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The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail - But Some Don't
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The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail - But Some Don't

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  38,808 ratings  ·  2,834 reviews
One of Wall Street Journal's Best Ten Works of Nonfiction in 2012

New York Times Bestseller

"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…could turn out to be one of the more momentous books o
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Hardcover, 534 pages
Published September 27th 2012 by Penguin (first published 2012)
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Dipu It is worth a read to understand the limitations of predictions - that is areas where predictions can be made successfully and where it does not have…moreIt is worth a read to understand the limitations of predictions - that is areas where predictions can be made successfully and where it does not have much chance of succeeding. (less)
Kirill Petrovsky I watched the election closely (as well as 538's forecasts) and they were quite correct. On election day they had Trump at approx 30% of winning - and…moreI watched the election closely (as well as 538's forecasts) and they were quite correct. On election day they had Trump at approx 30% of winning - and that scenario fulfilled itself.
So I'd say that this book will teach you exactly that - what predictions mean and how to understand them.(less)

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Michael Austin
Oct 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2012
Nate Silver has done an incredible (and, quite possibly an unpredictable) thing with _The Signal and the Noise_: He has written an extremely good book when he didn't even have to. Nothing is more common than for someone like Silver--a media phenom with a strong platform (his 538 blog) to phone a book in to cash in on his 15 minutes. I have probably read two dozen books in the past five years that do exactly this. But _The Signal and the Noise_ is a much more substantial book than, say, _The Blac ...more
Justin
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was ok
I had read most of this book with a fair degree of equanimity - finding some faults, but also a lot of good information in it. Then I'm jarred out of complacency by a sudden shot from nowhere, in which he says that David Hume, one of the greatest philosophers of the 18th century, is simply too 'daft to understand' probabilistic arguments. Without any introduction to the subject, he claims Hume is stuck in some 'skeptical shell' that prevents him from understanding the simple, elegant solutions o ...more
Charles
Dec 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Signal and the Noise is a very interesting book with mixed success: 3 1/2 stars, were this permitted. I found it somewhat difficult to review; however, my entire book group – without exception – had similar opinions. I would encourage you to view this as a group opinion.

At its best, TSANTN is interesting, illustrative, educational, and provocative. And many chapters – including banking, the weather, volcanoes, elections, and poker – were exactly that. Four stars, without hesitati
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Ted
Jan 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: math, americana
4 stars.

Nate Silver is probably best known as the statistician who confounded the “experts” by predicting the results of the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Presidential elections. As a matter of fact, his web site (https://fivethirtyeight.com/) actually did much better than the average pollsters and media with the 2016 election as well. I was following the writing on the site right up to the night of the election. Entering the final few days, 538 was giving Trump about a 1/3 chance of winni
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David
This is a fantastic book about predictions. I enjoyed every page. The book is filled to the brim with diagrams and charts that help get the points across. The book is divided into two parts. The first part is an examination of all the ways that predictions go wrong. The second part is about how applying Bayes Theorem can make predictions go right.

The book focuses on predictions in a wide variety of topics; economics, the stock market, politics, baseball, basketball, weather, climate,
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Julie
Mar 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver is a 2012 Penguin publication.

More Information, more problems-

This book was recommended by one the many books related emails I get each day. I can’t remember what the particular theme was for its recommendation, although I’m sure it had something to do with how political forecasting data could fail so miserably. Nevertheless, I must have thought it sounded interesting and placed a hold on it at the library.

Many of you may be familiar with sta
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Ilya
Sep 30, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book was a disappointment for me, and I feel that the time I spent reading it has been mostly wasted. I will first, however, describe what I thought is good about the book. Everything in this book is very clear and understandable. As for the content, I think that the idea of Baysean thinking is interesting and sound. The idea is that, whenever making any hypothesis (e.g. a positive mammogram is indicative of breast cancer) into a prediction (for example, that a particular woman with a positive ...more
Kate
Jul 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I'm going to do this the Nate Silver (Bayesian) way. Kind of.

Prior Probability
Initial estimate of how likely it is that I will buy Nate Silver a drink: x = 10% (This may seem high, given that he is a stranger who lives in another city, but I did rely on his blog during the past two elections, so I'd at least like to.)
New Event -- I read Nate Silver's book
Probability that I will fly to New York and track him down and thrust a drink in his hand because this was a great book and I am impressed. y = 50%
P
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Wen
Feb 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: data-science
Another classic on statistics. This one focused more on real-life applications; sports, politics, finance, weather, climate change... I assume those who had basic statistics would enjoy it more. it was about weeding out noises from the data, and zooming in on signals which will improve the quality of the predictions. All easy say (or read) than do :)
Here is my prediction...okay more like a hunch: machine won’t be taking over the sorting task mentioned above before humans safely land on Mars. Le
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Amin
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"فارسی در ادامه"

