What the Amish can teach us about technology
Technologists search for lessons among people who don't use much technology.
This story was originally reported by PRI's The Takeaway. For more, listen to the audio above.
What can society learn about technology from the Amish? At first, the question may sound like a joke. But MIT graduate student Eric Brende took the issue seriously when he decided to live with an Amish sect.
The Amish don't eschew all technology, as many imagine. Technologist Kevin Kelly points out to PRI's The Takeaway that the Amish still use technology in their day-to-day lives, including use disposable diapers and genetically modified crops. "What [the Amish] are able to do," Kelly says, "is use technology selectively to enhance their ability to work at home and strengthen their community and that actually gives them a very satisfying life."
While living with the Amish, Brende found that his leisure time greatly increased, Kelly recounts in his book, "What Technology Wants." As time went on, however, it became evident that, while there may be more leisure time for the individual, the lack of technology afforded fewer opportunities for people in the society. Women were expected to be mothers and men were expected to follow the same path as their fathers before them.
Technology brings choices and opportunities, Kelly says. The struggle that society faces is how to balance the opportunities that technology provides with the selectivity that groups like the Amish are able to use so effectively to maintain their sense of community and promote leisure time and productivity.
"I suggest that people try and minimize the amount of technology in their life," Kelly told The Takeaway, "but we collectively try to maximize technology so that some genius somewhere in the world will have the guitar, the camera, or the paints to do something that no one has ever done before."
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