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The signal and the noise : why so many…

The signal and the noise : why so many predictions fail--but some… (edition 2012)

by Nate Silver

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1,701564,190 (3.91)29
Title:The signal and the noise : why so many predictions fail--but some don't
Authors:Nate Silver
Info:New York : Penguin Press, 2012.

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The signal and the noise: Why so many predictions fail—but some don't by Nate Silver

  1. 20
    Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (BenTreat)
    BenTreat: Integrates some of the analytical techniques Silver describes with common irrational patterns of decision-making; Kahneman's book explains how to use some of Silver's techniques (and other tools) to avoid making decisions which are not in one's own best interest.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
As a devotee of 538, website and especially podcasts, I was looking forward to this book. I wanted to love it. It was enjoyable, certainly, and I learned a few things. But after opening the door, it hung out in the mud room, instead of exploring the house and ending in the basement. I particularly tired of the pat narrative framing common to the "thinky-think book" sub-genre—the fiction that Silver went visiting various interesting people and interviewing them, and only then drew out lessons from their lives. And I tired of a certain reluctance to get into the statistical and interpretive weeds, when even minor articles and moments on the 538 website have pushed my understanding more. ( )
  timspalding | Jul 5, 2017 |
Anyone who can make statistics interesting deserves five stars for that talent alone. Silver not only does that, but he writes in a fun,style, covering sports, gambling, weather, poker, stocks, diseases, intel, and among other things...global warming. Well sourced, excellent analysis, insightful and informative, Silver is simply brilliant. ( )
  Razinha | May 23, 2017 |
Some of the same ideas as in Superforecasting but not as good a read for me. It was easy to get bogged down in some of the chapters and I was tempted a couple of times to skim rather than pay close attention to the contents. Not sorry I read it but not likely to ever look at it again. Among other things, I think that the manuscript should have had another careful editing before publication.
  hailelib | Jan 29, 2017 |
maybe the best non-fiction (that I didn't work on) I've read this year. silver clearly distills what fields are improving their predictions and why others aren't, why most people are poor at understanding probability (a key component of most predictions), and even offers prescriptive ideas for educators.

on that note, I definitely like his idea of replacing high school geometry with a probability course for most students (students bound for science and engineering majors should have both).

and I love that he references Bruce Schneier twice! ( )
  jimbomin | Jan 23, 2017 |
Nate Silver, best known for his remarkably accurate predictions of the results of the 2012 US elections, takes in-depth look at how people attempt to make predictions about everything from stock prices to earthquakes to an opponent's next chess move. He explains in very clear, very carefully thought-out ways how people in various fields attempt to assign probabilities to future events, the importance of not underestimating your level of uncertainty, the dangers of overconfidence, and all kinds of other interesting and important aspects of the subject.

If I have one complaint about this book, it's that there is almost too much of a good thing. What he's saying is great, well-expressed, and very much worth saying, and his examples are good, but there are so many of them, and he discusses them so thoroughly, that by the end my brain was getting a little tired. Then again, maybe that's my fault as much as Silver's, as one thing I did notice is that my level of brain fatigue depended a lot in my own interest levels in whatever area he was currently considering. Attempts to predict natural disasters or terrorist attacks, or to sort the noise of weather from the signal of climate? Fairly exciting stuff to me, and I zipped through it. But economics makes my eyes glaze over and baseball makes me yawn, and there was an awful lot of both.

Still. I definitely recommend it to anyone who is willing to take a bit of a dive into this subject, whether or not you happen t be a baseball fan. Although you'll probably enjoy parts of it much more than I did if you are. ( )
2 vote bragan | Sep 16, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
The first thing to note about The Signal and the Noise is that it is modest – not lacking in confidence or pointlessly self-effacing, but calm and honest about the limits to what the author or anyone else can know about what is going to happen next. Across a wide range of subjects about which people make professional predictions – the housing market, the stock market, elections, baseball, the weather, earthquakes, terrorist attacks – Silver argues for a sharper recognition of "the difference between what we know and what we think we know" and recommends a strategy for closing the gap.
added by eereed | editGuardian, Ruth Scurr (Nov 9, 2012)
What Silver is doing here is playing the role of public statistician — bringing simple but powerful empirical methods to bear on a controversial policy question, and making the results accessible to anyone with a high-school level of numeracy. The exercise is 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. Except that their authority was based to varying degrees on their establishment credentials, whereas Silver’s derives from his data savvy in the age of the stats nerd.
added by eereed | editNew York Times, Noam Scheiber (Nov 2, 2012)
A friend who was a pioneer in the computer games business used to marvel at how her company handled its projections of costs and revenue. “We performed exhaustive calculations, analyses and revisions,” she would tell me. “And we somehow always ended with numbers that justified our hiring the people and producing the games we had wanted to all along.” Those forecasts rarely proved accurate, but as long as the games were reasonably profitable, she said, you’d keep your job and get to create more unfounded projections for the next endeavor.......
added by marq | editNew York Times, LEONARD MLODINOW (Oct 23, 2012)
In the course of this entertaining popularization of a subject that scares many people off, the signal of Silver’s own thesis tends to get a bit lost in the noise of storytelling. The asides and digressions are sometimes delightful, as in a chapter about the author’s brief adventures as a professional poker player, and sometimes annoying, as in some half-baked musings on the politics of climate change. But they distract from Silver’s core point: For all that modern technology has enhanced our computational abilities, there are still an awful lot of ways for predictions to go wrong thanks to bad incentives and bad methods.
added by eereed | editSlate, Matthew Yglesias (Oct 5, 2012)
Mr. Silver reminds us that we live in an era of "Big Data," with "2.5 quintillion bytes" generated each day. But he strongly disagrees with the view that the sheer volume of data will make predicting easier. "Numbers don't speak for themselves," he notes. In fact, we imbue numbers with meaning, depending on our approach. We often find patterns that are simply random noise, and many of our predictions fail: "Unless we become aware of the biases we introduce, the returns to additional information may be minimal—or diminishing." The trick is to extract the correct signal from the noisy data. "The signal is the truth," Mr. Silver writes. "The noise is the distraction."

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This is a book about information, technology, and scientific progress.

It was October 23, 2008.
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"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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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 159420411X, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, September 2012: People love statistics. Statistics, however, do not always love them back. The Signal and the Noise, Nate Silver's brilliant and elegant tour of the modern science-slash-art of forecasting, shows what happens when Big Data meets human nature. Baseball, weather forecasting, earthquake prediction, economics, and polling: In all of these areas, Silver finds predictions gone bad thanks to biases, vested interests, and overconfidence. But he also shows where sophisticated forecasters have gotten it right (and occasionally been ignored to boot). In today's metrics-saturated world, Silver's book is a timely and readable reminder that statistics are only as good as the people who wield them. --Darryl Campbell

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:18 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

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. Drawing on his own groundbreaking work, Silver examines the world of prediction.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141975652, 1846147735

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