The Signal and the Noise : Why Most Predictions Fail – but Some Don’t by Nate Silver

I am a little bit obsessed with Nate Silver, but I feel that’s pretty par for the course for America 2016. I think he occupies this really interesting space. He’s a journalist, but a data journalist, and this gives him this extra layer of trust or at least impenetrability. He actively isn’t a pundit, but he’s someone who gets listened to like one. People don’t really get called public intellectuals anymore, but that might be what he is.

He’s also gay, in a very quiet way. He’s a notable gay person who the world seems able to talk about without bringing up his sexuality, which is super interesting. I generally trust someone more if I know they’re gay, which adds a whole other layer to the constantly refreshing 538 life. I listen to the 538 elections podcast too, and Nate Silver is just? I’m trying to think of a way that I can explain this that doesn’t make me sound really weird, but that might not be possible right now, which I am going to blame on the election, but that’s probably just who I am as a human being. But the point is that someday I am going to write a paper about Nate Silver as a public figure, unless Emma stops me (Emma please stop me).

His book is not really about any of the things I find fascinating. It’s still a very interesting book! It’s about how we make predictions, and how we could make better predictions. He draws from tons of really interesting real world examples. He looks at the housing crisis, and baseball, and politics, and sports betting, and poker, and earthquakes, and weather forecasting. I learned a lot about prediction from this book, but also about like, random other stuff too. It’s a book that makes you feel smarter, and encourages you to think better.

I found his argument to be persuasive and well laid out, and I also appreciated the general tone of the book, which believes that we’re capable of learning how to make better choices, and understand the world better than we do now. For all that he talks about terrorism and global warming, it still felt like an optimist book. Maybe I’m just weird?

Anyway, if after the election you feel like there isn’t enough Nate Silver in your life then maybe you should read this book, it was pretty neat.


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