Technomoral Conversations: Sustainability and Artificial Intelligence

What is the impact of AI on the planet? There are reasons to hope that data-driven efficiencies and insights can help produce innovative solutions to the climate emergency, touching areas such as energy, biodiversity monitoring and conservation, transportation, water conservation, and agriculture, among others. On the other hand, there are also real concerns about the ...

Loading Events
  • This event has passed.

21st November 2022 6:00 PM 7:00 PM GMT

What is the impact of AI on the planet? There are reasons to hope that data-driven efficiencies and insights can help produce innovative solutions to the climate emergency, touching areas such as energy, biodiversity monitoring and conservation, transportation, water conservation, and agriculture, among others. On the other hand, there are also real concerns about the climate cost of producing AI models in the first place. Researchers have found that training a single AI model can emit as much carbon as five cars in their lifetimes. Will AI turn out to be a net negative or a net positive for the sustainability of life on the planet?

Join us for a conversation on sustainability and AI, featuring a panel of experts who are tackling different facets of this challenge.

Speaker Biographies


Shannon Vallor is the Director of the Centre for Technomoral Futures at the Edinburgh Futures Institute. She is the Baillie Gifford Chair in Ethics of Data and Artificial Intelligence at the Edinburgh Futures Institute. She also holds an appointment in the University of Edinburgh’s Department of Philosophy and chairs the University’s AI and Data Ethics Advisory Board. Shannon’s research explores the philosophy and ethics of emerging science and technologies. Current projects focus on the impact of emerging technologies – particularly those involving automation and artificial intelligence – on the moral and intellectual habits, skills and virtues of human beings: our character.


Mirella Lapata is Professor of natural language processing in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on getting computers to understand, reason with, and generate natural language. She is the first recipient (2009) of the British Computer Society and Information Retrieval Specialist Group (BCS/IRSG) Karen Sparck Jones award and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the ACL, and Academia Europaea. Mirella has also received best paper awards in leading NLP conferences and has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, the Transactions of the ACL, and Computational Linguistics. She was president of SIGDAT (the group that organises EMNLP) in 2018. She has been awarded an ERC consolidator grant, a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award, and a UKRI Turing AI World-Leading Researcher Fellowship.

Dr Ronita Bardhan is Associate Professor of Sustainable Built Environment at the Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge. Her research focuses on data-driven design for built environments that respond by reducing health and energy burdens in the warming climate. She currently works on humid heat health and energy burdens due to the built environment design. Bardhan combines architectural engineering, AI and machine learning with social sciences to develop built environment design solutions. She has developed novel methods to inform building and city design by combining physics-based building design optimisation with qualitative socio-economic, socio-cultural norms, occupant behaviour and community norms data. She has conducted heat-health & energy research in diverse socio-economic settings in the United Kingdom, India, Ethiopia, South Africa, Indonesia etc. Bardhan specialises in data-driven design for developing context-specific solutions in the affordable housing sector. Bardhan is the Director of MPhil in Architecture and Urban Studies (MAUS) and leads the Sustainable Design Group at the university. Her impactful work on developing design solutions for reducing the burdens of tuberculosis, heat health and poor indoor air quality in slum rehabilitation housing has received immense traction from policymakers. Bardhan currently advises government agencies on energy efficiency and heat health in affordable housing and has written over 130 academic articles on the health and environmental design of the affordable residential built environment.

Dr Ramit Debnath is a computational social scientist and a Gates Scholar based at the University of Cambridge. He is passionate about energy and climate justice. Ramit is the inaugural Cambridge Zero Fellow and a visiting faculty associate in Computational Social Science at Caltech, and a sustainability fellow at Churchill College, University of Cambridge. Ramit works at the intersection of data science and public policy to support climate action, primarily focussing on developing novel approaches to natural language processing, machine learning, AI and qualitative analysis to enable a people-centric and just net-zero transition. He is passionate about energy and climate justice as well as countering misinformation.

Jonathan Bean is a physicist, engineer and CEO of Materials Nexus, a deep-tech start-up that originated at Cambridge University and within the Carbon13 Venture Builder. His ground-breaking, AI-enabled Materials Discovery Platform transforms the way that new materials are designed using a rapid automated process and advanced quantum calculations that give high accuracy at larger scales. He work with partners to accelerate development of next-generation materials to reduce global CO2e emissions. Jonathon is a trustee at the charity Science Projects and has teaching roles at Trinity College Cambridge and London South Bank University.

1 Crichton Street
Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9LE United Kingdom

Watch recordings

Power trip event season event flyer


Our Autumn 2023 programme of events explored leadership in all its forms – from the seats of power to the front lines of activist movements and even in our own workplaces.

Watch recordings
Love Machine event season digital flyer

Love machine

Our Spring 2023 programme of events explored the interconnections of AI and data with humanity through conversations, performances, and workshops.

Watch recordings
First Breath Autumn Event Season brand leader. Image of dandelion and umbrellas on orange background. Text reads: 'First Breath: Autumn Event Season'. Includes Edinburgh Futures Institute logo.

First Breath

Our Autumn 2022 programme featured more than 20 events exploring crisis, migration, displacement and equality coalescing around the theme of Climate Justice.

Watch recordings

"The production and intellectual content of your recent events has been fantastic! Thank you for the opportunity to attend and learn. This is probably the best event I have been to all year."

Event attendee, Love Machine Spring 2023

"Really, really impressed with Futures Institute events. Properly impressive speakers, and seamless technical management. Thank you for keeping them hybrid/online – it's a really nice way to keep in touch!"

Event attendee, Love Machine Spring 2023

"Amazing! I hope that Utopia Lab can ring in every event season, the dream space that you curate and allow to flourish is an important and novel lens that Edinburgh Futures Institute offers partners, students, staff, researchers and anyone with an interest in collaborative thinking and doing."

Event attendee, Love Machine Spring 2023

Our public events seasons are co-created with people from across the University of Edinburgh. If you'd like to contribute ideas for the programme please contact the events team.

Call for proposals

Meet the events team

Headshot of Alice Carr

Alice Carr

Events Co-ordinator
Headshot of Fraser Pringle

Fraser Pringle

Project & Events Administrator
Headshot of Ioannis Kalkounos

Ioannis Kalkounos

Programme Manager
Lewis Williams

Lewis Williams

Events Technician

Join us to challenge, create, and make change happen.