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Cathy O'Neil

Meet the Covid Models That Are Running the World

None are perfect; some are downright dumb.

People are hard to predict.

People are hard to predict.

Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has thrust mathematical models into a leading role in human affairs. Their predictions are literally a matter of life and death, driving decisions on equipping hospitals, shutting down businesses and restricting the movements of millions of people.

Yet few understand the models’ inner workings. So here’s my data scientist’s take on them, with the aim of offering a sense of which ones merit trust.