Elites and populations

Yesterday I brought forward the idea that I do not need to know everything in order to make decisions about the things, events and occurrences that constitute the world I inhabit. The extension of this statement was that to know how something works has traditionally made you an expert. So nowadays we have experts on Star Wars films (films you note, not live-changing treatises), on consumer technology and on people who abduct children from Portuguese apartments while their parents are out partying.

Tim Adams writes well on this point in last Sunday’s edition of The Observer Review. One of his interviewees is a man called John Brockman: agent to the public stars of science, the Dennetts and the Dawkins’s’s of this world. His other hobby called the Edge serves up a diet of scientific ideas for the masses but only if they’re interested:

Since when have the masses of people had any ideas anyway?’ Brockman asks. ‘It is always a certain percentage of people who do the thinking for everybody else. What is changing,’ he argues, … ‘is that the media people, who used to have no thoughts of science, now sit up.

Brockman’s point is not an elitist one. He is talking about a new means of communication with large masses of people in complex societies. I have a phone but do not need to know the precise mechanism by which a call is placed through to it. Brockman’s job in this model is to propose a means of explanation, and here’s the crucial part, should I seek one. I’m not a scientist and I know a little bit about plate tectonics, psychiatry and botany. At the risk of becoming a blogger asking yet another question at the end of a posting: Is that enough?

Oh yea: I got rid of all of my RSS feeds and put my toolbar out of view on my browser. Of course, you can subscribe to the feed for this blog though. This is much more important than BBC.co.uk!!

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