The book" The Signal and the Noise: why so many predictions fail but some don't," is a book written by Nate Silver which was published in the year 2012. The book deals with the art of using probability and statistics to predict various real-world circumstances. The book includes multiple cases ranging from baseball, elections, the 2008 financial crisis, poker, climate change, and weather forecasting. This paper aims at summarizing the main chapters of the book and outlining how the art of probability can be applied in the real world circumstances.
The failure in the prediction of the 2008 recession and housing bubble is one of the issues discussed in this book. The main problem was that people failed to consider the model uncertainty (Silver 154). People shouldn't have taken the predicted 0.05% failure to pay mortgage loans at face value. This rate was equal to the AAA ratings on mortgages agencies, which is reserved for countries with high liquidity and best-performing businesses. The people who made this prediction failed to analyze the situation from different directions. The view that the increase in housing prices was a result of changes in fundamental factors was wrong. The factors that lead to the housing bubble and recession seems like a common occurrence. The situation was worsened by the fact that all factors were left to chances. These factors would have been offset by safeguards put in place in our social institutions.
Political elections prediction is another are addressed by the book. Most political expert and pundits use chances to predict political events which make them worse than the models which use raw data (Silver 18). The average of various experts' forecasts gives a better estimate than the projections of an individual. Some experts make better forecasts compared to leaving things to chances. Experts that make better predictions make use of various approaches in their prediction work by being ready to change their minds, make use of probability, and apply observation skills rather than relying on theories. Political partisanship is associated with the use of pre-existing narratives to make predictions. This approach leads to weak predictions but helps in gaining media attention. Therefore, visible people make the worst predictions compared to less visible people.
The fall of the Soviet Union was not predicted, seemingly due to failure to integrate various perspectives. Some people knew about Gorbachev's progressiveness, while others recognized the poor functioning of the Soviet's economy (Silver). However, there was a great non-overlapping between the two groups. Nate Silver, on the other hand, brings together pool data, records of pool data from history, economic information, and data about state demographics to make predictions about elections. The Cook political record is a resourceful organization in the prediction of how political polls will turn out. This recommendation is based on the organization's impressive track record of making accurate predictions.
Nate Silver also addresses problems affecting weather prediction. Weather forecasters having access to a large amount of data offers them feedback loops, which makes it possible for them to test their hypotheses many times (Silver 88). Predicting what would happen under certain initial conditions by averaging the results of different initial conditions is complicated and tiresome. It suggests the averaging of predictions made from various assumptions to reduce uncertainties in situations that seem confusing and complicated to analyze. Calibration of weather experts is a good thing. It is typical for the local news channel to give misleading predictions to impress its viewers. The combination of computer models and human judgment leads to a better prediction than when computer models are used alone. The failure to address hurricane Katrina properly was a result of the local government's initial ignorance of weather forecasters, while local people did not take the prediction seriously.
Climate change predictions involve various uncertainties such as uncertainty about climate models, initial climatic conditions, and uncertainty about the readiness of the society to adapt to changes (Silver 304). A possibility of global cooling exists due to sulfur emissions. The risk of the impact of this climatic change justifies the prevention of climatic change since consequences might be even worse than those in the median case. The correlation between CO2 emission and temperature change can be predicted better using a simple regression method than the use of complex models.
Stock market prediction is another issue discussed by the book. A problem arises when predicting stock markets due to difficulties in differentiating market signals from noise (Silver 518). Pattern may exist in the stock market but disappears as a result of overexploitation by stakeholders. However, a bubble in the stock market can be easily predicted by averaging prices to earnings ratio for all stocks. A sufficient high ratio is an indication that a bubble exists. Prediction of when the bubble will pop is where the problem lies. Most investors use other people's money; thus, they are only interested in short-term happenings in the stock market. Incentives exist not to short sell too much, which leads to market inefficiency.
The book also discusses how predictions can be made in poker games. Bayesian reasoning is applied by elite poker players in estimating the probability of a hand based on the cards on the table (Silver 240). This estimation also depends on the opponent's behavior. Additional information such as the fact women players tend to play more conservatively compared to men is also included in this prediction. In competitive situations such as poker, a relatively small prediction effort by a player compared to opponents can lead to better forecasting. However, in less competitive cases such as election results prediction, a minimal effort can lead to better prediction.
Silver, Nate. The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail, But Some Don't. Penguin, 2015.
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