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)
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.
A lot of stories and baseballs. Election, wwii and baseball. The beginning of this, that and baseball. But it's overall a little interesting read ... And baseball.
Enjoyed the book, saved me while feeling irritated commuting to work. Quite often I stayed in the car in the parking lot finishing listening to an interesting chapter.
Have you ever been curious as to why certain political officials get elected, why weather is more predictable than earth quakes, or how thinking probably can be beneficial to thinking in absolutes? Nate dives into all of these difficult questions and answers them with wonderful examples. Yes, it is complicated to understand, but that is the point of thinking probably. I enjoyed listening to this audiobook and look forward to more from Nate Silver.
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.
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