Nate Silver, Artist of Uncertainty

… One of the biggest problems we have in separating signal from noise is that when we look too hard for certainty that isn’t there, we often end up attracted to noise, either because it is more prominent or because it confirms what we would like to believe.

This is a worse problem in politics than in baseball or poker. If most polls are reporting a tight race, an outlier showing a bigger gap will be the poll that makes news, thus getting more of our attention. …

In the late Nobel laureate Richard Feynman’s appendix to the Rogers Commission report on the Space Shuttle Challenger accident, Feynman’s concluding words were “Nature cannot be fooled.” Feynman would have applauded The Signal and the Noise, for Silver shows in area after area that while experts cannot fool nature, it’s all too easy for them to fool themselves and deceive others. [cont.]

Samuel Popkin, UCSD (The American Prospect)