When Juvenal wrote that his fellow Romans required just "bread and circuses", he wasn't simply saying that human beings were happy if fed and entertained. Of course, the bread sated rumbling Roman viscera, but more significantly the circuses (or games) were an important distraction for a population who cared less and less about their civic duties, leaving the ruling classes quietly to get on with it. It was the beginnings of what we now call 'voter apathy' and it was by design.
Current obesity levels suggest that we're probably OK on the bread front and now, at last, Big Brother is poised to return to satisfy our other yearning.
2000 years on, the "circuses"remain an effective tool for keeping the hoi polloi suitably distracted. The scripts have remained much the same, although the current batch go as far as creating an illusory sense of democracy, with the democratic narrative of reality TV voting proving far more popular than that of any genuine leadership election.
My grandfather knew a lot about a little. I know a little about a lot. I can't think of a single thing that my grandfather owned that he couldn't repair. I don't own a single thing that I can. In no other era has information been more readily available,but with this proliferation comes a need for short cuts. It's no longer possible for us to learn the vast majority of things that we do, through experience, so we become increasingly reliant on second-hand and third-party information. Information becomes anecdotal not experiential and successful communicators get mistaken for knowledgeable experts. Public opinion gets confused with evidence. Before we know it, psychics, capital punishment and homeopaths are seen as good and GM foods, vaccinations and double-blind testing bad.
As a species, we've never been smarter or more informed but I still want a GP to diagnose me, a judge to try me and a scientist to test things for me. As we know, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing and the fact is, most of us aren't experts in any of those fields, or indeed many others. That doesn't mean that the experts know everything or can't be challenged but they know a lot more than most of us. So, seemingly noble as the current, postmodernist trend towards "broader consultation" and "public opinion" is, it is to be avoided.
Unlike the Senate, I don't want the circus Big Top to cast a shadow of ignorance and apathy. But maybe a super-injuncted model arguing with a Chuckle Brother over whether malaria is a country or a cheese, will distract us all long enough to let the experts get on with their work.