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When it comes to technology, go Amish

Author Jeff Smith explores the Amish approach to technology, which is much more nuanced and pragmatic than one would assume, in this thoughtful Washington Post piece:

If your familiarity with the Amish doesn’t extend much beyond the image of a bearded man wearing a black hat and driving a horse and buggy on a rural road, you might have the impression that members of the traditionalist Christian group reflexively shun all modern technology. You’d be mistaken. Each church community of about 30 families — in a denomination with well over 300,000 members, spread across 31 states and parts of Canada and South America — has latitude in setting its technology boundaries.

He explains further:

When a church member asks to use a new technology, the families discuss the idea and vote to accept or reject. The conversation centers on how a device will strengthen or weaken relationships within the community and within families.

In a couple of examples, Smith points out that technology’s effect on social ties is carefully considered in these communities. Even with a hay baling innovation, he writes, “The risk to social cohesion, they decided, wasn’t worth the potential gains.”

Imagine if the United States had conducted a similar discussion when social media platforms were developing algorithms designed to amplify differences and then pit us against one another, because anger drives traffic and traffic drives profits.