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The Amish Model
Against neo-luddites, pt. 3
Amish are not luddites.
Amish lives are anything but antitechnological. In fact, on my several visits with them, I have found them to be ingenious hackers and tinkerers, the ultimate makers and do-it-yourselfers. They are often, surprisingly, protechnology.
(Kevin Kelly, What Technoloy Wants)
But, we consider them as a 100-year-behind-the-curve group, growing further by the day. What gives? Well, they didn’t start out that way. They started out on the same technological level as everyone else. They key difference: how they evaluated new technologies and adoptions, and how they evaluate technology, being willing to discard it if it doesn’t meet their ultimate ends.
The typical adoption pattern for a new technology goes like this: Ivan is an Amish alpha geek. He is always the first to try a new gadget or technique. He gets in his head that the new flowbitzmodulator would be really useful. He comes up with a justification of how it fits into the Amish orientation. So he goes to his bishop with this proposal: “I’d like to try this out.” The bishop says to Ivan, “Okay, Ivan, do whatever you want with this. But you have to be ready to give it up if we decide it is not helping you or is hurting others.”
So Ivan acquires the tech and ramps it up, while his neighbors, family, and bishops watch intently. The weigh the benefits and drawbacks. What is it doing to the community? To Ivan?
This is an amazing mindset shift, which we would benefit from in our society - firstly to recognize that man is the ultimate thing which Creation works on; technology is formative. We then need to be able to detach ourselves from faulty technology if it is indeed not beneficial to our souls and bodies!
Try, then be willing to relinquish. This is easier especially in the context of a community watching over us and giving us feedback and correction.
The Amish ideology is not about technology, it’s about human development and community. Their methodology towards technology is exactly that - a methodology. That’s why it looks so inconsistent and differently-structured; why to many of them a noisy generator in your backyard is preferable to silent electrical wires
The criterion is not material but something more transcendent.
For us, which technologies we implement and how they are implemented, should be on a very basic rule: do they bring man in closer communion to God? This question is not one that can be ideologized extensively. Instead, we must experiment and practice in the context of our community, listening and correcting one another.
There’s a royal path to be followed; a convivial way.