Slate on Amish values in technology

Jamey Wetmore at Slate has written an article arguing that new technologies are making us behave more like the Amish, which struck me (as I'm sure was the point) as slightly absurd.  I didn't realize, though, that the Amish values surrounding technology aren't about outright avoidance of electronics or combustion engines -- it's that the Amish take a defensive stance against technology as an effort to protect the family and community.

For many of us, the technology rules the Amish have developed seem arbitrary and silly. But they are actually thought through very well. The Amish meet twice a year in groups of 40-50 families to decide if any rules need to be changed. If someone is thinking about using a new technology, this would definitely be a topic of conversation. What are the metrics for making decisions about technology? Community and family. The Amish believe that the best life is one that is lived in community with fellow believers. The majority of their decisions are driven by the goal of strengthening the ties they have to one another.

So those seemingly arbitrary rules I just mentioned do have a purpose. Why can’t an Amish person buy a car? They’ve seen how our communities have slowly unraveled to the point where many of us don’t even know the names of our neighbors. They think the automobile—which gives us the ability to travel great distances by ourselves quickly—bears a great deal of the blame for this. But they do see the benefit of occasionally using car travel, and if a neighbor wants to lend a hand, spending time with them helps to strengthen their ties.

Jamey makes a lot of solid points in this article.  I mean, I still wouldn't want the rest of civilization to start focusing on family as much as the Amish do.  I think that would be really bad for us, and I think America's reduced emphasis on family is a good thing.

But I like the idea of structuring our relationships with technology to build communities, rather than focusing just on profit and convenience.  This reminds me of one of my favorite TED talks "The shareable future of cities" by Alex Steffen, specifically the bit about halfway through about the drill.

Yellow Jacket: iPhone stun gun case

(via SourceFed) The indiegogo campaign for the Yellow Jacket is at about half of its funding goal, as of this writing.  But they selected the flexible fundraising option, so they don't actually need to raise that much.  They've already reached their lowest goal.  They're going to get all the money that people have promised them, and the product, the Yellow Jacket iPhone case taser, will be created and distributed.

The co-founders, Sean Simone and Seth Froom, have displayed an impressive amount of faith in their product, the latter going so far as to take a shock to the gut in a pitch meeting:

All that said and seen, I have some reservations about the product.  I'm not worried about the taser discharging into anyone's ear -- with a rotating plastic cap and a safety switch, I think it's unrealistic that many people will harm themselves accidentally with this device.

Tasers are not safe weapons, though.  They may be safer than guns, but they can still kill.  The United Nations has classed them as an illegal torture device, and Amnesty International calls them inhumane.

And it's not enough to say, "If you have a heart problem, don't assault people."  Mistakes get made, people do stupid things, and there's no weapon that can't also be used by the bad guys.  The more tasers are in the hands of citizens, and the more often those citizens are carrying them, the more people are going to accidentally shock someone who looks threatening.  The more teenagers are going to kill their friends with undiagnosed arrhythmia because they were showing off. The more repeated taser shocks are going to figure into domestic abuse cases.

Still, that extra 20 hours of battery life sounds awesome.  I can imagine getting one just for that.

How to stop feeling your phone buzz when it isn't

(via mental_floss) The cause of phantom phone vibrations is unclear, but according to one study about 63% of mobile phone users feel them regularly.  Another study suggests that it's closer to 68%.

Fortunately, mental_floss has the solution:

Phantom vibrations don’t appear to cause any harm, but if the mild annoyance is too much for you, they can be stopped. Thirty-nine percent of the people in Rothberg’s survey – all medical staff who had a phone or pager on them all day – were able to stop the vibrations either by taking the device off vibrate mode and using the audible ringer, changing the location of the device on their person, or using a different device (success rates were 75%, 63% and 50%, respectively).