"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. 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...
I was fascinated with Silver’s approach as I have been using a similar one in examining risk assessment & forecast uncertainty since the mid 1990s. However, he has taken it the extra step of using a very practical quantitative approach to improving assessments—as new data comes to light consider how to properly weight it within the current body of knowledge you possess. I highly recommend this text to anyone seeking to improve their approach to properly analyze any situation characterized by imperfect knowledge. Each example he uses to demonstrate signal vs. noise provides additional insight to the reader.55
I’m having the same problem with the footnotes as 1bayguy. The starred notes actually are on the “blank” page, but they’re initially covered by the exit menu and the font is microscopic.45
This electronic version has asterisks in the text that, when touched, go to a blank page. But the numbered footnotes seem to work. Doesn't anyone check this sort of thing before the book is released?45
I enjoyed reading this book. It was entertaining and informative. I am surely biased and most of this book was confirming sentiments and feelings I already had. However, the clarity, depth and detail seemed to flounder in the chapter on terrorism and could have been dropped or more fully fleshed out. Though this may simply be a reflection of the current state of terrorism forecasting. Great read I would suggest to anyone.55
Nate Silver's 'The Signal and the Noise' is an ambivalent approach to evaluating predictions in a variety of fields. For those pressed for time, the 30 minute expert summary helps to quickly grasp the fundamentals outlined in the bestselling book. The engaging manual forays into the reasons behind failed predictions and how the predictions can be improved by correcting inherent biases. We learn why statistical wizardry about the US housing bubble and US financial crisis failed. Using the example of target practice, the author explains the difference between confidence, precision and accuracy. In 'The Signal and the Noise' the statistician reinforces the importance of acknowledging uncertainty and subjective viewpoint while making predictions. Summary of the book has all the important information about forecasts in different areas ranging from economy to earthquakes, from weather to poker and health to stock market. Examining the world of predictions, Silver notes that predictions need not only science but a better understanding of probability and uncertainty as well. The author asserts that not knowing the unknown can hurt and the biggest failure regarding a difficult prediction is “no prediction at all.” Silver's insights into the paradox of prediction are an interesting read.45
Thanks to Nate, I have a much better understanding about the essential elements in forecasting. I appreciate the message of not getting stuck in model land and trying out our predictions in the real world to make them better.55