Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

SXSW: Nate Silver Discusses Data Bias, the Strangeness of Fame

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the listen-up dept.

Politics 136

Nerval's Lobster writes "Nate Silver feels a little odd about his fame. That's not to say that he hasn't worked to get to his enviable position. Thanks to his savvy with predictive models, and the huge readership platform provided by The New York Times hosting his FiveThirtyEight blog, he managed to forecast the most recent presidential election results in all 50 states. His accuracy transformed him into a rare breed: a statistician with a household name. But onstage at this year's SXSW conference, Silver termed his fame 'strange' and 'out of proportion,' and described his model as little more than averaging the state and national polls, spiced a bit with his algorithms. "It bothered me that this was such a big deal," he told the audience. In politics, he added, most of the statistical analysis being conducted simply isn't good, which lets someone like him stand out; same as in baseball, where he made his start in predictive modeling. In fields with better analytics, the competition for someone like him would be much fiercer. He also talked about, despite a flood of data (and the tools to analyze it) in the modern world, we still face huge problems when it comes to actually understanding and using that data. 'You have a gap between what we think we know and what we really know,' he said. 'We tend to be oversensitive to random fluctuations in the data and mistake the fluctuations for real relationships.'"

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

It's about the music (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43139717)

I guess I'm the only one here that goes to SXSW for the music and skips the rest. Can't this year, though.

Work, blah.

silver is honest (4, Interesting)

SlippyToad (240532) | about a year and a half ago | (#43139783)

I think Silver stands out because unlike too many modern American politicians, he is interested in the facts, and not what bullshit he can use the data to support.

So it's not so much that he's done a fantastic job figuring all this out, it's just that he's fucking honest about the results unlike a certain perpetually-deluded political party I'm sick of naming.

Re:silver is honest (3, Insightful)

JayBean (841258) | about a year and a half ago | (#43139907)

I think Silver stands out because unlike too many modern American politicians, he is interested in the facts, and not what bullshit he can use the data to support.

So it's not so much that he's done a fantastic job figuring all this out, it's just that he's fucking honest about the results unlike a certain perpetually-deluded political party I'm sick of naming.

You are only thinking of one perpetually deluded political party? I have the opposite experience. I can't name a political party/organization that wasn't perpetually deluded.

Re:silver is honest (3, Insightful)

pezpunk (205653) | about a year and a half ago | (#43139953)

"both sides are equally bad/dishonest/wrong" is the biggest political cop-out ever. it's sad that such pat vaguaries aren't instantly embarassing to the faces they so often fly out of.

Re:silver is honest (3, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140003)

Both sides are not equally wrong, but that doesn't mean both sides are right. The Republicans are wrong 99% of the time. The Democrats are wrong 95% of the time. Why can't we field a candidate who's right even half the time?

If you vote for the party that's right most often, you're still voting for someone who is almost always wrong.

Re:silver is honest (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140065)

Deadlocking them produces the best feasible outcome.

The only time to worry is when ether of them controls executive/senate/house. Good thing whenever that happens both parties go to full on 100% wrong playing to their respective bases and they quickly lose enough control to restore deadlock.

Deadlocked into debt (5, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140141)

Deadlocking them produces the best feasible outcome.

Except on the periodic occasion when we need them to do actually something. You know, like not endlessly raise the national debt because they want to promise everything but don't want to have to tell the voters they have to actually pay for it someday.

Re:Deadlocked into debt (2, Interesting)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140793)

Whenever they 'do something' they make that worse.

The Ds think they don't have a spending problem. The Rs think only the Ds have a spending problem.

That said: In a global 'economic war' deficit spending is the counter to currency pegs. The problem is the end game of that, leave both China and their customers fucked. That and exchange rate shifts that should be between the Yahn and all western currencies appear between the yahn/dollar and other western currencies.

We are part of the problem. (3, Informative)

sjbe (173966) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141237)

The Ds think they don't have a spending problem. The Rs think only the Ds have a spending problem.

It's not solely a problem with either the Ds or the Rs really. It's a problem with the voters who elect them. Their disagreements usually are just a symptom of the problem. WE are the ones who demand all these services (medicare, defense, etc) but WE are the ones who vote people out of office who dare to suggest it will cost something and that we might have to pay taxes for them. WE are the the ones who refuse to acknowledge that we might not actually need 11 aircraft carrier battle groups or perhaps we might be ok with a bit less Medicare. Our leaders are to an alarming degree a reflection of our own dysfunction. It's easy to blame them but collectively if we want to point fingers the mirror is a good place to start.

