Exploring AI at St George’s House

Cumberland Lodge Fellow Rong Wei recaps her recent visit to St George's House to explore AI and emerging technology.

Cumberland Lodge Fellow Rong Wei stands outside St George's Chapel in the grounds of Windsor Castle

On a fresh Monday morning in March, my train approached Windsor & Eton Central, dominated by Windsor Castle. I was very grateful that I was invited to Towards Connected Places: Insights into Actions, a St George’s House Consultation held in partnership with Socitm (Society for Innovation Technology and Modernisation) in St George’s House. I was met by Socitm Chief Strategy Officer, William Barker, who introduced himself and put me at ease by saying: “You must be the Fellow of Cumberland Lodge!”

The day began in Vicars’ Hall, where we had the programme introduction and presentations on Connected and sustainable places – digital, data and devolution. Individuals from business sectors and the public sector across the UK delivered presentations and talks on artificial intelligence and sustainability. I found smart cities as a concept rather appealing, as it explores a better way for people to live fuller and be more productive in the context of the AI era. I was impressed by the stories of a director in an AI company – he told me he found his career a vacation since he so enjoyed what he was doing. The director aimed to promote sustainability into people’s daily lives, as such, he suggested we can stop climate change and make our planet a better place to live, and I believe that he would set a fantastic example in the UK for the rest of the world.

Then we had a briefing session with breakout groups split into four syndicates. I was in the last group, Sustainability and Net Zero – How can we improve sustainability through data and insight? There were eight people from different backgrounds, and we had a wonderful discussion on the topic of sustainability and net zero. The talk was eye-opening and thought-provoking; it led to me think about how to improve sustainability through data at the local government and university level, which I hadn’t considered before.

Evensong in St George’s Chapel was also a new and unforgettable experience. The chapel was awe-inspiring in size and design, and the evensong revealed some of the splendid cultural dimensions of the history of Britain. After dinner, we had a seminar on AI Threats and Opportunities Findings, which offered an overview of the October 2023 St George’s House Consultation. It was made abundantly clear that we can’t ignore the threats of AI while the engineers are busy developing it. It was truly amazing that we were offered a night tour of St George’s Chapel at 10pm. The chapel looked even more beautiful then, especially by candlelight. Afterwards, we took the “pumpkin car” back to Cumberland Lodge, a fairytale ending to an amazing day.

On the second day, we had presentations on Connected and Sustainable places – Impact of AI and Emerging Technologies, followed by briefing sessions. After a discussion of Nurturing AI Skills and Competencies, we answered questions on what skills needed to be developed to deliver digital transformation in the era of AI from different perspectives. We acknowledged that AI as a relatively new concept in human history has a promising future and has huge potential, however, issues like ethical considerations and promoting the use of AI across society present equally significant challenges in terms of implementation.

The consultation was a totally fascinating experience, opening up a new world for me. These events are so valuable, enabling conversations to take place amongst people from all walks of life across British society. Most importantly, the two-day event has given me a deeper understanding of AI, its huge promise and significant challenges, and I left with a new found confidence, feeling truly fortunate to have participated in these cutting-edge discussions in such a beautiful setting.

Rong Wei