Right now, your decision to buy a smart toothbrush with a sensor in it - and then to sell the data that it generates - is presented to us as just a purely commercial decision that affects no one but us. But this is so only because we cannot imagine an information disaster as easily as we can imagine an environmental disaster. We have become very bad dystopians - and our technophilic intellectuals, in love with Silicon Valley and buzzwords like “innovation,” are partly to blame. But that the disaster is slow and doesn’t lend itself to vivid visualizations doesn’t make it less of a disaster!…

What we need is the mainstreaming of “digital” topics - not their ghettoization in the hands and agendas of the Pirate Parties or whoever will come to succeed them. We can no longer treat the “Internet” as just another domain - like, say, “the economy” or the “environment” - and hope that we can develop a set of competencies around it. Rather, we need more topical domains - “privacy” or “subjectivity” to overtake the domain of the network. Forget an ambiguous goal like “Internet freedom” - it’s an illusion and it’s not worth pursuing. What we must focus on is creating environments where actual freedom can still be nurtured and preserved.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.