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The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail-but Some Don't Hardcover – Oct 2 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; 1 edition (Oct. 2 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594204111
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594204111
  • ASIN: 159420411X
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16 x 3.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 816 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #9,205 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A. D. Thibeault TOP 100 REVIEWER on Oct. 2 2012
Format: Hardcover
*A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.

Making decisions based on an assessment of future outcomes is a natural and inescapable part of the human condition. Indeed, as Nate Silver points out, "prediction is indispensable to our lives. Every time we choose a route to work, decide whether to go on a second date, or set money aside for a rainy day, we are making a forecast about how the future will proceed--and how our plans will affect the odds for a favorable outcome" (loc. 285). And over and above these private decisions, prognosticating does, of course, bleed over into the public realm; as indeed whole industries from weather forecasting, to sports betting, to financial investing are built on the premise that predictions of future outcomes are not only possible, but can be made reliable. As Silver points out, though, there is a wide discrepancy across industries and also between individuals regarding just how accurate these predictions are. In his new book `The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail--but Some Don't' Silver attempts to get to the bottom of all of this prediction-making to uncover what separates the accurate from the misguided.

In doing so, the author first takes us on a journey through financial crashes, political elections, baseball games, weather reports, earthquakes, disease epidemics, sports bets, chess matches, poker tables, and the good ol' American economy, as we explore what goes into a well-made prediction and its opposite.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Eric Lawton TOP 500 REVIEWER on Nov. 10 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You will hear a lot more about this book now that the author is becoming famous for his accurate prediction of the US election.

The book makes a compelling case for why we all need to learn more about statistics in order to better understand the world, and it also helps you learn at least the basics of what you need to know.

The first half explains why we often make enormous mistakes in our reasoning because we see patterns which aren't there - the apparent signal which is really an accident of the noise (there is no man in the moon - we just interpret random craters and flood plains that way). It makes a convincing case why we need to read on.

Once he has got us to understand how we make so many errors, he introduces us to the way out: Bayesian statistics.

I had tried before to get the idea behind Bayesian statistics but until I read this, I was not doing so well because I don't have the spare time to learn another whole branch of mathematics. By using many real world examples from sports and gambling, he leads us step-by-step, without equations, to understanding the basic principles and gave me the ability to see where I might be going wrong. You might need some more books before you can work the math yourself to come up with the kind of outstanding bets Nate Silver has made, as he tells us how he was able to beat the odds at betting on baseball thorough the use of statistical reasoning, but at least you'll know where you and others are going wrong and have some idea on how to start on better answers.

The title of this review is based on my sad realisation that the kind of people who want the simple answers that Silver demonstrates are not there are not the kind of people who read this type of book where better answers are to be found.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jayson Vavrek on March 25 2013
Format: Hardcover
Silver's book provides great examples on real-world statistical patterns (or lack thereof), and how they often are not as simple (or comfortable) as they appear. Topics include poker, baseball, elections, terrorism, global warming, chess, hurricanes, and earthquakes, but the underlying ideas are covered in somewhat older (and more well-known) literature such as Taleb's 'The Black Swan'.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There was much noise about Nate Silver's power of "prediction" in the arena of U.S. political horse races. His own passionate mastery weighing data and opinion to form valuable probabilistic assessments from sports to politics indicated he himself was a signal. Grounded odds commentary in a sea of superficial punditry and knee jerk betting. The gift of this well written, easy to follow work is it adds to the education on the probabilistic nature of probably everything.

Interviewing leading lights in diverse fields, the book romps from climate to earthquakes to terrorism to markets. He draws from his own card-counting all-nighters in the early days of online poker to both chaos and complexity theory to illustrate the lessons. All good. The limited 3 stars given here is only from the point of view of a trader. This one area gets quickie sound bytes. It makes a few valid points about the strength of the prediction of the Efficient Market Hypothesis. The near impossibility of "beating the market" over the long term - the tangle of noise in the short term. As if hedging his bets, he alludes parenthetically that passing "inefficiencies" ARE likely being profitably exploited. He gestures an especially dismissive sneer toward "chartists", quips more confidently about index funds, and hurries on to change the subject.

Our loss. While there are authors who HAVE contributed with more depth/balance to probabilistic approaches to market theory and trading, so much more can be done in this area. Markets surely form one of the historically richest examples of noise versus signal. Of the roles of luck and skill, the interaction of myth and fact. The caldron of complexity that makes up a market and causes "agreed" prices to endlessly ebb and flow.
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