Re:We are part of the problem. (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141991)

That's a basic defect of democracy.

It became broken when FDR fucked the constitution and started transfer payments.

Now that a majority of voters don't pay significant taxes we are permanently fucked.

Re:silver is honest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43140145)

Yeah, Congressional deadlock is so awesome. That must be why Congress's approval rating is in the single digits and they haven't passed a budget in four years.

Re:silver is honest (0)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140497)

Can't blame the lack of budget on deadlock. The D's had two years and never bothered.

Re:silver is honest (2)

SlippyToad (240532) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141079)

Can't blame the lack of budget on deadlock. The D's had two years and never bothered.

Just so I can call you stupid, the budget is the responsibility of the House, which is controlled by the Republicans.

So, it is in their court.

I've noticed that you are extra-ignorant on these topics. And you're offtopic too. It's almost like you have an axe to grind and could give a flying fuck about factual reality.

Or, you're stupid. Hard to tell.

Re:silver is honest (0)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141475)

It must physically hurt to be a stupid as you.

Speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi. When did she lose the post? Two years of D control!

Re:silver is honest (2)

SydShamino (547793) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141785)

Two years is bullshit. 17 weeks of Senate control, from Al Franken to Ted Kennedy. The Senate stopped the House during the rest of those two years you're bantering on about.

Most of that time was spent on health care, and division within the Democratic party (who know, the healthy kind of debate and compromise we need more of) kept them from ramming through their entire agenda in the same way you think that a party would when they have a supermajority. (Only one part moves in sufficient lock step to try that, which is one of the problems with that party.)

Re:silver is honest (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#43142011)

Bullshit.

All they had to do was propose a reasonable budget. They didn't even propose one. They had trillions to waste, apparently there wasn't time.

Re:silver is honest (2)

toadlife (301863) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141483)

Between Ted Kennedy dying and the Coleman/Franken Senate race recount, the D's actually had a filibuster proof majority for ~24 working days during those two year. The rest of the time, they required Republican vote(s) to get anything through. With what little time they had, they chose to pursue health care reform instead of passing a new budget.

That aside, they *did* pass a budget. They passed a continuing resolution which extended Bush's last budget; so we've been operating on George W. Bush's last budget since FY2009.

Re:silver is honest (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#43142027)

A continuing resolution is not a budget. Especially if they are spending entirely differently.

Re:silver is honest (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140147)

You can't deadlock them, you can only deadlock us. The Democrats and Republicans have a lot more in common than they have differences. The rich people who control the Democrats have much more in common with the rich people that control the Republicans than either have with any of us. The worst thing that could happen to the Democratic party is for the Greens to win some major elections.

If the Democrats are 95% wrong, and the Republicans are 99% wrong, that means that 90% of the time they are completely unopposed in doing the wrong thing. If you vote for either Democrats or Republicans, that's what you're voting for.

Re:silver is honest (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140381)

Thank god they don't agree on the '95% wrong' they share.

Most of the places they agree (e.g. copyright lasts forever) technology is making the law irrelevant.

Re:silver is honest (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140517)

But they do. Warrantless wiretapping, eternal copyright, the war on drug users, the ever increasing militarization of the police, the for-profit prison industry, and a DOJ that cares more about Aaron Swartz than about John Corzine, etc, etc,. The Democrats and Republicans agree on most of the most harmful policies that afflict this country. And when they pretend to disagree (e.g. Rand Paul on domestic drone strikes), it's all for show.

Re:silver is honest (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140693)

You're on a roll today. Couldn't you have waited until Tuesday? [grin]

Re:silver is honest (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140715)

Problem; technical solution

Warrent-less wiretapping; ubiquitous strong encryption.

eternal copyright; thepiratebay and its successors.

the war on drug users; state legalization, lack of money for federal cops, indoor grows.

Paramitilitaization of police; ubiquitous civilian video recorders.

Fucked up DOJ priorities; Cold light of day via internet.

Where the Ds and Rs agree, they agree to make war on the tides. As long as the net retains it's out of control nature, that won't change.

Re:silver is honest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43141825)

Except those aren't really solutions. Sure they work around the laws locally in the short-term, but they leave you with a government that isn't trusted by its people which is wasting money on things the people don't want and causing unwanted negative side-effects.

The problem with eternal copyright is not that people can't get content via ThePirateBay if they want it; the problem is that people who would otherwise be making money off of mashups and other uses of copyrighted works instead linger in obscurity or are not producing art.

