Don’t Bet on It
THE SIGNAL AND THE NOISE:
Why So Many Predictions Fail—but Some Don’t.
By Nate Silver.
Penguin Press. 534 pp. $27.95
Nate Silver is the new toast of the punditocracy. The author of The New York Times’ widely followed FiveThirtyEight blog, he correctly predicted the winner of the presidential vote in all 50 states, besting his already impressive record of 49 correct calls in the 2008 election. But what if Silver had been wrong? The last person to be surprised probably would have been Silver himself. That is what makes The Signal and the Noise, in which he surveys methods of prediction in everything from Texas hold ’em to global climate change, such a useful and important book.
Throughout human history, people have ascribed special and sometimes sacred qualities to those who seem able to see the future, from the Oracle at Delphi in ancient Greece to Nassim Taleb, the PhD-holding derivatives trader who famously warned right before the recent financial crisis that unforeseen “black swan” events occur more often than we think. Before Silver, Warren Buffett was the prophet of the hour.
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Steven Lagerfeld is editor of The Wilson Quarterly.more from this author >>
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