An Amish Approach to Technology

I’ve found, as I get older and wiser, my approach when it comes to deciding whether or not to upgrade my devices is increasingly like that I’ve read of Amish communities.

You see, it is not that the Amish shun modern technology. It’s that they take a very long, mindful, and considered approach as to what technology to adopt, weigh the pros and cons of how it might affect them, their homes, their communities, their way of life and if any of those trade-offs are worth it. Phones, for instance, are fine — as long as they’re not in the home and used only when absolutely necessary. And, if it’s not in any one home, then why not just have one phone in a central location that the whole community can use? So, one can see from this example that really what is at stake with the Amish approach is a question of true value — beyond the material — that every technology must pass and only applied in specific ways in order to be adopted.

Another thing I’ve learned about the Amish is there is also always the question of how a thing can be done as well or better either with an alternative technology or one that is already on hand… Do we need a tractor when we have a horse and plow? The tractor may be easier but what host of troubles does it bring? Then we have to buy gas and parts when it breaks and you can’t hook a buggy up to it and take it into town to sell pies and quilts. Then it’s noisy and disrupts the peace in the community and our neighbors. So, “easier” and “faster” are not things that always trump other considerations for the Amish. These are weighed against other factors equally. Better in one or two ways may be bad in too many others.

This is what has been coming to mind for me as yet another iPhone has been released. I’m still using an iPhone 5 that I, quite reluctantly, “upgraded” to 2.5 years ago. I loved my iPhone 4 but its decreasing battery life and increasing inability to run apps I thought “mattered” to me forced my hand to move up. The iPhone 5 continues to serve me well. That said, battery life and camera performance are my main concerns. I’m aware that upgrading to the iPhone SE would solve both of those in the same, handsome, form factor. That said, there are some thoughts that keep coming up for me…

Upgrading to the SE would mean a change of phone plans and additional cost. You see, when the carriers dropped the subsidized payment model — where you got the phone for “free” with contract — it actually allowed them to raise the price. Now, you either buy the phone outright or make monthly no-interest payments but you still pay the same monthly price for most plans as you used to when you got the phone for free. I’ve priced this out and, basically, what it means for me and my family if we take the monthly no-interest payments route is we will me paying about $40 more per month if both my wife and I upgrade. Kind of a big hike.

If camera and battery life are my main sticking points — if the performance and ways I use it are just fine — then there are other ways I can approach those. I could get a battery case to extend my life or even install a new battery myself — both for less than $30.00. I have a nice, small, lovely camera that I could use for those times when I wish the quality were better. Are there ways I could make it easier to take with me most places? Maybe a nice leather strap to keep it around my neck or a nice pancake lens so it slips easily into a pocket.

My point being that I’m considering all of my options in my considerations. If I have alternative solutions to my two main concerns that are less expensive, in many ways simpler, and solve the problem then why should they not hold considerable weight? Like the Amish, upgrading to something “better” does not always mean it is the best choice and sometimes that means using something that is considered old and outdated to the majority.

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