Silver at South by Southwest, 2009
|Born||Nathaniel Read Silver
January 13, 1978 
East Lansing, Michigan, U.S.
|Residence||New York City, New York, U.S.|
|Alma mater||University of Chicago
London School of Economics
|Known for||PECOTA, FiveThirtyEight|
|Title||Editor in Chief, FiveThirtyEight|
The public is even more pessimistic about the economy than even the most bearish economists are.
The problem is that when polls are wrong, they tend to be wrong in the same direction. If they miss in New Hampshire, for instance, they all miss on the same mistake.
Every four years in the presidential election, some new precedent is broken.
Whenever you have dynamic interactions between 300 million people and the American economy acting in really complex ways, that introduces a degree of almost chaos theory to the system, in a literal sense.
Walk rate is probably the area in which a pitcher has the most room to improve, but a rate that high is tough to overcome.
All I know is that I have way more stuff that I want to write about than I possibly have time to.
Well the way we perceive accuracy and what accuracy is statistically are really two different things.
I think people feel like there are all these things in our lives that we don't really have control over.
Any one game in baseball doesn't tell you that much, just as any one poll doesn't tell you that much.
Actually, one of the better indicators historically of how well the stock market will do is just a Gallup poll, when you ask Americans if you think it's a good time to invest in stocks, except it goes the opposite direction of what you would expect. When the markets going up, it in fact makes it more prone toward decline.
If you aren't taking a representative sample, you won't get a representative snapshot.
I have to think about how to not spread myself too thin. It's a really great problem to have.
Every day, three times per second, we produce the equivalent of the amount of data that the Library of Congress has in its entire print collection, right? But most of it is like cat videos on YouTube or 13-year-olds exchanging text messages about the next Twilight movie.
I don't think that somebody who is observing or predicting behavior should also be participating in the 'experiment.'
It's a little strange to become a kind of symbol of a whole type of analysis.
The Protestant Reformation had a lot to do with the printing press, where Martin Luther's theses were reproduced about 250,000 times, and so you had widespread dissemination of ideas that hadn't circulated in the mainstream before.
Almost everyone's instinct is to be overconfident and read way too much into a hot or cold streak.
To be a very, very minor, eighth-tier celebrity, you realize, 'Hey, celebrities are just like us.'
Caesar recognized the omens, but he didn't believe they applied to him.
I have to make sure that I make good choices and that if I put my name on it, it's a high-quality endeavor and that I have time to be a human being.
Well, you know, you're not going to have 86 percent of Congress voted out of office.
When you try to predict future E.R.A.'s with past E.R.A.'s, you're making a mistake.
You can build a statistical model and that's all well and good, but if you're dealing with a new type of financial instrument, for example, or a new type of situation – then the choices you're making are pretty arbitrary in a lot of respects.
When human judgment and big data intersect there are some funny things that happen.
We are living our lives more online and you need to have different ways to capture that.
People don't have a good intuitive sense of how to weigh new information in light of what they already know. They tend to overrate it.
You don't want to influence the same system you are trying to forecast.
Remember, the Congress doesn't get as many opportunities to make an impression with the public.
I view my role now as providing more of a macro-level skepticism, rather than saying this poll is good or this poll is evil.
First of all, I think it's odd that people who cover politics wouldn't have any political views.
If there's a major foreign policy event, the President gets on TV, the Congress doesn't.
I actually buy the paper version of The New York Times maybe once or twice a week.
If you're keeping yourself in the bubble and only looking at your own data or only watching the TV that fits your agenda then it gets boring.
To the extent that you can find ways where you're making predictions, there's no substitute for testing yourself on real-world situations that you don't know the answer to in advance.
The thing that people associate with expertise, authoritativeness, kind of with a capital 'A,' don't correlate very well with who's actually good at making predictions.
We're not that much smarter than we used to be, even though we have much more information – and that means the real skill now is learning how to pick out the useful information from all this noise.
I think there's space in the market for a half-dozen kind of polling analysts.
On average, people should be more skeptical when they see numbers. They should be more willing to play around with the data themselves.
People gravitate toward information that implies a happier outlook for them.
We want to get 80%-85% of predictions right, not 100%. Or else we calibrated our estimates in the wrong way.
By playing games you can artificially speed up your learning curve to develop the right kind of thought processes.
In baseball you have terrific data and you can be a lot more creative with it.
When you get into statistical analysis, you don't really expect to achieve fame. Or to become an Internet meme. Or be parodied by 'The Onion' – or be the subject of a cartoon in 'The New Yorker.' I guess I'm kind of an outlier there.
The key to making a good forecast is not in limiting yourself to quantitative information.
If you have reason to think that yesterday's forecast went wrong, there is no glory in sticking to it.
I prefer more to kind of show people different things than tell them 'oh, here's what you should believe' and, over time, you can build up a rapport with your audience.
I don't play fantasy baseball anymore now because it's too much work, and I feel like I have to hold myself up to such a high standard. I'm pretty serious about my fantasy football, though.
I love South American food, and I haven't really been down there. I really need a vacation.
A lot of journalism wants to have what they call objectivity without them having a commitment to pursuing the truth, but that doesn't work. Objectivity requires belief in and a commitment toward pursuing the truth – having an object outside of our personal point of view.
I've become invested with this symbolic power. It really does transcend what I'm actually doing and what I actually deserve.
Distinguishing the signal from the noise requires both scientific knowledge and self-knowledge.
People attach too much importance to intangibles like heart, desire and clutch hitting.
I was looking for something like baseball, where there's a lot of data and the competition was pretty low. That's when I discovered politics.