All eyes were on physicist and researcher Dr. László Albert Barabási and Gábor Kolumbán, president of the Civitas Foundation’s governing board, when they sat down to talk late last Friday night in front of business leaders, programmers, and others. The two spoke about the present opportunities in Szeklerland and discussed answers to such questions as what’s coming next in the digital era. The discussion was moderated by Attila Rácz, vice-president of IT Plus Cluster, the organization behind the Digital Szeklerland conference.
“When talking about IT and digital life in general, it’s easy to look to Silicon Valley. And it’s very easy to dream about which person sitting in this room will become the founder of the next Google or Facebook. But we have to pay attention and ask ourselves whether this dream is real, because it’s very hard to deliver a service that’s way better than Google or Facebook. I brought up these examples because I never thought communities in Transylvania or Hungary would aspire to goals such as competing with these services. Instead, we should consider what is valuable to all of us as a community that can be communicated to the world, and my opinion is that there are plenty of opportunities there,” Barabási said.
Barabási (52) is known for his groundbreaking work on network theory and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, head of the Center for Complex Network Research (CCNR) at the Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, and recipient of several prestigious awards in physics.
“One thing is for sure: American or German tourists won’t come to Transylvania just to see another McDonald’s in this area,” Barabási continued, emphasizing the need to highlight the uniqueness of the area that any tourist or foreigner can experience when coming here. So, we have to take into consideration the values we can show off to them, the experience we can show to the world. These unique experiences are valuable to them, but, on the other hand, it should also be of value to the community living here, he said. “We have many values, and some of them are disappearing; we are aware of that. Just consider some of the disappearing traditional professions. These are values and could be valuable to the world as well if we show them,” he added.
Barabási also made a request to the IT community listening to his conversation with Gábor Kolumbán: While bringing digital devices closer to the community and adapting them to the needs of this region, they should also consider developing content that such digital devices can show to people around the world.
Szeklerland’s biggest opportunity now is finding the right balance between modernization and the preservation of traditional culture. The latter has gained significant value in the eyes of Western communities because this culture shows a different world and delivers a different experience. And this leads us to Barabási’s next question: Can we show this unique experience without any artificial ingredients, like a circus, and as an experience representing our true values?
One of our biggest values is the biocultural diversity of this region, the species-rich hay meadows that have formed over the past centuries through the unique relationship between people living in the area and nature, Gábor Kolumbán added. The community plays a very important role in the success of a person, which creates value, something that can be shown to the world as the community’s value, Barabási said. If we look at a farmer as a person who creates value by producing crops, maintaining species-rich hay meadows, and not as a worker who earns a living with his bare hands, the perspective changes: it shows respect and acknowledges that person’s work as something that creates value.
These are the values that need to be highlighted. But for this, the community needs to acknowledge the performance and values that its individuals produce and to treat them with respect – acknowledge their value and highlight that value to everybody. Success depends very much on the community because performance is an individual’s activity. But success is what the community sees, acknowledgement of this performance. If a value or set of values is highlighted by a community and given special attention, then it will enter into the spotlight of others, and they will pay the price to experiment with it, according to Barabási.