How humans are beating machines in the effort to fight the spread of COVID-19


Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Last week I wrote about a set of predictions that I got spectacularly wrong. Today, to soothe my fragile ego, let’s talk about a case where I was a closer to the mark.

In April, after talking with public health experts, I wrote about why Bluetooth-based approaches to finding new cases of COVID-19 seemed likely to fall short. A combination of human behaviors and technical challenges seemed likely to limit the effectiveness of a pandemic response scheme that relied on our phones passively pinging each other wherever we went. At the same time, I wrote, a more old-fashioned approach — using human beings to make phone calls and identify people who may have been exposed to the disease — seemed much more promising.

Somewhat hilariously, at…

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