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Non-Fiction Book Club to Discuss "The Signal and the Noise" by Nate Silver - 6:30 PM - April 7, 2016

Cover of the book 'The Signal and the Noise' by Nate Silver. Published by The Penguin Press

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail But Some Don’t by Nate Silver

Description from Book Jacket:

Human beings have to make plans and strategize for the future. As the pace of our lives becomes faster and faster, we have to do so more often and more quickly. But are our predictions any god? Is there hope for improvement?
In The Signal and the Noise, Nate Silver examines the world of prediction, investigating how we can distinguish a true signal from a universe of noisy, ever-increasing data. Many predictions fail, often at great cost to society, because most of us have a poor understanding of probability and uncertainty. We are wired to detect  signal, and we 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—and the ore we are willing to learn from our mistakes—the more we can turn information into knowledge and data into foresight.
Silver examines both successes and failures to determine what more accurate forecasters have in common. In keeping with his own aim to seek truth from data. Silver visits innovative forecasters in a range of areas, from hurricanes to baseball, from the poker table t the stock market, from Capitol Hill to the NBA. Even when their innovations are mods, we can learn from their methods. How can we train ourselves to think probabilistically, as they do? How can the insights of an eighteenth-century Englishman unlock the twenty-first-century challenges of global warming and terrorism? How can being smarter about the future help us make better decisions in the present?
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. Competition is essential to making forecasts better—but it can also make them worse if forecasters compete with the wrong goals in mind. The more accurate forecasters recognize that prediction is still a very rudimentary—and risky—science. They are motivated by truth rather than by politics, and they notice a thousand little details that bring them closer to it. Because of these attitudes, they can distinguish the signal from the noise.

About the Author:

Nate Silver

Nate Silver is a statistician, writer, and founder of the New York Times political blog Silver 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.

Pollard Library Non-Fiction book club happens at 6:30 on the first Thursday of every month. It is free and open to the public. Copies of books up for discussion are available for patrons to borrow on a first come first serve basis at the 1st Floor Information Desk. You may also reserve a copy by calling the Community Planning Department at 978-674-1542. For more information about this group please contact Sean Thibodeau, Coordinator of Community Planning, at or 978-674-1542.