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
"Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise is The Soul of a New Machine for the 21st century." (Rachel Maddow, author of Drift)
The book starts strong with an interesting historical narrative about Protestantism and the advent of the printing press. Then it sort of meanders through some anecdotes of failed or successful predictions for what seemed like most of the body, the conclusion was also good, though felt like it should have been supported by clearer points made in the body.
I came away thinking the conclusion as a proposition was well written and fairly compelling, and what I took as weakness in the body might have been signs that the book was penned opportunistically on the heels of Silver's media attention rather than bringing anything new to the discussion about social psychology and the lack of statistical reasoning in the general (US) public.
Definitely a must read or listen for anyone that is concerned about what so called experts are saying. We all need to be wary of predictions and statistics especially in the hands of governments and corporations. This is an excellent primer on the topic.
I lined this book. The author highlights the issues of predictions and forecasts in plain language. The examples are relevant and interesting.
This book was an interesting account of the natural limits and underlying processes of human thinking, technology, and how they are used in prediction. If the phrase "big data" annoys you, this book may provide a refuge from misinformed consensus views of problem solving. Mike Chamberlain did a fantastic job narrating this piece, which was likely made easier because the writing and themes of the book were so captivating. After listening to this book, I must admit my views are heavily biased due to the value I place on prediction.
The book is a little dry. I was hoping for something more in the realm of freakonmics or Blink, but, the information was good. It took me a long time to finish, which is my key indicator for whether the book was good. If you're into data, I would encourage you to check this one out, but otherwise, I'd stay clear.
Very informative but needs to be rewritten to reach a wider audience (partially attentive people). Examples given in certain circumstances like the actual scientists' names such as ones that either proved right or wrong with their theories evoke human interest and makes it easier to absorb the material presented. The book is politically unbiased which is what will make is truly relevant in the long run. Might be considered a classic in the years to come if rewritten for different audiences.
Struggled to finish it, was too long for the ultimate takeaway of the book. Still an excellent overview of data analysis and predictions.
Nate Silver has done a great job in describing many aspects of probability theory. But he spent too much time on sports and gambling and not enough on Climate Change, which he got wrong.
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