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The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail - but Some Don't | [Nate Silver]

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail - but Some Don't

Nate Silver built an innovative system for predicting baseball performance, predicted the 2008 election within a hair’s breadth, and became a national sensation as a blogger - all by the time he was 30. The New York Times now publishes FiveThirtyEight.com, where Silver is one of the nation’s most influential political forecasters. Drawing on his own groundbreaking work, Silver examines the world of prediction, investigating how we can distinguish a true signal from a universe of noisy data.
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Publisher's Summary

Nate Silver built an innovative system for predicting baseball performance, predicted the 2008 election within a hair’s breadth, and became a national sensation as a blogger - all by the time he was 30. The New York Times now publishes FiveThirtyEight.com, where Silver is one of the nation’s most influential political forecasters.

Drawing on his own groundbreaking work, Silver examines the world of prediction, investigating how we can distinguish a true signal from a universe of noisy data. Most predictions fail, often at great cost to society, because most of us have a poor understanding of probability and uncertainty. Both experts and laypeople mistake more confident predictions for more accurate ones. But overconfidence is often the reason for failure. If our appreciation of uncertainty improves, our predictions can get better too. This is the “prediction paradox”: The more humility we have about our ability to make predictions, the more successful we can be in planning for the future.

In keeping with his own aim to seek truth from data, Silver visits the most successful forecasters in a range of areas, from hurricanes to baseball, from the poker table to the stock market, from Capitol Hill to the NBA. He explains and evaluates how these forecasters think and what bonds they share. What lies behind their success? Are they good - or just lucky? What patterns have they unraveled? And are their forecasts really right? He explores unanticipated commonalities and exposes unexpected juxtapositions. And sometimes, it is not so much how good a prediction is in an absolute sense that matters but how good it is relative to the competition. In other cases, prediction is still a very rudimentary - and dangerous - science.

Silver observes that the most accurate forecasters tend to have a superior command of probability, and they tend to be both humble and hardworking. They distinguish the predictable from the unpredictable, and they notice a thousand little details that lead them closer to the truth. Because of their appreciation of probability, they can distinguish the signal from the noise.

With everything from the health of the global economy to our ability to fight terrorism dependent on the quality of our predictions, Nate Silver’s insights are an essential listen.

©2012 Nate Silver (P)2012 Penguin Audio

What the Critics Say

"Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise is The Soul of a New Machine for the 21st century." (Rachel Maddow, author of Drift)

What Members Say

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  •  
    fred LAKE OSWEGO, OR, United States 10-30-12
    fred LAKE OSWEGO, OR, United States 10-30-12 Member Since 2012

    I'm Trying to see the world with my ears.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Blessed are the Quants for they shall inherit the"

    .....Nate Silver is the wunderkind who burst onto the scene with his blog that supplied intellectual elbow grease to issues of probability analysis . In his new book he wanders like a modern day Socrates searching for those with true wisdom . And he finds it--among modest , hardworking , humble folks across an array of industries and government institutions . A wonderful read.

    5 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    julia & richard c. mendel wayne, pa USA 01-25-15
    julia & richard c. mendel wayne, pa USA 01-25-15 Member Since 2014

    Say Less, Mean More?

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    "Pattern Recognition"
    Would you listen to The Signal and the Noise again? Why?

    Very sobering information for readers (and listeners) who often believe they recognize patterns where none exist. Mr. Silver utilizes statistical analysis that confirms the outlooks of people like Warren Buffett, Burton Malkiel, and Rolf Dobelli.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    The volume of examples in the breadth of so many different fields.


    What about Mike Chamberlain’s performance did you like?

    Solid performance in a work that described numerous grafts.


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    How often we create a very inaccurate story to reconcile why something we witnessed happened.


    Any additional comments?

