Interest Groups, Individuals, and the
Technical Information Quandary
This study addresses the question of how citizens in contemporary democratic countries might cope with the "technical information quandary." That quandary stems from diverse effects attributable to the advent of postindustrial society. The postindustrial condition is one of long-lasting economic and physical security, relative affluence in standard of living for a broad spectrum of citizens, and a high degree of development of communications channels and the widespread dissemination of knowledge via high levels of literacy and easy access to mass media. These societal conditions are associated with rapid technological, social, and economic change, followed in time by predictable changes in societal values, particularly with respect to cross-generational differences in outlook and beliefs.
Under these conditions, democratic publics are inclined to express increasingly greater desire for influence over issues of public policy, while at the same time many of these public policy controversies in question are becoming significantly more scientifically complex and difficult for the average citizen to understand. How is the conscientious, involved, committed citizen to cope with such scientifically and technologically complex issues as acid rain deposition, endangered species protection, in vitro fertilization, and the like in a way that will produce informed and reasoned behavior in the pursuit of either individual interests or their own view of the public interest? Are the knowledge barriers to informed participation so great that it is necessary to give up the hope of the public effectively acquiring, processing, and applying policy-relevant information to their decisions about the appropriate directions government should take on such questions? Has the postindustrial