"If you use incorrect data to train an AI model, then the AI model will give you wrong results, but it will also pretend as if it's really confident about those wrong results." Andrew Ngai, World Champion of Excel, states AI still has a long way to go

Image of the Microsoft Excel World Championship
The Excel World Championship is once again dominated by Andrew Ngai (Image credit: Financial Modeling World Cup)

What you need to know

  • The Microsoft Excel World Championship took place in Las Vegas and was live streamed and televised.
  • Andrew Ngai was able to pull a 3-peat and is on his way to becoming the Michael Jordan of Excel.
  • For Andrew's accomplishment he was awarded 3000 USD and a championship belt.

The Microsoft Excel World Championship, presented by the Financial Modeling World Cup, has steadily made waves over the past few years. In 2023, it was big enough to be televised on ESPN's The Ocho. Andrew Ngai has taken the crown for the last three years, but next year could be your chance as another World Championship was announced for 2024 at the end of the competition. If you want to put your skills to the test, you can sign up for the 2024 world championship at the Financial Modeling World Cup's site.

You can watch the entire 2023 Microsoft Excel World Championship live stream on the Financial Modeling World Cup's YouTube channel.

How is Andrew Ngai so good at Excel?

Image of Andrew Ngai winning his 3rd world championship

(Image credit: Financial Modeling World Cup)

Andrew Ngai explained that his day job is that of an actuary. If you have seen the 2004 movie Along Came Polly with Ben Stiller and Jennifer Anniston, you probably remember that Ben Stiller's job was determining risk for an insurance company. This is a reductive take on what an actuary does, but there is a lot more math involved than what is shown in the movie. 

"We're good with numbers," he said. "Before I got into Excel competitions I had already been using Excel for more than a decade, so that quite naturally helped me in these competitions."

Andrew Ngai via ABC RN Drive

Andrew also explained that he spends time practicing and preparing for the competition by reviewing previous cases he has worked on. It is a unique thing to know you are the best in the world at something and be able to prove it over 3 years of tournaments. 

As the world moves to be further integrated with technology and programming and technical acumen becomes more notable than physical ability, we will likely continue to see competitions similar to this one pop-up. In the cybersecurity world, there are already hacking competitions where players compete to capture the flag (a secret phrase) from inside a protected network. 

While we might not be as good as Andrew Ngai at Excel, there is value in learning to be proficient with Excel and the rest of Microsoft's suite. According to ZipRecruiter, most actuaries in the United States make between $116,500 and $137,000 annually.

What is the Microsoft Excel World Championship?

If you want to learn more about how the competition works, check out our Microsoft Excel as an esport? This is the Financial Modeling World Cup article for a deeper look, or watch this quick promotional trailer from the Financial Modeling World Cup YouTube channel.

The actual competition is done in a decent format and is entertaining enough to watch. Even if I can't personally understand the methods they are using in Excel, they make the competition digestible and easy to follow who is in the lead. 

What does the world's most skilled Excel user think about AI?

While speaking to ABC's NG Drive, Andrew Ngai was asked about his thoughts on AI. Andrew Ngai believes humans with skills in Excel are still safe from AI for now. As pointed out, Microsoft wants to blame users for AI copyright infringement articles. If an AI has no user-generated content to train itself on, it will never be able to learn or grow. 

As quoted in this article's headline, Andrew Ngai said, "If you use incorrect data to train an AI model, then the AI model will give you wrong results, but it will also pretend as if it's confident about those wrong results." This is a brutally honest take on the issue with AI models. They are wrong a lot but are so bullish in its erroneous responses that people might start believing the wrong answers. 

"Who knows what will happen in the long term, but I think generative AI — yes, it is very smart and I've used ChatGPT as well — but it still needs a human to guide it and so I think right now, generative AI is very good at supporting what we do, but to just let it loose, it's not quite there yet.

Andrew Ngai VIA ABC

I agree with Andrew on this. The number of ChatGPT and AI-generated articles online is starting to cause a significant problem. I often look for a verifiable fact on Google or Bing, search for something, and see articles with conflicting information. This is likely due to authors or websites trusting ChatGPT and not fact-checking. 

A recent example of this was when Jim Ryan announced his retirement. The entire world tried to figure out how old he was. If you Google it, you will see results saying he is 63, 55, or 52, and even after a while searching for a correct answer. I then asked ChatGPT how old Jim Ryan is, and it quoted PushSquare.com, which has his age as 63, but Factsbio.com says he is 55. 

Image of a ChatGPT response

(Image credit: ChatGPT)

This is the issue with AI: if the knowledge put online by humans is wrong, the AI will be wrong as well, and as Andrew Ngai so accurately said, it will be confident in its error.

For daily research, this isn't a huge issue. Still, when it comes to balancing spreadsheets or creating formulas to manipulate data so a company can accurately evaluate and manage risk if the AI is wrong, it can be catastrophic to a company, its bottom line, and eventually, the employees still working there.

This is likely why Andrew Ngai was confident that AI is not ready to replace skilled humans who are experts in their respective areas of expertise.

I have some understanding of this as well, as Microsoft and several other prominent cybersecurity vendors and platforms are working to improve AI in the cybersecurity industry. In fact, Microsoft has announced significant changes coming to Security Copilot. However, I am not worried that AI will soon make my role as a cybersecurity incident responder obsolete. AI can be a helpful tool in speeding up analysis and response, but at least for now, there will need to be a human to look at the AI-generated results and have the expertise to know whether the results are accurate.

What do you think about Andrew Ngai being the 3-time Excel World Champion? How long do you think it will take for AI to advance enough to start replacing skilled professionals like Andrew Ngai? Let us know in the comments.

Colton Stradling

Colton is a seasoned cybersecurity professional that wants to share his love of technology with the Windows Central audience. When he isn’t assisting in defending companies from the newest zero-days or sharing his thoughts through his articles, he loves to spend time with his family and play video games on PC and Xbox. Colton focuses on buying guides, PCs, and devices and is always happy to have a conversation about emerging tech and gaming news.