“As artificial intelligence gets smarter, the premium on ingenuity will become greater”

Ben Cohen:

“The most interesting problems to do in the world are the ones where nobody has told you how to do them,” he told students. “And the problem I’ve been thinking about recently is how to help people flourish in a world with ChatGPT. Do you guys know what that is?”

Every hand in the auditorium shot up.

After his talk, I asked how his message to a room full of fifth-graders applies to someone in an office, and he replied faster than ChatGPT. “The future of jobs is figuring out how to find pain points,” he said. “And a pain point is a human pain.” Loh would tell anyone what he told the students and what he tells his own three children. It’s his theorem of success. “You need to be able to create value,” he said. “People who make value will always have opportunities.”

He is living proof. Born in California and raised in Wisconsin, the 40-year-old Loh was a child prodigy who attended the California Institute of Technology, where he met his wife on the first day of freshman orientation and got married on the day before graduation. After earning his graduate math degrees from Cambridge University and Princeton University, he joined the faculty of Carnegie Mellon in 2010. He was named coach of the U.S. team in 2013. American teenagers hadn’t won the International Mathematical Olympiad in nearly two decades. They have since won four times.

He’s soon returning home and moving into dorms to start training for this summer’s world championship in Japan with his team of the nation’s top six high-school students. But first he’s barnstorming across the country on a tour so exhausting that I got tired just typing out his itinerary.

“This machine is the world’s most powerful tool at repeating things that have been done many times before,” he tells students. “But now I want to show you something it cannot do.”

Loh asked ChatGPT to find the largest fraction less than ½ with a numerator and denominator that are positive integers less than or equal to 10,000. It was a question that it almost certainly hadn’t seen before—and it flubbed the answer. (It’s 4,999/9,999.) This might sound familiar to anyone who has spent enough time with a chatbot that has a nasty habit of being confidently wrong: It made up a bunch of nonsense and apologized for its errors.