The Amish stance toward any invention isn’t that they reject it outright. It’s that they start by assuming they don’t need it, then adopt it only if it’s in line with their values
The basic stereotype about the Amish – drivers of horse-drawn buggies, wearers of huge beards – is that they’re stuck in the 18th century: if a technology wasn’t invented by then, you won’t find them using it today. (What goes clip clop, clip clop, bang bang, clip clop? An Amish drive-by shooting.) So it’s alarming to learn, as the New York Times reported recently, that smartphones, PCs and computer-controlled machinery are increasingly part of the community’s daily life. There are Amish bakeries that take credit cards. So much for your fantasy – OK, my fantasy – of escaping the hyper-connected world and retreating to a simpler era. If clicking and swiping have got even the Amish addicted, what hope for the rest of us?
Except, as Kevin Kelly points out in his book What Technology Wants, the Amish have never been unequivocal shunners of modernity. “Amish lives are anything but anti-technological,” he writes. Visiting Amish communities, he found battery-powered radios, computer-controlled milling machines, solar panels, chemical fertilisers and GM crops. What distinguishes the Amish stance toward any given invention isn’t that they reject it outright; it’s that they start by assuming they don’t want or need it, then adopt it only if they decide it’s in line with their values.