How does the level of scientific (or technological) knowledge of the general public hurt or benefit society?

A lack of understanding can have many detrimental effects, from poor compliance and treatment of medical disorders, to energy and environmental consequences and policies (eg public perception of fission technology), overall level of scientific research funding etc.

Is general awareness and understanding of science more important, than say, following the news?

On the other hand, the public is being overloaded with information - increased economic and social pressures of modern life. News from all over the world, rapid developments in technology and science. Is it natural to expect the general public to keep up? To many, new scientific developments may simply be more facts on a very long list and not necessarily of particular interest. How can these overwhelming informational pressures be filtered in an effective way, without serving to increase ignorance?

Note that this discussion is not so much about the effect of technology on society, but rather the public's level of understanding of science and technology and the effects of informational saturation.

Edit: The social trend is characterised in the article "The New Age of Ignorance"