “digital natives” may have developed a natural affinity for joysticks, apps, and electronic devices, but they don’t necessarily possess a deep understanding of the technologies that they rely upon, nor do they necessarily nurture a critical understanding of their powers, limitations, and effects. Most have an only limited understanding of “what is going on under the hood” on their smart devices. I encounter few twenty-somethings but many people in their fifties, sixties, and seventies at the helm of leading technology firms, individuals whose life experience powerfully informs their ability to shape products that contribute to human wellbeing and environmental sustainability. So ageing intelligence, rather than being external to tech, seems to me integral and it is thanks to the cross fertilisation between the new and the old that the most meaningful forms of innovation take shape.”


Jeffrey Schnapp is the faculty director of metaLAB (at) Harvard, a knowledge design laboratory based at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. He is also co-founder and Chief Visionary Officer of Piaggio Fast Forward, a Boston-based robotics company dedicated to developing a sustainable mobility ecology with healthy lifestyles and social connectivity available to all, regardless of age or abilities.

Trained as a cultural historian, his work is informed by an approach that places human factors at the center of innovation in the design, technology, and mobility fields. His autobiographical entanglements with the theme of mobility include a long-term scholarly book project entitled Quickening – An Anthropology of Speed, a fifteen-year stint as a road racer competing in the American Federation of Motorcyclists championship, and a current passion for gravel biking on Vermont’s backroads. Going on 66, he belongs to a generation of active seniors who are trying not just to think about the role of technology with respect to aging and human resilience, but also to shape that technology in the service of qualitatively meaningful solutions.


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