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Mission Log

7.9.20

Kenny Chen on NOVID Founder Po-Shen Loh

Interviewing our Interviewer Kenny Chen

When you invite an internationally renowned speaker to your event, one who has spoken around the world about something as esoteric as theoretical Mathematics, you have to ask: How can we create an intimate dialogue that reveals what no one else has heard? Well, you recruit long-time friend and fellow AI expert Kenny Chen to host a completely unfiltered interview. Get a sneak peak of our intimate chat with Po-Shen Loh on July 14th by taking a dip into the mind of our acclaimed interviewer. Yep, it’s a little meta.  

Who is Po-Shen Loh?

Po-Shen Loh is someone who explains the Pythagorean theorem through parkour and rap. He is a Mathematics Professor at CMU who sees math everywhere, finding specific delight in assigning reason to the phenomena of daily life. He’s explored formulas behind cheerleading, football, and genetics, all while setting a new way to solve the quadratic formula. He also teaches a freewheeling interactive math class on YouTube everyday, entitled, you guessed it, ‘Ask Math Anything.’

How does a Math Professor invent the world’s first anonymous contact tracing app?

Well, per the above logic, Po is as theoretically gifted as he is socially minded. When the world oriented toward containing a novel phenomena, Po couldn’t help but throw his hat into the ring. Because the problem is novel; how do you track movements of the entire world while preserving individual privacy? It turns out that leveraging a technology already well documented, ultrasound, to precisely determine the distance between phones, by sending and receiving high frequency signals to measure distance from sound latency. No usernames, no emails, no passwords. No GPS.  

How do you know Po?

3 months after I moved to Pittsburgh in 2014, I met Po at an Awesome Pittsburgh event. They do monthly pitch competitions for $1000, and Po’s company first company Expii was a featured nominee. We met in the now closed Pittsburgh Public Market, where I heard him map out math and science curriculum through a radically different way of teaching. NOVID was just the most recent in a string of opportunities we’ve had to work together.  

What does he mean to Pittsburgh?

Po is a national treasure, given his role as a national coach for the US Math Olympiad team. He lead them to victory for multiple years running and ended a drought of US teams losing to China and Russia. Po brought US Math excellence back to the global stage.  Po himself is this dynamo of energy, inspiration, and vision. He’s practically an international celebrity in math education.  

Why should you come to see Po?

In one sentence, come to learn and be inspired. In the countless times that we’ve talked over the past 6 years, there isn’t a single conversation that I haven't left with more hope for humanity. Po comes to the table with such a depth of knowledge and insight, whether it’s COVID-19 response technology or insights about international affairs, geopolitics. And he’s quite funny.

What can we expect from this event?

Over the several years, my organization the Partnership to Advance Responsible Technology (PART) has focused on the ethics, policy, and strategy of technology development. The COVID-19 response space asks us about trade-offs between speed and efficiency and protecting human rights. The field is rife with ethical considerations and shortcomings for people pursuing relevant COVID-19 research. Po and I will open a window of insight into the ethics and efficacy of contact tracing apps, but also a global perspective on what this technology means for how we manage information moving forward. 

Register to see Po-Shen Loh

July 14th at 5-6:15PM

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