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Profile: Om Desai

Updated: Jul 29, 2020

Strengthening Climate Advocacy using Technology.

I’m a rising junior from the Academy for Information Technology in Union County, New Jersey. I practically grew up in the library because my mom was working on her research. This background contributed a lot to the intensity with which I look for evidence to argue with myself and investigate different perspectives, trying to seek the truth about the world. I started learning about climate change while watching documentaries on my favorite channels like National Geographic and BBC.

One of the major epiphanies I had regarding climate change occurred when I visited India, where my parents were born. I was able to see remote villages myself and see poor people in the drought-affected areas that were fertile only around 10 years ago. These people’s livelihoods had been practically wrecked by the effects of fast climate change. The access to the basic human necessity, as water was a struggle.

Years later, this trip to India was still fresh in my memory when I had a debate in middle school about climate change. As I did research for debate, I came across a few insightful papers by renowned scholars that detailed how bad climate change was getting. I also analyzed many books, blogs, and data such as the one available at this website. I noticed that there was a lot more evidence supporting the fact that climate change was a dangerous threat, based on many different factors like rising sea levels and CO2 in the atmosphere. I was greatly inspired by blogs like those by Renee Cho.

I have always wanted to be optimistic about the future, but deeply cared for the truth and science that leads us towards there. The more I read, learned, and watched about climate change, it became harder and harder for me to just engage into wishful thinking about the future of the planet without taking concrete actions. As I started to think how I can contribute to the solution, I came across the research being done by Maria Uriarte and Tian Zheng of Columbia University. I felt empowered realizing that I can make a difference using technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) for climate resilience and people’s sustaining of their prosperity.

I always loved technology, and especially AI always fascinated me. I founded TeamAIRO (A I Robotics) and since then worked on many AI, Data, and Robotics projects that won me and my team multiple Hackathons, and Robotics competitions. I recently formed a group SamurAI to focus on building innovative AI solutions for social good as an example at this and this. From what I have seen myself and what I have researched, I am now aware that the future is under threat, and I want to play my part in protecting this future by using what I have learned about technology to create a real change in the world.

Joining the team of FXB climate advocates has helped me find a like-minded community. With the guidance of Karina Weinstein, I am founding and leading a committee (AI & Climate Advocacy) to research and generate ideas on how technologies like AI and ML can help to create climate resilience, prevention of pandemics, lift people out of poverty, and sustain their prosperity when confronted with global pandemics or climate change disruptions, and to eventually implement AI and ML based systems at a larger scale, for global impact, by collaborating with more people and organizations.

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