An Amish Approach to AI

This older article about Amish technology use by the Gandalf of Silicon Valley, Kevin Kelly reminded me of a couple of things. The first was I’ve seen their ‘hacks’ first hand. I grew up in the eastern suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio and about an hour’s drive north of Amish Country. In those same, staid suburbs we saw Amish being chauffeured around all the time to various building sites. It was common knowledge they couldn’t or wouldn’t drive, but they had no problems, religious or otherwise, hiring some guy to do it for them and thus white vans all the time full of bearded guys with straw hats.

One of the big misconceptions that the article digs into is the idea that they’re shunning of certain technologies is for some antiquated and backward religious reasons. This is not the case. It’s for community. They examine and often try out in limited capacity a technology, let’s say a solar powered motor, and then decide if it will be good for the community, and not just if it’s good for Joe Yoder down yonder. If that technology or infrastructure, let’s say the electrical grid which they would need to connect to have blenders and refrigerators, means they are dependent on outside communities of which they are not a part, then they don’t do it. If that technology in some way harms the community cohesion then they don’t do it. So this is all essentially the opposite of how we do technology today.

Imagine we took our time with social media in our pockets 24 hours a day to make sure it fit our communities values? What an insane idea. What if we just sat back and played with AI in a limited and controlled capacity like they would? Insane. This as an idea is essentially inconceivable in our world, yet shouldn’t be. The idea about moving slowly but surely with the people around us and not giving into the technology or the solution’s needs is so sadly hard to believe it’s even possible. But look the Amish have been doing it for a while and it’s generally working. Whenever it’s even suggested there is some oversight on a technology, our overlords cry foul with accusations of impinging our freedoms, yet by not doing that, this is exactly what these technologies often times do. Which the Amish, Mennonites and others have figured out ages ago.