I try to mitigate climate change using computer science. I am a Research Engineer at DeepMind, mostly working on energy problems. Previously, I worked on energy disaggregation as a post-doc at Imperial College London.
Since I was a kid, I’ve been interested in how biological systems learn & process information; and I’ve been keen to replicate this in machines. I studied Neuroscience BSc at UCL & absolutely loved it.
But, towards the end of my BSc, I became increasingly worried about climate change. Back then, I couldn’t see how to solve climate change using neuroscience.
I had been excited by filmmaking since my teens so it seemed natural to try to make a living making environmental films. I had a lot of fun working on a wide variety of films; but it turned out to be almost impossible to make a living making environmental films.
So I went back to my geeky AI-inspired roots and did the Computing Science MSc at Imperial, with the explicit aim of using AI to mitigate climate change. The MSc was a huge amount of fun! For my end-of-year research project, I proposed an energy disaggregation project, which I really enjoyed so I applied to do a PhD on energy disaggregation. After my PhD, I did a post-doc (based at Imperial but paid for by the lovely folks at EDF Energy) looking at how to help the disaggregation field evolve rapidly.
During my PhD, I also became fascinated by getting kids excited about engineering (by doing “making” workshops); and in open-science.
However, the last paper I wrote during my PhD showed that there really isn’t much good evidence that disaggregated energy bills encourage people to save energy. So I decided to shift my focus away from disaggregation.
So I did lots of research into how best to mitigate climate change using computer science. At points I was quite down-beat: hardly any of the options I considered had much chance of having a sizeable real-world impact.
In late-2016, as part of my research into what to work on next, I sent an email to a researcher at DeepMind asking for his opinions on how best to mitigate climate change using computer science. I was extremely fortunate that this email exchange led to me entering the DeepMind recruitment process with the result that I landed a job at DeepMind, working on energy problems. I’m beyond excited to get this job because this is probably my best chance to have real-world impact on mitigating climate change using artificial intelligence!