Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Signal And The Noise

Nate Silver made headlines when he famously out-predicted much of the field during the recent Presidential race; he accurately predicted the outcome in all fifty states. But the truth is, it wasn't the first time he made headlines with successful forecasts.

While value investors know not to rely on forecasts (as discussed many times on this site), Silver has made a career out of it. In his book, The Signal and The Noise, he discusses the challenges facing forecasters and the ways in which forecasting can be improved.

Many of the reasons Silver offers for why forecasting often fails won't be new to value investors. They include expert overconfidence, an incentive to entertain rather than inform, unknown unknowns and situations where there is a lack of timely feedback.

But the book is much more than about why forecasts fail; it offers lessons on how forecasts can be improved and interpreted to arrive at better results. Silver dives down into a number of fields (e.g. sports, weather, economics, politics), identifying why/where the biases exist, and provides solutions (to the extent possible at the present time) for improvement.

It's not a light read by any stretch; Silver provides enough detail about each industry so that the reader can understand the challenges that face forecasters specific to the industry. But at the same time there is no math or complicated formulas to understand; the book is meant for the layman, while at the same time educating the reader across a number of industries.


1 comment:

Brett @ wstreetstocks said...

Nate Silver is a really interesting person. I was shocked to see how accurate his predictions were that accurate. I am looking forward to hearing more of his predictions.