Climb24: What I learnt about AI, flying and eco-friendly websites in business conference at Leeds war museum

There’s a definite piquancy to hosting a business conference in a war museum. I’ve been at Climb24, hosted at the Royal Armouries in Leeds.

It’s more like a two day business festival spread over half a dozen interconnected sites, thousands of people from startups to investors and tech companies and agencies, all the cogs of the clockwork entrepreneurial world are here.

I’m writing this after just sitting through a presentation of AI ethics, delivered in The War Room.

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The script on the entrance reads “Over thousands of years, conflict has shaped the world we live in.” AI ethics in The War Room. Poetic and ironic.

Bird Lovegod has his sayBird Lovegod has his say
Bird Lovegod has his say

The problem with ethics in war is that the other sides may not have them.

And in the commercial war that is business, there’s not just one opposing side, there’s dozens of competitors, and those who sideline ethics for another day may gain a competitive advantage, in the short term, by doing so.

And in the sprint to primary position in new technologies, the short term is all that exists.

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Sustainability doesn’t apply when the race is to the top of the food chain.

I attended a roundtable hosted by, a local company creating carbon efficient websites.

The aviation industry is often criticised and targeted for its CO2 emissions, but it’s around half of the CO2 caused by internet usage.

Making websites more efficient could have a bigger impact on the climate than not flying. It’s not something I ever thought of until now.

The internet is ‘free’, but not without cost.

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Another impact of AI, especially the Large Language Models, the applications that mimic human text and communication, is the vast amount of data they have to process.

The cost of this, in terms of data centres and power usage, is huge. In fact, it may be that AI actually negates the carbon reductions we're making in other areas.

Our technological advances seem to move the problem around, rather than actually solve it. One solution is to use less, burn less, buy less, mine less, ship less, sell less.

None of these options are acceptable under the principles of capitalism and economic growth. We’ve set rules for the game that may not be playable long term.

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Competition and collaboration, the almost even legs of human civilisation, driving industrial progress and social evolution, the twin cores of business and commerce.

Collaborate to compete. Compete to win. Win to survive.

Orange lanyards and name badges show the attendees on all four levels of the Armouries.

In between talks on sustainable technology we peruse exhibits of swords, guns, ballistics showing the results of a shotgun blast on a human torso and films of child soldiers with trauma in their souls.

Competition, war, business, artificial intelligence conversing with itself.

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People buy from people that they like and trust. And we have always been at war with ourselves.

AI ethics in the War Room.

It’s rare to find a business conference with actual personality. See you at Climb25, next year, I hope.

Bird Lovegod is MD of Ethical Much.

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