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The Signal and the Noise

Why So Many Predictions Fail-but Some Don't

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


"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, 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...

From Publishers Weekly

Dec 24, 2012 – Despite the fact that there is more information about everything from finance to professional sports available than ever before, predictions "may be more prone to failure" in this "era of Big Data." Balancing technical detail and thoughtful analysis with fluid prose, statistician Silver (FiveThirtyEight ) picks apart the many ways in which predictions in various fields have been flawed, while suggesting approaches that could improve the practice. The catastrophic miscalculations on the part of financial lending agencies that led to the recession of 2008 arose for the same types of reasons that caused baseball scouts to undervalue Boston Red Sox all-star player Dustin Pedroia or feed into a political pundit's flawed forecast: overconfidence in models based on oversimplified principles and unrealistic initial assumptions. Though there is no simple solution, a Bayesian methodology, in which prior beliefs are taken into account and initial assumptions constantly revised, would lead to more accurate predictive models. Effective prediction requires, according to Silver, "the serenity to accept the things we cannot predict, the courage to predict the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

Customer Reviews

Great read and very helpful

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.

'The Signal and the 30 minutes'

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.

Great book one chapter too long

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.

The Signal and the Noise
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  • $14.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Politics & Current Events
  • Published: Sep 27, 2012
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
  • Print Length: 560 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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