Future 50
A New Generation of Leaders Has Arrived

For heading up multiple visionary tech projects—all while still in her teens

AI innovator. Philanthropist. Women’s health advocate. At just 16, Alisha Arora is a next-gen force for change—or, as she puts it: “an example to all young people that age is never a barrier to make the change you want to see in the world.”

Her mission? “To help solve the world's biggest problems using emerging technologies,” she declares on her LinkedIn profile. 
One example: When a student in her class died by suicide minutes after he’d tweeted about feeling lonely, Arora was inspired to create an AI model that detects suicidal ideation in social media content. Step one of the project: analyzing 500 million tweets. To build out the model, Arora partnered with Microsoft and also received guidance from companies including Johnson & Johnson, Google and Meta. Last year, she began working with researchers at the University of Ireland, and while work has been admittedly slow, she says it’s setting the foundation for more beta testing and ultimately patenting.

In addition to the suicide prevention project, Arora is exploring how tech can improve mental illness diagnoses. When she noticed that the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab was focused primarily on cancer research and other diseases, she reached out to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to see if its emphasis could extend to mental health. Lab leaders connected Arora with PhD students—and she became the lab’s youngest researcher, focusing on biological aspects of mental illness, such as exploring the link between gut bacteria and depression.

She took the same initiative with Procter & Gamble, reaching out to learn more about how its feminine care products could be better tailored to Gen Z. That curiosity and people-centric mindset led to an internship helping make the UX on an app better for young women. The experience “showed me how much more I have to learn”—which she captured in her journal.
“I realized how much I don’t know, from understanding the corporate world to technical frameworks to even selling an idea to a team of high-level executives,” she wrote. “I realized I have so much yet to learn, but that’s okay, because I also have lots of time! You’re doing something right when you are the dumbest person in the room because you are going to be uncomfortable and you only grow in discomfort.”

In that same spirit of continuous learning, Arora wants to increase educational opportunities around AI so other emerging project leaders around the world can harness the tech’s problem-solving power. As a UNICEF Youth Ambassador, Arora has spoken to world leaders about the need for AI education and how AI affects children’s privacy rights in their daily life. And she’s also a member of the World Economic Forum’s AI Youth Council.

Her desire to lead initiatives that deliver social impact isn’t always driven by tech. During the pandemic, she and her sister Kenisha founded The HopeSisters, a nonprofit dedicated to helping seniors and vulnerable children. Through its Project HopeBags, the organization delivers toys, blankets and snacks to children in Canadian foster care, as well as to kids from Ukraine. The group also developed an initiative where student volunteers make weekly visits to retirement homes to engage with senior residents. Along the way, Arora has empowered tens of thousands of young people to give back and become what she calls “HopeSpreaders.” “It’s wonderful to see how our organization is making a positive difference in the world,” she writes.

As Arora’s influence grows, recognition has followed. She was awarded The Diana Award in 2021 for her humanitarian efforts and has held court with Prince Harry to discuss digital rights strategy. And last year, she was named the youngest recipient of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award by the Women’s Executive Network.

“Youth can no longer wait for governments or corporations to make the change they want to see in the world,” Arora said in a tweet. “It’s time we give youth the opportunity to make the change they want to see.”


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