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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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  •  
    Christopher 03-13-13
    Christopher 03-13-13 Member Since 2015

    history, science, et al.

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    "Surprising and insightful"

    Nate Silver introduces you to the art and science of forecasting, above and beyond his 538 blog (although he goes into that in detail). His goal is for us to understand how forecasters and statisticians see the world, and he explains things clearly yet thoroughly. Starting with an overview of model design and evaluation, he then gives examples from his own experience and some outside research: baseball, weather, earthquakes, gambling, politics, and more. Every chapter is entertaining and personal. He highlights common pitfalls in forecasting, and offers practical advice for making predictions in everyday life. In sum, a very worthwhile listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Grey Ann Arbor, MI 03-04-13
    Laura Grey Ann Arbor, MI 03-04-13 Member Since 2011

    lolaphilologist

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    "Good information, but very repetitive"

    Nate Silver has a fairly straight-forward style and gives lots of good information and stories illustrating his points. The narrator's tone occasionally seems terse, bordering on annoyed. This might have been a result of having to repeat some of the same language many times over.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    David United States 02-20-13
    David United States 02-20-13 Member Since 2014
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    "Great book using some broad examples"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Thought provoking as you listen to pundits and realize they don't really know what they are forecast or predicting.

    The author used is money ball type experience and brings that analysis to examples range from politics to weather to hurricanes and earthquakes.


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

    no


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    boring - or a documentary ;)


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gordon Dawson Creek, BC, Canada 02-19-13
    Gordon Dawson Creek, BC, Canada 02-19-13 Member Since 2011

    Web Developer, Eldoren Design, www.eldoren.com

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    "Very interesting book - Thought Provoking"

    This was a great book, loved the discussions on baseball, odds and the many topics the author covers. Its a very hard book to describe though. I never got bored and every chapter offered me something new and fresh. Be a great book for anyone in marketing or SEO. I would recommend it. Worth the money.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Honolulu, HI, United States 02-19-13
    Amazon Customer Honolulu, HI, United States 02-19-13 Member Since 2015

    optional

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    "Could be shorter ..."

    There is a lot of background material that goes over prediction for climate change, stock market and terrorism which is okay but the real mechanics of bayes is really only a small portion of the book.

    There are other books that cover bayes in more in depth so that's fine but it felt like 75% of the book was talking about backgrounds that really what you can do step by step to do better.

    Maybe if I didnt get the unabridged version, it might have been more concise to what I was looking for.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Morten New York 02-17-13
    Morten New York 02-17-13
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    "Tell me how it works!"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    People who need to know why making predictions is difficult.


    What could Nate Silver have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Write more about how to make a good prediction - what works?


    What didn’t you like about Mike Chamberlain’s performance?

    Too mechanical.


    What character would you cut from The Signal and the Noise?

    -


    Any additional comments?

    It didn't really answer the second part of the question: "and some don't".

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Wellesley, MA, United States 02-16-13
    David Wellesley, MA, United States 02-16-13 Member Since 2015
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    "If you made a Daniel Kahneman book boring..."

    Then you would have this book. The anecdotes are well told, but there is nothing revolutionary in this book. Nate Silver just reminds us of how bad humans are at just roughly figuring out statistics, then roughly tells you how to get better at forecasting and making predictions. My advice: Read the wikipedia page on Bayes' Theorem and read Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. You will have a better time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Amazon Customer 02-15-13 Member Since 2015
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    "Awesome"
    If you could sum up The Signal and the Noise in three words, what would they be?

    bayesian statistical predictions.

    I am being forced to write additional words to meet a 15 word minimum even though I was asked to sum up the book in 3 words


    Any additional comments?

    just read it. it's fun for all ages!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    RICK BARRERA Rancho Santa Fe, CA, US 02-11-13
    RICK BARRERA Rancho Santa Fe, CA, US 02-11-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Should Be 5 Books"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Signal and the Noise to be better than the print version?

    I would never sit long enough to read this book in print. It is very "dense" with information and statistics, which it should be because it is a book about statistics, but for the casual or business reader, there is just too much detailed information. It really would have been better as separate books on each topic. If you use statistics for a living, this is a must read.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    The most interesting idea was that most studies report erroneous results and no one calls them on it or reports the errors, meaning that most of what we KNOW to be true, isn't. Bayesian analysis was very interesting and useful. Would have liked more information on how to apply it to everyday life and business situations.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Gray, ME, United States 02-11-13
    David Gray, ME, United States 02-11-13 Member Since 2014
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    "best book about statistics"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Signal and the Noise to be better than the print version?

    Nate does what no one else has managed to do. Write a comprehensive book about statistics and probability that is interesting and informative. I loved listening to this book.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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