I Tried to Block Amazon From My Life. It Was Impossible.

Excerpt from this article:

Reporter Kashmir Hill spent six weeks blocking Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple from getting her money, data, and attention, using a custom-built VPN. Here’s what happened.

Amazon is not just an online store—that’s not even the hardest thing to cut out of my life. Its global empire also includes Amazon Web Services (AWS), the vast server network that provides the backbone for much of the internet, as well as Twitch.tv, the broadcasting behemoth that is the backbone of the online gaming industry, and Whole Foods, the organic backbone of the yuppie diet.

Keeping myself from walking into a Whole Foods is easy enough, but I also want to stop using any of Amazon’s digital services, from Amazon.com (and its damn app) to any other websites or apps that use AWS to host their content. To do that, I enlist the help of a technologist, Dhruv Mehrotra, who built me a custom VPN through which to route my internet requests. The VPN blocks any traffic to or from an IP address controlled by Amazon. I connect my computers and my phone to the VPN at all times, as well as all the connected devices in my home; it’s supposed to weed out every single digital thing that Amazon touches.

Ultimately, though, we found Amazon was too huge to conquer.

 

This is a Tale of Two Irans

Excerpt from this fascinating article:

This tale focuses on Iran’s next generation, an entirely new generation that came of age well after the Islamic Revolution, and on human capital, the greatest asset a country can have. It’s about technology as the driver for breaking down barriers even despite internal controls and external sanctions. People under age 35 represent nearly two-thirds of Iran’s population at this point: Many were engaged in the Green Movement protests against the Iranian presidential election in 2009. Most are utterly wired and see the world outside of Iran every day — often in the form of global news, TV shows, movies, music, blogs, and startups — on their mobile phones.

Because in reality, Iran is a country where Facebook is banned, yet in the conservative, holy city of Qom a Grand Ayatollah — among the highest echelons of clerics — lamented to us excessive use of Facebook among his grandchildren…

In this nation of 80 million, we were told that there are also over six million Apple iPhones — which, like Facebook, have been banned for years by both global sanctions and the Iranian government. Yet millions of Iranians — not just a few tech-savvy entrepreneurs like the ones I describe here — access sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat as well as online courses (“MOOCs”) from the many global universities, daily. Everyone, of all ages, accesses this unfiltered internet through Virtual Personal Networks (VPNs). In this way, and in the music they love and video they watch, Iran’s wired teens have more in common with their compatriots around the world than with the stark revolutionaries of 40 years ago.