My actual rating would be 7/10. In general, it was an interesting and insightful read, although I have mixed feelings about some of the chapters and concepts, and sometimes the pretentious tone of presenting ideas. Let's start by two weaknesses:

At some points it seems good prediction looks like a 'hammer' to see all the problems as 'needles'. So, all the problems can be interpreted as the failures of prediction. To me it does not sound very scientific (in
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Dewey
Oct 25, 2012 rated it did not like it
I wanted to like this book as I enjoy reading Silver's blog. The majority of chapters in this book are inferior rehashes of arguments and anecdotes from other authors. See Moneyball, the Information, Fortune's Formula, A Random Walk, The Theory of Poker etc. etc. The book is clearly intended to capitalize on the popularity of his 538 blog, which as John Cassidy of the New Yorker just articulated overemphasizes the use of Monte-Carlo simulations to come up with inanely precise projections of a te ...more
Mike Mueller
Jan 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I followed Nate Silver's blog (FiveThirtyEight) closely during the run-up to election day 2012. His premise was simple: grab every public poll possible, attempt to correct for pollsters' known biases, and produce a forecast based on the result. Somehow no one had thought to do this before. Silver simply crunched the numbers and nailed the outcomes in every state. Meanwhile, pundits, bloggers, and assorted blowhards made predictions based on nothing but gut feeling and partisan hackery, and they ...more
Cameron
Feb 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a really amazing book - a must read for anyone who makes decisions or judgement calls. Even before I had finished the book it caused me to look at some of the assumptions and bad forecasts I was making as well as recognising "patterns" as noise.

There is nothing "new" in this book, just well established and solid methods applied well and explained very coherently. The writing is excellent, the graphics helpful and the type not too small. There are plenty of footnotes (relevant
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Mehrsa
Mar 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Some interesting parts, but it's really hard to take this superforecaster seriously on political forecasting--you know what I mean? And I am sort of over the moneyball theory too. I mean, it was useful a few years ago to break free from "gut feelings", but I think the pendulum swung too far into just cold data and needs to swing back into the world of humans and fat tails and Trump getting elected.
Mal Warwick
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
An eminently readable book about how experts make sense of the world (or, more often, don’t)



Statisticians rarely become superstars, but Nate Silver is getting close. This is the guy who writes the FiveThirtyEight.com blog for the New York Times and has correctly predicted the outcome of the last two presidential elections in virtually every one of the 50 states. But Silver is no political maven weaned on election trivia at his parents’ dinner table: he earned his stripes
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Rick Presley
Dec 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Nate Silver does an excellent job demonstrating the different domains where statistics plays a part. More importantly, he describes why methods that proved successful in one domain are inadequate or inappropriate to another domain. The best part about the book is that he doesn't resort to math to explain these differences.

The problem with the book is that he fails to take the lessons from previous chapters and apply them to subsequent chapters. I think this may have explained his hubris in mis-
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Brian Clegg
Sep 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
It was really interesting coming to this book soon after reading The Black Swan, as in some ways they cover similar ground – but take a very different approach. I ought to say straight away that this book is too long at a wrist-busting 534 pages, but on the whole it is much better than its rival. Where Black Swan is written in a highly self-indulgent fashion, telling us far too much about the author and really only containing one significant piece of information, Signal and Noise has much more c ...more
Dave
Jan 19, 2013 rated it liked it
Silver's gone 99 for 100 on predicting the state winners of the last two presidential elections. Here he goes something like 7 for 13, very good in parts, solid in some, and misfires in others. It's well-researched, mostly objective (but by no means totally), but it rarely covers anything I didn't already know. If you've read Michael Lewis's The Big Short and Moneyball you can skip chapters 1 and 3 and if you've ever had a class that proves pundits are not any more accurate forecasters than the ...more
Lightreads
Dec 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Eh, underwhelmed. A survey of prediction and predictive tools, starting with failures and moving on to successes. Nothing particularly new or interesting here, and I think Silver knew it. It’s not like the premise that the strength of a prediction depends on the accuracy of the data is revelatory or anything. A lot of survey nonfiction like this can be saved with interesting collateral content. This book tours over a dozen topics, but I didn’t find much new or compelling or even particularly com ...more
Ms.pegasus
Dec 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the process of forecasting
Recommended to Ms.pegasus by: interview with the author on the Jon Stewart show
Shelves: nonfiction
Yes, this book is by that guy — Nate Silver who correctly predicted the winner of the 2008 presidential elections in 49 out of 50 states. That might seem off-putting. The credentials portend a heavy tome on statistics. Those fears are quickly allayed. This book is entertaining as well as informative.

Silver offers solace to those frustrated by information overload. Over-simplification on the one hand and brute-force data crunching on the other can both lead to serious errors. Of the latter he writes
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Gumble's Yard
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
Book about prediction by the author of the 538 political blog, which became particularly famous in the 2012 presidential election (after the book was written) due to the author's high confidence in an Obama victory due to polling evidence in marginals. The author was prior to 538 spread over two jobs - online poker (until it was made illegal in US - see below) and baseball stat evaluation (where he developed his own site which he sold to a professional site for which he then worked).

