The Signal and the Noise

  • by Nate Silver
  • Narrated by Mike Chamberlain
  • 15 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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 30. 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 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 listen.

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What the Critics Say

"Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise is The Soul of a New Machine for the 21st century." (Rachel Maddow, author of Drift)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Not Freakonomics

I love statistics and data analysis and Nate Silver is very smart and knows a lot about data analysis, yet Nate Silver seems to have an “unhealthy obsession” with data analysis. There are quite a number of interesting bits in The Signal and the Noise but it starts with a long and in depth discussion of baseball statistics, which (if you are apathetic to baseball) is only mildly interesting at best. The overall theme of this book was to show the value of Bayesian statistics. I am a big fan of Bayesian stats, but the descriptions here seem weak and the author sometimes seems to delve into data analysis just for sake of data analysis. It felt a bit like being in the room with an obsessive compulsive geek with a calculator. You may learn a lot, but it might not be a lot of fun.
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- Michael "I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read."

Hot

Nate Silver is hot right now. As I write this, it is three days before the presidential election and he is predicting an Obama win (82% chance of winning). His insights about stats, opinions, signal and noise are spot on. Although I am still not 100% sure what Bayesian logic is. Overall a great listen full of insight. A note on the narrator. I take back every negative comment I've ever made in my reviews of his performances. He was excellent in this context.
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- Grant "caffeinated"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-27-2012
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio