This week we’re proud to share a Longreads Member pick from Nate Silver‘s new book The Signal and the Noise, published by The Penguin Press. Chapter 1, “A Catastrophic Failure of Prediction,” comes recommended by Janet Paskin, editor of Businessweek.com, who writes:
Could there be a more appropriate hero for our time than Nate Silver? We can quantify and track and poll and log almost everything—and so we usually do, even if we’re not sure how to make sense of it all. But Silver is—or at least, he can tell you exactly how likely it is that he’s right.
His nerd-god omniscience during the 2012 election cycle made him a blast to watch, read and retweet. He was consistent, and he was right, and it made a lot of people think a little differently about the relentlessness of our political pageantry and punditry.
Here, in the first chapter of his new book, he revisits the housing crash, and the failure of the ratings agencies to spot it. It’s not new criticism. Even so, the prediction game is Silver’s strength, and he makes the whole thing feel outrageous again. He takes to task the errors in the rating agencies’ models and in their psychology. There are charts, graphs, and 101 footnotes, and in the end, it’s reassuring: If Silver thinks we can avoid making the same mistakes again—well, even a skeptic like me wouldn’t bet against him. After all, he knows the odds better than I do.
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