sparti- here's an excerpt on a book called "the wisdom of crowds" that counters some of what you mentioned... (which I tend to agree with, btw)
While our culture generally trusts experts and distrusts the wisdom of the masses, New Yorker business columnist James Surowiecki argues that "under the right circumstances, groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them." To support this almost counterintuitive proposition, Surowiecki explores problems involving cognition (we're all trying to identify a correct answer), coordination (we need to synchronize our individual activities with others) and cooperation (we have to act together despite our self-interest). His rubric, then, covers a range of problems, including driving in traffic, competing on TV game shows, maximizing stock market performance, voting for political candidates, navigating busy sidewalks, tracking SARS and designing Internet search engines like Google. If four basic conditions are met, a crowd's "collective intelligence" will produce better outcomes than a small group of experts, Surowiecki says, even if members of the crowd don't know all the facts or choose, individually, to act irrationally. "Wise crowds" need (1) diversity of opinion; (2) independence of members from one another; (3) decentralization; and (4) a good method for aggregating opinions. The diversity brings in different information; independence keeps people from being swayed by a single opinion leader; people's errors balance each other out; and including all opinions guarantees that the results are "smarter" than if a single expert had been in charge.
I plan on reading the book soon to get a better idea of how he outlines his arguments.
on a side note...
what is the role of the cultural symbol? Pele, Statue of Liberty, Mao, Palestinan flag..... are there places for these sorts of cultural symbols in the future? if so, how will they come about? all the ones I mentioned are (mostly) geographically-based. what will base the symbols of the future?