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In the heart of Washington DC, the inaugural “AI Expo for National Competitiveness” laid bare the increasingly complex relationship between cutting-edge technology, warfare, ethics, and the human cost of conflict. Hosted by the Special Competitive Studies Project and sponsored heavily by software giant Palantir, the conference attracted a noteworthy mix of attendees from America's military-industrial complex, leading tech entities and, controversially, advocates for war crimes.

A prevailing topic throughout the event was the future of warfare. Two distinct camps could be seen forming among the attendees and panelists: one decidedly pragmatic alliance, viewing war as a strategic inevitability, and another, more humanitarian group, acutely aware of the human cost of conflict. It was a haunting and stark reminder of the ethical minefields emerging as we tread uncharted territory in AI and its applications in warfare.

Strikingly, the event also fostered a burgeoning alliance between tech companies and the military, edifying the use of AI in warfare. Luminaries such as Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO; Alex Karp, the CEO of Palantir; CIA Deputy Director David Cohen and Mark Milley, the retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were integral to the proceedings.

However, it was Karp's hardline approach that really caused a stir. Advocating for the use of fear in warfare, he denounced peace activists and underscored the necessity of 'selling' war to domestic audiences. This rhetoric was shockingly complemented by Milley, who shielded contentious military operations like Israel’s actions in Gaza under the guise of counter-terrorism.

Much to the discomfort of many, a panel discussion focusing on the ethicality and human rights implications of war received conspicuously less attention. Tough questions about the conference's tone and content were largely sidestepped, indicating an uncomfortable avoidance of matters concerning morality and human rights in this evolving field.

Palantir took the opportunity to flaunt their Virtual Reality (VR) headsets developed for soldiers. Furthering the discourse on technology's role in modern warfare, discussions around the use of Palantir’s Gaia map tool in identifying bombing targets were also prominent.

In a heart-wrenching contrast, the International Committee of the Red Cross ran the only booth singularly focused on the human toll of war. They portrayed the brutal reality of life for families residing in conflict-ridden zones, serving a sober reminder amidst the tech-heavy atmosphere of the event.

The “AI Expo for National Competitiveness” has set a precedent for future dialogues surrounding AI and warfare, bringing forth critical questions about ethics, humanitarian costs and the role of technology in warfare. It underscored that national security, while paramount, cannot blind us to the human impact of war and the palpable fear of darkness that an unchecked military-tech alliance could potentially usher in. This is a discourse we can ill afford to ignore. It is a conversation that must persist, adapt and align with the swiftly evolving AI landscape because our actions now will resound profoundly in the decades to come. The "NEXT Sync" will keep a close watch and continue connecting you to these developments.