The Signal and the Noise.

Author:Silver, Nate
Position:Book review

Why So Many Predictions Fail--but Some Don't

By Nate Silver

Nate Silver, a political blogger for the New York Times at FiveThirtyEight.com, rose to prominence after developing a Major League Baseball player performanceforecasting system and predicting the outcome of the 2008 presidential election. He solidified his reputation after correctly predicting the 2012 presidential election in all fifty states. In The Signal and the Noise, his first book, he explains why predictions succeed and fail.

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THE TOPIC: As Silver points out in The Signal and the Noise, 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data are generated daily. But instead of making predictions easier, this deluge of information makes the science of forecasting harder. In other words, it's easy to lose the signal in the noise. In the first half of the book, which contains a series of essays on subjects including chess, gambling, politics, and weather, Silver shows why predictions may or may not work. In the second half, he offers examples of how to become a more accurate forecaster, whether you're analyzing the likelihood of the accuracy of a medical test or determining whether or not your spouse may have cheated on you given certain "evidence" in a dresser drawer.

Penguin. 544 pages. $27.95. ISBN: 9781594204111

New York Times ****

"I wondered how what I was reading related to the larger thesis. At times Mr. Silver reports in depth on a topic of lesser importance, or he skates over an important topic only to return to it in a later chapter, where it is again discussed only briefly." LEONARD MLODINOW

Slate ****

"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." MATTHEW YGLESIAS

Spectator (UK) ****

"Silver emerges as a modest, engaging narrator and an admirably clear thinker. But he might have explored more deeply why we find it so hard to disentangle two separate threads when thinking about the future. The first is prediction: what will...

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