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)
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
I love statistics and data analysis and Nate Silver is very smart and knows a lot about data analysis, yet Nate Silver seems to have an “unhealthy obsession” with data analysis. There are quite a number of interesting bits in The Signal and the Noise but it starts with a long and in depth discussion of baseball statistics, which (if you are apathetic to baseball) is only mildly interesting at best. The overall theme of this book was to show the value of Bayesian statistics. I am a big fan of Bayesian stats, but the descriptions here seem weak and the author sometimes seems to delve into data analysis just for sake of data analysis. It felt a bit like being in the room with an obsessive compulsive geek with a calculator. You may learn a lot, but it might not be a lot of fun.
Nate Silver is hot right now. As I write this, it is three days before the presidential election and he is predicting an Obama win (82% chance of winning). His insights about stats, opinions, signal and noise are spot on. Although I am still not 100% sure what Bayesian logic is. Overall a great listen full of insight. A note on the narrator. I take back every negative comment I've ever made in my reviews of his performances. He was excellent in this context.
Sensible, thought-provoking, data-based
The examples were very relatable and understandable.
The baseball example was the most illustrative.
Seek the truth...
This book's release coincided roughly with the author's correctly calling the Obama reelection, and I know there was some promotional buzz. I enjoyed the book, but like so many others, it is laden with all sorts of random anecdotes and stories that don't really cohere well, so it serves as a very light repast of actionable, penetrating statistical methods, slathered over with plenty of entertainment and filler. So, it probably nicely fulfills the contemporary book industry formula for popular writing and its marketing.
It was clear and generally well presented (accessible to a wide audience). I was well aware that people generally are not good at making predictions, relying too heavily on their heuristics and biases (e.g. failure to use prior probabilities as called for by Bayesian statistics); and the importance of putting "band widths" around probability estimates. I also thought that much too much text was devoted to each of the major topics covered (e.g. weather forecasting, political forecasts, economic forecasts, picking stocks, gambling/poker strategies, etc.). These sections could have been considerably shorter.
"Is that all there is?"
Generally disappointing, in that it did not expand my knowledge -- though I don't fault the book, as I've read widely in this area.
I would like to listen to parts of it again. There are some sections which had far too much detail for me, but at the same time, that is likely a plus for others.
I enjoy the parts about how he comes up with his predictions - which I thought was a bit light in the book. I would have liked more insight on the political polling - but maybe that will be the content for his next book - which I will also buy.
It is a tough read and a long book - but it is worth it. If you like predictive math and logic - and want some insight into the future of market research - it is quite valuable.
Reviewing the mortgage crisis and the responsible participants was very interesting, and the fact that a hybrid approach to probabilities (number analysis and expert opinion combined) was superior to the pure Moneyball approach was certainly revealing and practical.I also now appreciate much more the work and efforts of the national weather service, what they're able to accomplish, and why their mission should be important to all of us.
Heck, I thought it was Nate Silver the whole time. I'm sorry, Mike! I guess that's how authentic it seemed.
I really enjoyed the content and insight it provided, so I burned through it at 3x speed.
Really enjoyed it!
If your looking for how Nate did some great research and did some very good successes I recommend the book. If you like a story with drama, mystery and suspense it is a little dry and not for you.
Nate Silver is really knowledgeable, and he covered an array of topics that he knows a lot about.
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.
One of the best audiobooks I've listened to so far
Nate Silver gives an advanced, yet comprehensible lesson in statistics using exciting real world examples of how statistics were used correctly or incorrectly in each case. Topics range from earth quakes to political elections, which he is most recenty famous for.
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