The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail-but Some Don't

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Penguin, Sep 27, 2012 - Political Science - 544 pages
30 Reviews
One of Wall Street Journal's Best Ten Works of Nonfiction in 2012
 
New York Times Bestseller

“Not so different in spirit from the way public intellectuals like John Kenneth Galbraith once shaped discussions of economic policy and public figures like Walter Cronkite helped sway opinion on the Vietnam War…could turn out to be one of the more momentous books of the decade.”
New York Times Book Review
 
"Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise is The Soul of a New Machine for the 21st century."
—Rachel Maddow, author of Drift

"A serious treatise about the craft of prediction—without academic mathematics—cheerily aimed at lay readers. Silver's coverage is polymathic, ranging from poker and earthquakes to climate change and terrorism."
—New York Review of Books

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 thirty. He solidified his standing as the nation's foremost political forecaster with his near perfect prediction of the 2012 election. Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.com.
 
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 read.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - wishanem - LibraryThing

Have you ever wondered how to make good predictions about difficult-to-predict phenomena? Can you handle occasionally dry descriptions of statistical models and predictive strategies? Read this book ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - le.vert.galant - LibraryThing

A very good book on forecasting and Bayesian thinking. It's a bit heavy on the examples and a bit light on the details, but I suppose equations are off-putting and the author may want to keep his ... Read full review

Contents

Praise for Nate Silver and The Signal and the Noise
A CATASTROPHIC FAILURE OF PREDICTION
ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A TELEVISION PUNDIT?
ALL I CARE ABOUT IS WS AND LS
FOR YEARS YOUVE BEEN TELLING US THAT RAIN IS GREEN
DESPERATELY SEEKING SIGNAL
HOW TO DROWN IN THREE FEET OF WATER
ROLE MODELS
LESS AND LESS AND LESS WRONG
RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINES
THE POKER BUBBLE
A CLIMATE OF HEALTHY SKEPTICISM
WHAT YOU DONT KNOW CAN HURT
Conclusion
Copyright

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About the author (2012)

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.com.

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