Thoughts

Running about for self and perspective

The Amish and a computer philosopher have the same idea for stepping away, discovering oneself, and making more informed decisions.

It’s always interesting to see an idea echoing both past and present. It can allow us to make useful comparisons, glean some lessons or reinforce our thinking.

First, let's take the centuries-long view of the Amish on technology. According to Jameson Wetmore who studied theirs methods, their communities don’t prohibit technology when something new comes into the community. They observe how much it’s picked up, how it’s used and how it affects the lives of the group. They can then review the impacts in relation to their values and decide if it’s something they want to keep. They also have the concept of the rumspringa or “jumping around” where between the ages of 15 and 20 years old, they are afforded the total freedom to experience the outside world, to gain perspective on their lifestyle before committing to it for the rest of their lives, or leaving to join the rest of the world.

Now let's look at a much more recent line of thought with “computer philosopher,” author and VR pioneer Jaron Lanier, who doesn’t use social media and says we should give it up. In this short interview on Channel 4 news, he talks about the addictive power of Facebook and Twitter, encourages us to delete our accounts but also gives this advice to young users: “you have to know yourself, you have to experience, you can’t know yourself without perspective so at least give it six months without social media.” He’s assuming everyone uses those platforms and is talking about a sort of rumspringa, experiencing a less connected world to know yourself better to then be able to make more enlightened and meaningful decisions based on your values.

Although in both cases these ideas are framed around technology, they can also be transposed to consumerism or various lifestyle choices. What kind of “jumping around” away from something could you envision? What do you need a clearer perspective on?

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