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The Freakonomics blog, which is now part of the New York Times online, asks the following question of six prominent academics and participants in the space:

Has social networking technology (blog-friendly phones, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) made us better or worse off as a society, either from an economic, psychological, or sociological perspective?

The responses to this ‘Freakonomics quorum’ are well worth a read, with many thought-provoking perspectives.

It’s a question that in various forms is very prominent in people’s conversations today, either in excitement at the possibilities, or concern at evils ranging from distraction to dehumanization.

My view has always been that any change holds potential positives and negatives, so we must work hard to accentuate what could be good, and contain the things that could be bad. However as social animals, any new communication form enables new possibilities to express what I have described as our ‘latent humanity’.

Social networking technologies have been abused in major and minor everyday ways, and will continue to be so, particularly as we all work out what they mean and how it’s useful to us to use them. Far outweighing that is the potential for us to connect in new ways, to bring together people and ideas across the globe in ways we are still only dreaming about, to enable wonderful connections that never would have been possible otherwise. On the way, it is up to us to find out how we can make the most good come from these new tools.

For the most current insights and trends in the living networks, follow @rossdawson on Twitter!

  • http://www.fourgroups.com Bruce Lewin

    Better off is one way of looking at it, but I think there is also something that runs in parallel to social network technologies…
    In general, I think that much of the social network technologies tend to speed things up in terms of raising awareness, building (and dismantling!) relationships and generally getting closer to what an economist might call ‘perfect information’.
    The fact that people are ‘satisfycing’ and are not ‘perfectly rational’ is perhaps best left for another time 😉



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Ross Dawson is globally recognized as a leading futurist, entrepreneur, keynote speaker, strategy advisor, and bestselling author. He is Founding Chairman of AHT Group, which consists of 3 companies: consulting, publishing, and ventures firm Advanced Human Technologies, future and strategy firm Future Exploration Network, and events company The Insight Exchange.

Ross is author most recently of Getting Results From Crowds, the prescient Living Networks, which anticipated the social network revolution, the Amazon.com bestseller Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships, and Implementing Enterprise 2.0. (click on the links for free chapter downloads). He is based in Sydney and San Francisco with his wife jewellery designer Victoria Buckley and two beautiful young daughters.

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