    Very irreverent, and seemingly very correct.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael 01-15-15
    Michael 01-15-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Excellent - rational explanations"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Silver's explanations are clear and make sense - much more reasonable than a number of more polemical texts. He pretty much avoids "let's unmask the villain" tactics which tend to dominate a lot of economic discussionFor example, his explanation that rating agencies rated CDO's on the assumption that mortgage foreclosures were independent events when the housing bubble really made foreclosures more likely was pretty clear. He also explains the incentives of the rating agencies without casting (too many) aspersions. That kind of explanation is much more satisfying to me than witch hunts. I certainly hadn't understood that part of the story before. Fulminating about various parties' "greed" is not very interesting, unless you happen to think that greed is some new human characteristic that reared its ugly head in 2004 and caused the whole mess.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joseph Yeh Berkeley, CA United States 08-15-14
    Joseph Yeh Berkeley, CA United States 08-15-14 Member Since 2010
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    "Good material- somewhat boring delivery"

    This is a book worth reading even for applied mathematicians/statisticians for whom the theories presented in the book are basic knowledge. That being said, the delivery was a little flat for someone who listens to audiobooks for entertainment while commuting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jamesh-lantern-media Scotch Plains, NJ 06-28-14
    jamesh-lantern-media Scotch Plains, NJ 06-28-14 Member Since 2014

    jamesh-lanternmedia

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    "I agree, but please stop repeating!"
    What did you like best about The Signal and the Noise? What did you like least?

    I did like the book, but I am probably going to stop reading it after Chapter 3. The author makes a good point many times, and then rams it down our throat to the point where you get sick of hearing it. I get the point, xxxx screwed up - move on...


    Were the concepts of this book easy to follow, or were they too technical?

    They were easy to follow - I was a little worried having an audiobook on this topic..


    What does Mike Chamberlain bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Mike Chamberlain was an amazing narrator - I just realized that he wasn't the author now... He read it witha good believability that he was speaking from experience


    Could you see The Signal and the Noise being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    Not at all, Its not really a story book


    Any additional comments?

    The book was good, but the repetitiveness just got grating... And when he started mentioning his website every couple of minutes, that was the final straw for me...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer Bliss 06-27-14 Member Since 2014

    Research rocks!

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    "Rocked my perspective on predictions"
    If you could sum up The Signal and the Noise in three words, what would they be?

    demystifying predictions


    What other book might you compare The Signal and the Noise to and why?

    As far as I know, this book is one-of-a-kind. Nate Silver lets the sunshine in, exposing politico fakery while elevating prediction to a rigorous and transparent level.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Erin Sjostrom Tallahassee, FL United States 01-28-14
    Erin Sjostrom Tallahassee, FL United States 01-28-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Accessible Discussion of Forecasting"
    What did you love best about The Signal and the Noise?

    A good defense of general skepticism and accessible explanation of the usefulness and limits of forecasting.


    What other book might you compare The Signal and the Noise to and why?

    Money ball and similar books by Michael Lewis for making data analysis accessible.


    Have you listened to any of Mike Chamberlain’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    Unintentionally hilarious name-dropping which I found more endearing than annoying. Almost like somebody told Mr. Silver to punch it up. Lots of clangingly unnecessary references to the food eaten with smart, successful people. Small price to pay for this book,though.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Arthur MEMPHIS, TN, United States 10-27-13
    Arthur MEMPHIS, TN, United States 10-27-13 Member Since 2014
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    "A must read if you gamble or invest in stocks."
    What did you love best about The Signal and the Noise?

    Nate explains things very well. Easy to listen to and you will learn a lot. You don't have to know math to enjoy this book.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew 09-16-13
    Andrew 09-16-13
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    "A great read on one of the least understood topics"
    Would you listen to The Signal and the Noise again? Why?

    Maybe - I don't tend to read books over and over again.


    What does Mike Chamberlain bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Not sure - he was a good narrator though.


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    Bayesian thinking. I've been familiar with Bayesian mathematics for a while but I'd never quite thought about applying it to probabilistic thinking the way Nate discusses it.


    Any additional comments?

    This book was an amazing read. Nate uses lots of great examples from a wide-variety of disciplines and professions to show the usefulness and limitations of statistics and prediction models.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda Colorado Springs, CO, United States 07-27-13
    Linda Colorado Springs, CO, United States 07-27-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Statistics made interesting"

    Through different disciplines, the author explores how statistics can inform. It's not told in "geek speak", rather in everyday, intelligent stories. And, as happens in academia, it cautions about listening to the noise of information instead of seeing what's truly informative.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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