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

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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (5,114 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Nate Silver Narrator: Mike Chamberlain Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2012 ISBN: 9781101590072
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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 the blog FiveThirtyEight, 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 essential.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Nate Silver is the Kurt Cobain of statistics…His ambitious new book, The Signal and the Noise, is a practical handbook and a philosophical manifesto in one, following the theme of prediction through a series of case studies ranging from hurricane tracking to professional poker to counter-terrorism. It will be supremely valuable resource for anyone who wants to make good guesses about the future, or who wants to assess the guesses made by others. In other words, everyone.” 

    Boston Globe

  • “Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise is The Soul of a New Machine for the 21st century. Our political discourse is already better informed and more data-driven because of Nate’s influence. But here he shows us what he has always been able to see in the numbers—the heart and the ethical imperative of getting the quantitative questions right. A wonderful read—totally engrossing.”

    Rachel Maddow, author of Drift

  • “Silver delivers an improbably breezy read on what is essentially a primer on making predictions.” 

    Washington Post

  • “In this important book, Nate Silver explains why the performance of experts varies from prescient to useless and why we must plan for the unexpected. Must reading for anyone who cares about what might happen next.”

    Richard Thaler, co-author of Nudge 

  • A Wall Street Journal Bestseller
  • A Washington Post Bestseller
  • A Los Angeles Times Bestseller
  • A San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller
  • A 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Science & Technology
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A 2012 Barnes & Noble Best Book for Nonfiction
  • A 2012 eMusic Best Audiobook of the Year

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Neale | 1/22/2014

    " Great read, Nate Silver hits a home-run with this one. So many areas of the work are applicable elsewhere. A book to come back to in a years time. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Robin | 1/20/2014

    " Why does a good book on statistics always have too much baseball in it? I had to quit. Too depressing to think of baseball and politics as the same game. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Flax | 1/14/2014

    " Very few books could make statistics interesting for me, and actually change my worldview at the same time. This book did both for me, and the author Nate Silver is my new hero. I was intrigued after seeing his interview with Jon Stewart covering a wide variety of topics, and this book is much the same way. It's laid out in a logical way, with each chapter dealing with a different statistical model or world issue that statistics tries to help solve (everything from Baseball to Climate Change to Terrorism). A worthwhile read for anybody that wants something heavy to ponder and are not afraid to look at things a bit differently, even if that can be disturbing at times. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jakub Rehor | 1/13/2014

    " While there are many details one can quibble about, Nate Silver gets the big picture right: Bayesian learning is a superior way of obtaining knowledge, especially in a probabilistic field (and it turns out that most fields are probabilistic). Silver wrote a very simple, high-level introduction to Bayesian reasoning, and the book serves more as a motivator to go out and learn from more technical sources, but it serves as an overview of the many fields where these techniques led to major improvements in forecasting and knowledge and the book makes for a quick and pleasant read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Paula Lyle | 1/8/2014

    " Some of this is entertaining, but much of it is way over my head. That in and of itself is not insurmountable, but there are not enough attempts to make this meaningful to the layperson. I was hoping for a conclusion that would explain to me how this was usable in my life, but that didn't happen. While this may help me quantify other people's predictions (don't believe anything a political pundit says - duh) I'm not sure it will help me with my own. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jeremy | 1/3/2014

    " With this book, Nate Silver steps out in the Malcolm Gladwell/Michael Lewis vein: exploring some 'unified theory' that can make sense of big issues that can be hard to wrap one's arms around. His essential mantra is "Think probabilistically." Many of us think already think we do, but as Silver demonstrates, even the experts lack rigor. This book is a fascinating tour of some of our era's biggest playing fields--the economy, the weather, national security--that all the while gives all of us tools for seeing the world a little bit more clearly. The author's young age indicates that this is the first of many exceptional books to come. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sam | 12/24/2013

    " I got bored about half way through and quit. Much of it seems like common sense. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sean Martin | 11/29/2013

    " Fun read. Gets across quite nicely how predictive modeling works in an accessible and fun way. A bit light on some things I would have liked to see more of and a bit more detailed on some things than I wanted. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Stefan | 11/26/2013

    " Didn't finish before I had to return it to the library. Thought the content was interesting for the most part, but often got bogged down in too much detail. Hard to keep the momentum up when the chapters on how hard it is to forecast weather or earthquakes drag on and on. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kris Langman | 11/24/2013

    " Highly recommend it. Clear examples of the problems and benefits of predictions and probability. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Steve Rosen | 9/30/2013

    " Brilliant. An antidote for all the bias, baloney and superstition that are ubiquitous even in so-called "educated" societies like the U.S. This antidote should be ingested by all, especially politicians! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Andrew Lumley | 9/1/2013

    " I just can't get through this book, there's nothing wrong with it but I guess not my cup of tea. If you're the type that can listen to facts, numbers and statistics for hours and hours on end you'll enjoy it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Julian Haigh | 8/21/2013

    " As far as a book about statistics goes, this was riveting... As an introduction to data analysis and prediction it's good enough for a cocktail party, but not for actually doing anything. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chris Johnson | 1/17/2013

    " This is a must read. Really helps think about how both the media and scientific community presents data. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jody | 1/4/2013

    " Too much information, not enough story. Difficult to read and is there actually a conclusion? If so, I was not smart enough to sift it out. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chad | 1/2/2013

    " I love Nate Silver. But, like his columns, the chapters in this book wander all over the place before finding a point. (It was very readable, but I did start/stop/start/stop.) "

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About the Author

Nate Silver is a statistician, writer, and founder of the New York Times political blog FiveThirtyEight.com. He also developed PECOTA, a system for forecasting baseball performance that was bought by Baseball Prospectus. He was named one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time magazine and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

About the Narrator

Mike Chamberlain is an actor and voice-over performer in Los Angeles whose audiobook narration has won five AudioFile Earphones Awards. His voice credits range from radio commercials and television narration to animation and video game characters. Stage trained at Boston College, he has performed works from Shakespeare and the classics to contemporary drama and comedy.