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Industry heavyweight urges urgent action to prevent AI from ‘burning the world’

18 September 2023

A leading industry figure has issued a warning that unless immediate and comprehensive sustainability measures are implemented, artificial intelligence (AI) could lead to catastrophic environmental consequences.

Speaking at the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) in Amsterdam, Tom Dunning, CEO and Founder of Ad Signal, warned attendees of the risks posed by failing to implement sustainable practices, calling on the industry to take urgent action to tackle the problem. 

The IBC is the premier annual event for professionals engaged in the creation, management and delivery of entertainment and news content worldwide.

Dunning’s comments came as industry figures gathered at the IBC to discuss upcoming innovations in cloud storage and production to help promote best practices for financial and environmental sustainability. 

In recent years, demand for cloud storage has surged due to global content production, sharing, streaming, and distribution. However, its adoption does not come without financial and environmental costs.

Access and storage costs are not always transparent or predictable, and some research has revealed that data centres are now responsible for 2.5-3.7 percent of all human-induced CO2 emissions – more than the aviation industry at 2.1 percent. 

AI-related CO2 is also high due to the mining and manufacturing associated with graphics processing unit (GPU) production.

The adoption of AI has skyrocketed over recent years and is projected to grow at a 37 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) by 2030, according to Grand View Research.

Tom Dunning, CEO and founder of Ad Signal, commented: “Addressing sustainability concerns in the broadcasting, entertainment, and technology industries is not just a choice, but now a necessity. 

“While these industries host immense benefits for the economy, they also present significant challenges in the context of environmental impact.

“While we can’t expect any organisation to give up the commercial benefits of AI, it is clear that there’s an urgent need to minimise its carbon impact. 

“The notion that AI could potentially burn the world arises – a stark reminder of the environmental consequences if we fail to act responsibly. 

The event at IBC is a vital platform for bringing this discussion to the forefront of industry leaders' minds. It's a call to action to educate and inform, to share best practices, and to drive innovation in cloud storage and production that minimises environmental impact while maximising financial sustainability.”

The panel event consisted of key speeches from Tom Dunning, CEO and founder of Ad Signal, Barbara Murphy, Vice President of Cloud Strategy at WEKA, Rosie Pongracz, Chief Marketing Officer at Storj, and Dom Robinson, Founder of Greening of Streaming.

The session looked to explore innovative approaches to managing cloud storage and production. The aim is, through the shift from a CapEx to OpEx cost model and making remote and collaborative working a viable option, to unlock opportunities for smaller independent studios, while limiting the industry’s carbon footprint.

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