The Signal and the Noise

The Signal and the Noise

Why So Many Predictions Fail--but Some Don't

eBook - 2012
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"One of the more momentous books of the decade."-- The New York Times Book Review

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 the website FiveThirtyEight.

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.
Publisher: New York :, Penguin Press,, 2012
ISBN: 9781101595954
Branch Call Number: Online eBook
Characteristics: 1 online resource
text file, rda
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc

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Jul 25, 2018

The diversity of topics treated by applied statistics by the author in this book is quite broad: earthquakes, baseball, congressional and presidential politics, stock markets, and even terrorism. Its not overly complex, rather informally written, but clear. The insights gained are explained, as are the limitations of statistical decision or prediction making. Also well covered is the problems of models (overfitting of the data), and difficulties in getting enough data, and good data. It even earned a special place in my heart for its commitment to Bayesianism. (I should add that Richard Jeffrey's little book on Bayesianism "Subjective Probability: the real thing" is available as a free pdf e-book at fitelson dot org.)

superglu2 May 28, 2018

A very good discussion of statistics and probability. This is a fairly technical book, which is a bit dense in part even though it is written for a general audience. Silver talks about the math behind predictions from politics to finance to weather to natural disasters, and explains why some things are really hard to predict accurately.

geezr_rdr Feb 04, 2014

This is a worthwhile book for those who would like a basis for skepticism about the information we get from news programs, although it could have been more concise. The most valuable chapter deals with the Bayes approach to making and updating predictions. If you can multiply, divide, add and subtract, you can use this formula as he directs. There is an error in the graphs on page 357 in that the grey areas represent "individual investors".

voisjoe1 Nov 18, 2013

Nate Silver, who clashed with TV Republican political pundits on TV prior to the 2012 presidential elections, predicted correctly all 50 states in 2012, demonstrating that their opinions were political bluster rather than intelligent dialogue. In 2008, Silver correctly predicted 49 of 50 states, giving him a 0.990 batting average, whereas political pundits such as Peggy Noonan and Joe Scarborough were sent back to the minor leagues. In this book, Silver discusses how probability and statistics can be used to study such phenomena as earthquakes, climate change, poker, chess, terrorism, and financial bubbles, among other phenomena. This would be a good book for economists, business majors (including sports management), mathematicians, engineers and scientists (including political science). In fact, maybe this should be required reading for such majors. I was hoping Nate would describe some of his political predicting methods, but maybe he is saving that for his next book.

Jane60201 Sep 19, 2013

I expected the book to be about politics and was pleasantly surprised about the variety to topics covered. An extremely interesting book which kept my attention the entired way through.

Apr 22, 2013

An interesting, well-written book but I found it wasn't as user-friendly as I expected. It seemed to me that a lay person couldn't grasp all the concepts Silver had stated and explained.

Having said that I have to concede that this might well be the starting point for many of us to dig deeper and try to learn the statistics and Math involved in predictions.

I liked the way Silver explained the difference between risk and uncertainty and predictions and forecasts. All in all an eminently readable book.

johnf108 Dec 30, 2012

An excellent analysis of how we get mis-led by predictions of so called experts---like pundits and TV weathermen---and how they deceive themselves or purposely distort their forecasts to get noticed.
A must read for any academic in almost any field and anyone else who wants to see how they can get mis-led and how to question what you read/hear.

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