The Technium

Neo-Amish Drop Outs

[Translations: Japanese]

The legendary computer scientist Donald Knuth doesn’t do email, or blogs (or probably PDAs, blackberries, either), although he used to. He still has a web page where he articulates his reasons for being off email. He once told me, “Rather than trying to stay on top of things, I am trying to get to the bottom of things.” Thus his dropping out of instant communication.

Professor Reinhold Grether used to host a popular online catalog of new media artists, a herculean effort containing hundreds of obscure but essential links. Then suddenly his web site ran this message: “[A]bandoning the internet in 2003 and the cell phone network in 2006 my netzwissenschaft link page is completely out of date. it’s time to bid farewell.” His online persona was gone.

Lots of people complain about being overloaded with email, blogs, twitter, and so on. But very few who complain reach the ultimate logical solution: turn it all off.

I am interested in heavily mediated folks who drop out. Not partially, only once in a while, on sabbatical, but drop off the internet completely. Are they happy now? Don Knuth seems happy and productive. How do others manage? Do they become a recluse, like the Unabomber? Do they form communities with the like minded? Or, are internet drops so rare that they are simple statistical outliers?

I know about the traditional Amish; they don’t count because they have never been wired. I’m most interested in Neo-Amish drop outs.  (There’s a Neo-Amish MeetUp group, which I think is self-disqualifying.)


Post a few lines in the comments about notable drop outs and I’ll try to keep an updated list here.


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