Brain Bar Budapest: A Clash of Ideas in the Heart of Europe

Challengers and trendsetters from around the globe will come together to discuss what’s next in the world of technology.

Budapest is a long way from Geneva, but Brain Bar Budapest is taking a page from the CERN playbook.

The festival will take place between June 2–4, 2016, bringing challengers and trendsetters from around the globe come together to discuss what’s next in the technological world. And what happens when you bring together a team of visionaries dedicated to launching a technology-centric festival in central Europe is a bit like CERN, the renowned Swiss research center, famous for founding the World Wide Web and, more recently, the Large Hadron Collider to Brain Bar Budapest.

The LHC smashes atomic particles into each other at ridiculous speeds to gain new insights into the laws of physics. In a similar way, Brain Bar Budapest smashes ideas into each other to gain new insights into the direction of Europe and, more broadly, humanity at large.

The second-annual Brain Bar Budapest, central Europe’s premier festival of ideas, together with partners Wired and Google, aim not only to share ideas from some of the brightest minds internationally but to crash them into competing notions. What they’ll yield is anybody’s guess. But the ambition, says Gergely Böszörményi-Nagy, Brain Bar Budapest’s co-founder, is to “make our communities future-proof.”

“Brain Bar is about debates, not one-way communication,” Böszörményi-Nagy told Wired.co.uk. “While many people are still enjoying TED talks, the time has come to open up the ring and let the masterminds, their ideas and their visions challenge each other.”

Those scheduled to share their ideas and visions include astronaut Chris Hadfield; political and cultural writer Virginia Postrel; transhumanist Zoltan Istvan; Future of Life Institute co-founder Viktoria Krakovna; Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) Founding CEO Cheryl Yeoh; Financial Times columnist and “Undercover Economist” Tim Harford; Americans for Tax Reform founder Grover Norquist; TeacherGaming (developer of MinecraftEdu) CEO Santeri Koivisto; champion aerobatics pilot and godfather of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship Péter Besenyei, and many more.

During this year’s festival, four primary themes will occupy the cultural-intellectual debate. The first focuses on artificial intelligence and its potential impact on humans, with a special focus on our darkest communal acts: the wars we fight. How do we fruitfully incorporate artificial intelligence and, more generally, “virtuality” into our “real” lives? What do we stand to gain? What are the risks? Perhaps the greatest of these risks is the merging of our AI-driven robotics into the tools of war, Böszörményi-Nagy says.

“Wars are an eternal part of human experience, and one currently under a massive transformation by technological change. Drones, data wars, and robot soldiers are all part of our future,” he adds.

The second theme focuses on the impact that technology will have on the future of business, leadership and education. Discussions here will consider how big data, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, and new digital and robotic tools will reshape these fundamental institutions of modern civilization. With respect to education, with facts becoming commodities accessible at the tap of a touchscreen, does creativity become the primary currency? If so, how do we more universally foster it?

The third theme hones in on the future of cities, where more than half of the world’s population now resides — and where two-thirds will live by 2050. Will the rise of autonomous vehicles open up new green spaces for livable cities? Will energy and zero-emission vehicles enable reduced carbon emissions, lessening the threat of coastal inundation and clearing the skies over our metropolises?

“Cities were the main catalysts of civilization for most of human history,” Böszörményi-Nagy says. “Metro areas are now reclaiming their roles as laboratories of change.”

The fourth and final theme considers the future of Europe. The home of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution is caught between its illustrious past and an uncertain future, with a need for continued economic and cultural transformation complicated by the arrival of more than 1.3 million migrants in 2015 alone. What role will innovation play?

This all just scratches the surface of the intellectual libations in store at Brain Bar Budapest 2016.

Blog post by Todd Neff

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