Cory Leonard

booklist | the signal and the noise –

In politics on October 7, 2012 at 4:58 am

Call me a fox (and why you should call yourself one, too):

Hedgehogs, Silver says, are those who believe “in governing principles about the world that behave as though they were physical laws.” Foxes, by contrast, “are scrappy creatures who believe in a plethora of little ideas and in taking a multitude of approaches toward a problem.”

The author casts himself as a fox, and he thinks you should be one, too. As Silver explains, predictions typically fail when people—hedgehog people—ignore new information that conflicts with their worldview. And to remind us of how far afield the hedgehogs can wander, he cues up plenty of humiliating tape. There’s the economist who predicted a nine-percentage-point victory for Al Gore in the 2000 presidential ballot, based on an outmoded Vietnam-era model adapted from the computation of troop casualties. And there is the whole battery of Kremlinologists who missed the imminent decline of the Soviet Union because of their hidebound views of how communist leaders retained power. The heroes of The Signal and the Noise are those who stay nimble, forever incorporating new ideas and new information without drowning in a sea of extraneous data—people, in short, like Nate Silver.

via the signal and the noise – / current issue.



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