Clay Shirky: Democracy has a biology

Clay Shirky, one of the most thoughtful analysts anywhere on the digital revolution, discusses the effect that instant access to information has had on society in this BBC piece. As a coordinating mechanism the web is transformative. But as for any democratizing effects, he is far less sanguine about its ability to produce an interpretive result because, conditioned as we have been over the millennia to intuit the best possible outcome from week or incomplete information - is that stir in the bushes a lion or my brother? - we are surprisingly feeble at taking putatively strong information - facts! - to produce a satisfying public denouement. As it turns out, democracies rarely consult Wikipedia.

Shirky, looking for all the world like Tom Hanks, is the author of "Here Comes Everybody".