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Can Social Media Save the Economy?

Satellite TV and social media have been front and center recently for two reasons: their role in the Mideast upheavals rolling across the region, and debates over whether social media technologically companies actually contribute to economic growth.

Today's newest installment of the BigThink Global Roundtable on the Future of Economic Competition discusses primarily the former. The consensus was that technology makes it unlikely that regimes can totally isolate themselves anymore -- there aren't likely to be any more North Koreas. And despite the inevitable disappointments on the rocky road to good governance after revolutionary fervor, social media will continue to empower people to shine the accountability spotlight on their governments. The result might be less political and economic volatility in the future.

What about countries that already seem to be permeated - even dependent - on social media? In this week's issue of TIME magzine, "Curious Capitalist" columnist Zachary Karabell argues that while social media is booming, it is dubious as to whether it actually expands the national economic pie beyond enriching investors and CEOs. Indeed, it could well contribute to economic bifurcation between haves and have-nots as some corporations seize the future and lock out others through their technology prowess and control over start-up capital.

At this stage, we must at least see social media and associated information technologies as an opportunity to shake up stagnant political systems and create new possibilities for economic models -- both in the Mideast and in Western societies. But nowhere are they a panacea in themselves. Both Arabs and Americans are sure to learn this the hard way sooner rather than later.

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