This is one for my desert-island longlist – a book to re-read section by section for as long as it takes until I’m sure I have grasped the whole of Nate Silver’s thesis on ‘the art and science of prediction’. If that opportunity arises I will do so with pleasure, because Silver unravels the complexities of his specialism with elegance, wit and a range of entertaining examples, from baseball and poker to earthquakes and hurricanes. On first diving in, however, The Signal and the Noise is like the kind of sermon from the pulpit that brilliantly illuminates as you listen to it, yet somehow evaporates in the mind a few minutes later. So my advice is to go slowly – and look closely at the diagrams. It’ll be worth the effort.
Let’s start with the title and the author: ‘the signal’ is whatever turns out to be the true indicator of a significant trend, the pattern that gives the clue as to what the future is really going to look like. But the challenge for forecasters is to separate the signal