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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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  •  
    L. Oliveira Brazil 12-30-12
    L. Oliveira Brazil 12-30-12 Member Since 2010

    Motumbo

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    "Awesome, awesome book. Must read!"

    It's always refreshing to read a different way to tell the same stories. This book is a must read for anyone, absolutely anyone, that wants to have a better grasp of what it perceives as real.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DS NH 12-30-12
    DS NH 12-30-12 Member Since 2012

    Say something about yourself!

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    "FOOD FOR THOUGHT"

    A really smart book on why predicting stuff is hard and a really good argument for an open mind. Seeing the world as it really is, rather than how we want it to be, is the hardest thing we will ever do. But we really should try harder.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David NASHVILLE, TN, United States 12-27-12
    David NASHVILLE, TN, United States 12-27-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Excellent Listen"

    Much of this book seems obvious, but it is amazing how easy everyone can get caught up in the noise. I found it easy to stick with and enjoyed it very much.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gregory Linwood, NJ, United States 12-25-12
    Gregory Linwood, NJ, United States 12-25-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Enlightening, entertaining, surprising."
    Where does The Signal and the Noise rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    One of the most interesting books I have ever read.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    Humorous voice, easy to follow. I could believe that the narrator was the author.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jowanza United States 12-11-12
    Jowanza United States 12-11-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Great Read"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would recommend this book a friend. While this book has some technical aspects it's very accessible. It covers the topic of forecasting and prediction extremely well.


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

    I can't think of a book I could compare to Signal and the noise.


    Which character – as performed by Mike Chamberlain – was your favorite?

    I thought all of the characters were similar actually.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    I thought a lot of the introductory content was moving.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carrie Anthem, AZ, United States 12-11-12
    Carrie Anthem, AZ, United States 12-11-12
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    "Interesting, educational, and entertaining"
    What did you love best about The Signal and the Noise?

    The real-world examples for each concept made complex theories and concepts easy to understand


    Any additional comments?

    If you want to learn about why things work in the world, this is a fantastic book! Get it, it’s worth it!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Orlin Winchester, MA USA 12-05-12
    James Orlin Winchester, MA USA 12-05-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Good, but below my expectations"
    What did you love best about The Signal and the Noise?

    Nate Silver is really knowledgeable, and he covered an array of topics that he knows a lot about.


    Any additional comments?

    Silver gives an interesting perspective on many topics on which he is knowledgeable. But he does not do nearly so good a job of explaining "why so many predictions fail but some don't." My summary of his explanation of the subtitle is "There is not enough information (or signal) to make good forecasts in the areas where forecasting is bad." This provides little insight if one is considering forecasts on a topic not covered in his book. I was disappointed because I was interested in learning more about forecasting in general.

    Silver loves focusing on the rich details that relate to forecasting in politics, sports, economics, and more. I believe that most of the readers who follow Nate Silver will enjoy this book.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ardenne SLC, UT 03-13-13
    Ardenne SLC, UT 03-13-13
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    "Rehash of 'The Drunkards Walk'-- with poker"
    Would you try another book from Nate Silver and/or Mike Chamberlain?

    No.


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    Unimpressed.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Mike Chamberlain?

    Yes.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Signal and the Noise?

    Eliminate all of the poker references. They were distracting, lacked illustrative power, and had far too much emphasis placed on them.


    Any additional comments?

    The Signal and the Noise is striving to be something that already exists. Namely, it is at times an almost word for word retelling of the much better, 'The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives.' Anectdotes and examples are all strangely overlapping and one gets the suspicion that Mr. Silver has a well worn dog-eared copy of Mlodinow's book near him at all times.

    If you want to reinforce the content in Mlodinow's much better example, then by all means 'The Signal and the Noise' serves its purpose. Just don't be too quick in giving Mr. Silver all the credit here.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nate the Great Shawnee OK 02-04-13
    Nate the Great Shawnee OK 02-04-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Some really important information, but oh so wordy"
    What did you love best about The Signal and the Noise?

    Nate gives us some imortant information about both the math and human limitations behind bad predictions. That may sound useless untill you remeber that everything from sports betting to the communists trying another scheme to start their economy moving is wrapped in a prediction. When we start a business or try to stop the next Muslim extremist attack, we are predicting. This book will help do it better.


    If you could give The Signal and the Noise a new subtitle, what would it be?

    We make important predictions every day. How to do it better.


    Any additional comments?

    The author is a liberal to the core so he shows some of the same blind spots that he points out in others, but seems to challenge himself not to. Unless you are a huge baseball fan you will get bored in the hours of inside baseball (pun) and some of his other examples, but it is where he cut his teeth. But since we need at least the basic point of this book so at least get an abrieviated version.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    W. N. Los Angeles 12-04-12
    W. N. Los Angeles 12-04-12 Member Since 2008

    Will-N-LA

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    "Rehash, grating reader, nothing new"
    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    Annoying voice, nasal, harsh, almost painful. I get the eager nerdiness idea, this is too much.


    Any additional comments?

    I agree with reviewers who called it a rehash, recommending Malcolm Gladwell and Michael Lewis. I usually enjoy these sort of books, I'll read anything by Lewis, Gladwell, Taleb, Khaneman, Airely, etc... and I've listened to weaker books with a few good ideas even poorly written, I'll even bite on the lesser, copycat books, OK. If Silver knows something new it's not here. Either he's holding back for the next couple of books (I doubt it) or he doesn't have anything new. It's like his pre-Presidential articles in the New York Times-a storm of sources, obvious conclusion and a little Statistics 101.

    Initially I was skeptical of the claim of his predicting ability, but I was open to learning more. I gave it a chance. I'm halfway through and haven't heard much of anything new or interesting. I don't know if I can finish listening.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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