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Brain Bar brings big minds to Budapest

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The following article is from the April 24 – May 07 edition of the Budapest Business Journal.

Gergő Böszörményi-Nagy, director of Design Terminal, a public agency to promote creativity, talks about his organization’s June 4-6 event to encourage discussion of technology and society.

How did Design Terminal come up with the idea of Brain Bar Budapest?

Budapest needs a global event on trends. Actually we were trendsetters a little more than 100 years ago, when our capital became a diverse and future oriented metropolis thanks to its colorful demographics and strong entrepreneurial culture. Today, as the agency responsible for the creative industries - and particularly since the 2014 launch of our incubation program aiming to prepare the nation’s most promising entrepreneurs to hold their own on the international stage, we have found ourselves in an extraordinary position to restore that heritage in a contemporary setting. Brain Bar Budapest, a platform to exchange knowledge and ideas on the future economy, is the newest part of our toolkit.

What is the main aim of Brain Bar Budapest?

To become the region’s number one festival on trends and the future economy. A truly global event with world class intellectuals, people with dramatically different professional and social backgrounds, their visions and an opportunity to share them, debate them in an outspoken format. A bold, ambitious and proactive approach which will ultimately prove that Central Europe can hold its own in even the most eloquent global discourse on technology and society.

How is it different from an innovation conference?

Brain Bar Budapest is not about innovation itself, and does not aim to showcase the most current developments in cutting-edge technology. Our objective is, instead, to explore how these advances could affect our own lives. Leading tech experts and opinion leaders will drive the participants of Brain Bar Budapest to think together and explore the contradictions of technology and humanity: of robotics and the future of human labor, mass urbanization and the rural lifestyle, or even singularity and religion.

What makes it unique?

Brain Bar Budapest is not a mere stage, it is a laboratory – a platform to build the future together. Centered around Erzsébet tér but spread over multiple venues, the festival will offer participants the opportunity to truly immerse themselves in the milieu of inspiration for three days. Events will be taking place non-stop at the three venues housed in the main areas of the Akvárium Klub and Design Terminal, while various other special downtown Budapest venues will also be hosting parts of the program, offering a rare glimpse at the city’s hidden treasures. At the same time, the special festival elements of the program will use the power of music and art to provide additional pespective and inspiration.

Why do you think Budapest is a suitable place for such an event?

Budapest is fascinating and vibrant; rife with talent, dreamers and doers, our scenic capital is an ideal backdrop to such a festival of inspiration. With its bustling intellectual landscape and cultural buzz, Budapest is an comprehensive showcase of the creative energies that are surfacing in Central Europe: the energies that make the region alluring and competitive. Meanwhile, the differences and synergies between the two sides of the Danube, between Budapest’s rich history and exciting future, its traditions and its unconventional aspects offer an insightful context to frame debates on the most profound and perhaps even divisive questions of tomorrow.

Could you mention some presenters who will attend the event?

We’re very proud to be welcoming a wide range of experts from the world’s top universities, the founders of successful businesses, the most exciting young artists from all over the globe, as well as local and international policymakers. We can’t wait to see Richard Florida: the New York Times best-selling author of “The Rise of the Creative Class” is as close to a household name in the United States as any urbanist can become, and that’s really saying something. Tina Saaby, the Chief City Architect of Copenhagen is also coming - she’s proven herself a strategic thinker unafraid to experiment, so I’m very excited to hear what she’ll have to say about the future of our cities. There’s the fascinating Ken Goldberg, an artist, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley and an inventor all in one. He’ll be discussing how to make the collaboration and training of robots more efficient and how best to leverage human wisdom and the unrivaled power of cloud computing. How far this can go, where the limits are - in theory, technologically and ethically - is  still an open question, and we’ll be sure to ask Ken for his opinion at Brain Bar Budapest. Last but not least, there’s no need to mention why we’re especially excited to welcome Niall Ferguson, one of the most prominent historians of our time who’ll share his views on the future of Western civilization and how to renew its “killer apps”, competition, science, private property, and work ethic for the 21st century.

How do you think Brain Bar Budapest will affect innovation in Hungary?

Brain Bar Budapest exists to inspire, with the bold and unconstrained exploration of the interrelations and tensions between rapidly developing technology and humanity, the clash of leading thinkers and opinion leaders. We expect that the inspirational festival will generate multidisciplinary collaboration between experts with varied backgrounds from different cultures, to allow for cooperation between people who previously had no forum to do so in Hungary.

I think one of the most important takeaways is that innovation and great ideas are not enough on their own, capital and investment are also vital elements of success. Framing Budapest as an innovation hub makes the city appealing for large corporations, as a target location to bring their R+D operations – we could see an influx of foreign direct investment in coming years.

What are your general expectations with the event?

We hope to reinforce the role Budapest and Hungary play within the European community, to allow our capital to ascend the ranks of the most prestigious platforms hosting continuing dialogue on the future. Many of the issues Brain Bar Budapest raises are particular poignant for the old continent, and we want to lead the way in finding solutions. Our objective is to push participants and onlookers to think critically, to question the world around them. The event strives to prove that you don’t necessarily have to conform to change: you can lead change yourself. And we believe the inclusive and participatory nature of this inspirational  festival will drive stakeholders to realize their own role in exploring and resolving the issues that will define our common future.

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