"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
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.