The book's
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Patrick Brown
Jun 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was a fun read that tickled the nonfiction part of my brain in pleasant ways. It felt a bit repetitive in parts, and I found myself wondering how various chapters (such as the chess chapter) related to the whole. In the end, I'll take from this book the need to think probabilistically in life, and Bayes' theorem, about which I knew little. The chapter on terrorism was an excellent ending to the book, as it not only tied the concepts together, but it also made apparent the stakes in predicti ...more
Gina
May 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Reading Nate Silver is like exhaling after holding your breath for a really long time. I found FiveThirtyEight back in the primary days of 2008, when it was Hillary and Barack fighting it out, and it became apparent that not one of Hillary's advisers to whom she was presumably paying lots and lots of money were as smart or observant as Nate Silver (or Obama's advisers). One of my favorite tweets ever (I don't read many tweets) came from Ken Jennings on election morning of 2012, something along t ...more
Todd N
Oct 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: big-data
I finished this right before the 2012 elections, and I should have written my review before then so that I could convince more people to read this book when Nate Silver got more than Internet famous for a few weeks.

At its core, this is a book about how to think -- a very important topic in these times when anything less than complete certainty is viewed as a weakness and the usual response to a disagreement is to double down on the position no matter how ridiculous.

In con
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Jonathan Mckay
Dec 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
The Prior
Before reading this book, I thought there was a 70% chance I would rate this book 3 stars or higher.

The Signal
Silver's chapter on Poker was interesting both from the perspective of statistics, but also about poker tactics and the metagame. I wish this were the core of the book. Also, the explanation of Bayes' theorem was solid, as was the chapter on stocks.

The Noise
Everything else. Superforecasting is MUCH better when talking about predictions, and much more engaging. Shiller's book I/>
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Susan Visser
Nov 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audible
I really enjoyed the book, Nate's talk, and meeting him in person. The book is about predictions and goes through many world events that we can all relate to and discusses the signals and noise that went on around these events.

You'll recognize the 2008 US election, the large earthquakes, especially in Japan, swine flu, both the one in the 70s and the more recent epidemic, economic meltdowns, 911, Pearl Harbour, stock market fluctuations, and much more. Throughout these stories, we learn about w
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Kristen
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
I picked up The Signal and the Noise from the library because I thought it would be slightly boring. I've been having trouble sleeping lately, and I wanted something that would be distracting without being too stimulating. For a while it was hitting that sweet spot, but then it took a turn toward the unexpectedly awesome.

Nate Silver is great a explaining things and illustrating them with compelling stories. That's what I was assuming the book would be. But what I was not expecting was the exten
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Rose
Nov 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book had so many parts that really captured my attention. The chapter on chess was particularly fascinating. Nate Silver did a great job of compiling vignettes about humans and our inability to see the signal through the noise.

On the other hand, this book is simply a series of vignettes. And while I love that they are told in a way that conveys the point, I didn't feel like each chapter I was continuing on a journey or growing from point to point. It was just a series of points,
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El_kiablo
Feb 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Nate Silver is clearly trying to do the "unusual analysis of normal occurances" thing that Freakonomics did, although his topics are a bit bigger and his discussion is a little more numbers oriented. Unfortunately, it's also less engaging. He's not a terrible writer, per se, especially given how data driven he is, but he's also not particularly compelling.

A lot of the subjects he covers are potentially interesting. The problem is that the academic tone combined with his often abstract subject m
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Laura
Apr 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommended to Laura by: NPR
A love song to Bayesian reasoning on par with http://xkcd.com/1132/.

Proposes an answer to a question that baffled me during the most recent economic collapse; why so many people driving the crisis maintained, with all apparent earnestness, that no one saw it coming while the record reveals that LOTS of people did. Lots of people spoke movingly about housing bubbles. Lots of people suspected that collateralized debt obligations were far riskier than rated and some were vastly overvalued. But the rating organizations
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Nathaniel Read "Nate" Silver (born January 13, 1978) is an American statistician and writer who analyzes baseball and elections. He is currently the editor-in-chief of ESPN's FiveThirtyEight blog and a Special Correspondent for ABC News. Silver first gained public recognition for developing PECOTA, a system for forecasting the performance and career development of Major League Baseball players, which he sold to ...more
“Distinguishing the signal from the noise requires both scientific knowledge and self-knowledge: the serenity to accept the things we cannot predict, the courage to predict the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” 30 likes
“Most of you will have heard the maxim "correlation does not imply causation." Just because two variables have a statistical relationship with each other does not mean that one is responsible for the other. For instance, ice cream sales and forest fires are correlated because both occur more often in the summer heat. But there is no causation; you don't light a patch of the Montana brush on fire when you buy a pint of Haagan-Dazs.” 19 likes
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