For many Americans, it was too close to call. And in fact, even in the exit polls, pundits were unwilling to put a name to who they thought would be the next President of the United States. That’s all apart from one man, Nathanial Read ‘Nate’ Silver. Silver was born in January 1978 and is a statistician and a political analyst and blogger. He first came into recognition as he developed a system called PECOTA, by which the performance and career paths of Major League Basket Ball players could be measured. He then began to publish his theories and predictions about presidential elections, beginning with the 2008 in which he correctly predicted 49 out of 50 states, missing only Indiana by 1% which went to Obama. It was this outstanding success that gave his website fivethirtyeight.com policital kudos and he began writing for The New York Times and received several awards, including Blogger of the Year in 2009 by The Week and a Webby Award in 2012.
The 34-year-old statistician, who at one time made a living from playing poker, in this years political race to the Whitehouse, correctly predicted all the states declared in what was billed as the tightest election race in decades. And his blog on the New York Times website became essential reading for every pundit and politico who wanted a heads up as to who was likely to win. Silver predicted, using his magic mathematical formula, that there was a 90.9 per cent likelihood of an Obama win and that the President would win 332 Electoral College seats compared to 206 for Romney. Of course with hindsight this may seem a moot point, but voters can remember that even official spokespeople were not calling it and deciding to stay on the fence until most of the results had come in. Silver was the only one that put his reputation on the line and gave his prediction.
It is this accuracy that has drawn widespread praise in the US. MSNBC television host Rachel Maddow said during election coverage: “You know who win the election tonight? Nate Silver.” And Chris Taylor, writing a blog on the Politico site, said: “Here is the absolute, undoubted winner of this election: Nate Silver and big data.”
Sales of Silver’s book, ‘The Signal & The Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail, But Some Don’t’ have also seen a huge rise of over 800% as news of his successful prediction filter around the world. Here’s the blurb:
‘Every time we choose a route to work, decide whether to go on a second date, or set aside money for a rainy day, we are making a prediction about the future. Yet from the global financial crisis to 9/11 to the Fukushima disaster, we often fail to foresee hugely significant events. In The Signal and the Noise, the New York Times’ political forecaster and statistics guru Nate Silver explores the art of prediction, revealing how we can all build a better crystal ball.
In his quest to distinguish the true signal from a universe of noisy data, Silver visits hundreds of expert forecasters, in fields ranging from the stock market to the poker table, from earthquakes to terrorism. What lies behind their success? And why do so many predictions still fail? By analysing the rare prescient forecasts, and applying a more quantitative lens to everyday life, Silver distils the essential lessons of prediction.
We live in an increasingly data-driven world, but it is harder than ever to detect the true patterns amid the noise of information. In this dazzling insider’s tour of the world of forecasting, Silver reveals how we can all develop better foresight in our everyday lives.’
You can buy ‘The Signal & The Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail, But Some Don’t’ by Nate Silver here from £12.49.