Rheingold's Rants

July 1998

4 July

It's a good thing I chose the first week of June to visit Intercourse, PA, to ask Amish people how they make their rules about tools. Two weeks later, two young Amish males in that vicinity -- "Abner Stoltzfus and Abner King Stoltzfus (no relation)" -- were busted for buying cocaine from the Pagans motorcycle gang and distributing it through Amish youth groups. For a couple of days, reporters from everywhere were in Intercourse, Bird-in-Hand, Gordinville, and Gap. It wasn't easy finding people who would be willing to speak to me before the bust. It would be impossible now.

My brief excursion into the Amish philosophy of technology is in the process of becoming a magazine article, so I probably won't put the full narrative here for a while, but I do want to share a few tidbits that struck me. I visited an Amish-run machine shop -- a place that uses machines, powered by diesel and hydraulic power rather than electricity, to make machines. The owner-operator wore the plain black Amish uniform and the Abe Lincoln beard without a moustache. He handed me a reprint of an interview with Jaron Lanier when I asked him about his philosophy of technology: "I agree with this guy," he said, "especially the part about it not being possible to build something foolproof, because fools are so clever."

This fellow, call him Abner, looked me in the eye and said: "We don't stop with asking what a tool does. We ask about what kind of people we become when we use it."

June 1998

May 1998

April 1998

March 1998

February 1998

January 1998

rheingold's brainstorms