Nate Silver Might Stop Blogging if It’s Influencing Election Results

From Politico:

New York Times statistician Nate Silver told an audience at Washington University this week that he might stop writing his influential FiveThirtyEight blog were it to start influencing election results.

"The polls can certainly affect elections at times,” Silver told the audience, according to a report in Student Life, an independent campus newspaper. “I hope people don’t take the forecasts too seriously. You’d rather have an experiment where you record it off from the actual voters, in a sense, but we’ll see. If it gets really weird in 2014, in 2016, then maybe I’ll stop doing it. I don’t want to influence the democratic process in a negative way.”

Silver said he wanted to make people “more informed, I don’t want to affect their motive because they trust the forecasters.”

The Today Show profiles Nate Silver and his new book:

Human beings do not have very many natural defenses. We are not all that fast, and we are not all that strong. We do not have claws or fangs or body armor. We cannot spit venom. We cannot camouflage ourselves. And we cannot fly. Instead, we survive by means of our wits. Our minds are quick. We are wired to detect patterns and respond to opportunities and threats without much hesitation.

“This need of finding patterns, humans have this more than other animals,” I was told by Tomaso Poggio, an MIT neuroscientist who studies how our brains process information. “Recognizing objects in difficult situations means generalizing. A newborn baby can recognize the basic pattern of a face. It has been learned by evolution, not by the individual.”

The problem, Poggio says, is that these evolutionary instincts sometimes lead us to see patterns when there are none there. “People have been doing that all the time,” Poggio said. “Finding patterns in random noise.”

The human brain is quite remarkable; it can store perhaps three terabytes of information. And yet that is only about one one-millionth of the information that IBM says is now produced in the world each day. So we have to be terribly selective about the information we choose to remember.

Nate Silver gets the (unofficial) Shepard Fairey treatment.

Nate Silver gets the (unofficial) Shepard Fairey treatment.

Salon says “Nate Silver nails it.” Above, a comparison of FiveThirtyEight's predictions compared to the results thus far.

(We’re also thrilled Silver’s book The Signal and the Noise is currently #3 on Amazon!)

Salon says “Nate Silver nails it.” Above, a comparison of FiveThirtyEight's predictions compared to the results thus far.

(We’re also thrilled Silver’s book The Signal and the Noise is currently #3 on Amazon!)

FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver, author of instant bestseller The Signal and The Noise, stopped by “The Colbert Report”, where he admitted he prefers the Ebola virus to taking pundits at their word.

"We look at all the polls, not just the Gallup Poll. So, it’s kind of like if you have, you know, four out of five doctors agree that reducing cholesterol reduces your risk of a heart attack, Gallup is like the fifth doctor."

— Nate Silver on “Real Time with Bill Maher