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Social networks such as Facebook and on-line gaming are changing people's view of who they are and their place in the world, according to a report for the government's chief scientist. Online role-playing games help people shrug off preconceptions and find their true identities, says the report
"This can be a positive force, exemplified by the solidarity seen in the London 2012 Olympics or a destructive force, for example the 2011 riots," says the report.
"Due to the development of smart phones, social networks and the trend towards (greater) connectivity disparate groups can be more easily mobilised where their interests temporarily coincide."
"For example," it says, "a 'flash mob' can be mobilised between people who have not previously met".
Prof Beddington commissioned the study as part of the Government Office for Science's Foresight programme - the influential Foresight reports look ahead to highlight emerging trends in science and technology with a view to informing policies across government departments.
"The most dynamic trend (in determining identity) is hyper-connectivity," Prof Beddington told BBC News.
"The collection and use of data by government and the private sector, the balancing of individual rights and liberties against privacy and security and the issue of how to tackle social exclusion, will be affected by these trends," he said. "I hope the evidence in today's report will contribute to the policy making process."
The report, entitled "Future Identities," says that near continuous access to the internet, termed "hyper-connectivity", will drive profound changes to society over the next 10 years.
I was amazed at the rate of which the London riots escalated and spread across the country. Trends are becoming increasingly easier to set and follow in this golden age of information and communications. Good or bad it is incredible and I for one feel privileged to be alive during such an astonishing and momentous period of human history.