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

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

Hardback Penguin Press

By (author) Nate Silver

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  • Publisher: Penguin Putnam Inc
  • Format: Hardback | 534 pages
  • Dimensions: 155mm x 231mm x 36mm | 816g
  • Publication date: 27 September 2012
  • Publication City/Country: New York, NY
  • ISBN 10: 159420411X
  • ISBN 13: 9781594204111
  • Edition: 1
  • Illustrations note: black & white tables, maps, figures
  • Sales rank: 17,236

Product description

"Nate Silver's "The Signal and the Noise" is The Soul of a New Machine for the 21st century." --Rachel Maddow, author of "Drift" 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.

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Author information

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

Review quote

"Mr. Silver, just 34, is an expert at finding signal in noise... Lively prose -- from energetic to outraged... illustrates his dos and don'ts through a series of interesting essays that examine how predictions are made in fields including chess, baseball, weather forecasting, earthquake analysis and politics... [the] chapter on global warming is one of the most objective and honest analyses I've seen... even the noise makes for a good read." --"New York Times" "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" "Mr. Silver's breezy style makes even the most difficult statistical material accessible. What is more, his arguments and examples are painstakingly researched..." --"Wall Street Journal" "Nate Silver is the Kurt Cobain of statistics... His ambitious new book, "The Signal and the Noise," is a practical handbook and a philosophical manifesto in one, following the theme of prediction through a series of case studies ranging from hurricane tracking to professional poker to counterterrorism. It will be a supremely valuable resource for anyone who wants to make good guesses about the future, or who wants to assess the guesses made by others. In other words, everyone." --"The Boston Globe" "Silver delivers an improbably breezy read on what is essentially a primer on making predictions." --"Washington Post" ""The Signal and the Noise" is many things -- an introduction to the Bayesian theory of probability, a meditation on luck and character, a commentary on poker's insights into life -- but it's most important function is its most basic and absolutely necessary one right now: a guide to detecting and avoiding bullshit dressed up as data...Whatf