The problem with the drug war is not that people can't, for the most part, just avoid the police and do whatever drugs they want; the problem is that Mexico and other countries are war-torn by drug lords that we are funding through our horrible drug policy.

Re:silver is honest (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#43142067)

Mexico is Mexico's problem. They could legalize tomorrow and solve their drug lord problem. They don't because their government is the same as their drug organizations.

The current drug war in Mexico is a reflection of the PRI's loss of total power. The new government's gangs are taking over.

Government should not be trusted by it's people. Find me a trusted government and I'll show you a problem government.

A low power, largely ignored government is a great solution. Best we can conceivably get.

Re:silver is honest (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140281)

I wonder if this is actually the cause of the current national debt problem in the US.

Neither get all three branches, so they can't resolve the problem as they see fit (austerity vs tax increases). All they can do is increase the national debt and kick the proverbial can down the road for someone else to deal with. This is not the best feasible outcome for the country because at some point the 4th Amendment will kick in an they'll have to pay someone.

Re:silver is honest (2, Informative)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140443)

Whenever ether side gets exec/senate/house it goes full on 'spend like drunken sailors'.

Neither side has the balls to do anything unpopular unless their is a crisis driving them. Crisis is the worst possible time to try to 'fix' things.

We've been on pure print money, sell the bonds to ourselves sense the US federal reserve took on the roll of 'buying' all 'leftover' bonds at auction. There is NO market rate for US treasuries because their is no functioning market. That process ends with inflation not default (although inflation will look a lot like default to the chumps that hold the bonds).

Re:silver is honest (1)

SlippyToad (240532) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141193)

Neither side has the balls to do anything unpopular unless their is a crisis driving them.

Or in this case, a fake crisis.

Nobody has ever, ever, ever articulated what is supposed to happen if "we don't get his durn debt under control."

However, when we pay off our debt, depressions happen. [npr.org]

Re:silver is honest (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141593)

They did, you just weren't listening. Inflation due to money printing. Only reason it isn't already out of control is the Chinese currency peg.

Re:silver is honest (3, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140589)

The cause of the debt in the US, is that the GOP believes in spontaneously generating wealth. They book the projected increases in revenue as being real when balancing the budget, but fail to make any adjustments when that turns out to not be the case.

Ultimately, the Democrats at least understand that you need real revenue in order to balance the budget and you have to actually make real cuts to the DoD which alone could more than finance Obamacre with the waste in war spending without having to cut back on things that actually matter.

Re:silver is honest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43140795)

you have to actually make real cuts to the DoD which alone could more than finance Obamacre with the waste in war spending without having to cut back on things that actually matter.

Reasonable people (as well as unreasonable) can certainly disagree on which things "actually matter".
It's an indisputable fact that military spending is a federal responsibility/power per the Constitution.
Nothing in the Constitution allows for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.

Re:silver is honest (2)

hedwards (940851) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140875)

The DoD accounts for over $680bn as of 2010. The cost of Afghanistan and Iraq each have cost over $100bn a year and totaling to over $2.4tn for their duration.

There is no mandate that we start wars with other nations anywhere in the constitution. Nor does the constitution insist that we spend more money than the rest of the world combined on our military.

As for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, well, first off Medicaid is a state program, and second off, that's all covered under the "promote the general welfare" which is right next to "provide for the common defence" in the preamble to the constitution. So, it seems to me that programs that promote the general welfare are as constutionally mandated as providing for defense.

What's more, the inability of the conservatives to promote the general welfare of the people is itself a defense issue as there's dozens of people that aren't in the military for every individual that is in the military.

Re:silver is honest (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141509)

Another "slash the DoD to the bone" liberal. You know that doesn't work, right? We don't do Obamacare not because it is hideously expensive but rather because it is unconstitutional and tyrannical.

Re:silver is honest (1)

The_R_Meister (1221402) | about a year and a half ago | (#43142081)

The cause of the debt in the US is that the government spent more money than it made, so it had to borrow money. Through Democrat years, through Republican years, that doesn't vary. You can get away with that if you'll make the money in the future (in fact, you can really accelerate your returns through basically leveraged investing), but they forgot that they don't control the future. The GOP believed that if government got out of the way, the people could generate wealth. The Dems believed that raising taxes and making a few superficial cuts to the DoD could raise the money. But when it comes time to actually make cuts, real people get hurt, and politicians lose their nerve - it's pretty hard to take leviathan down when leviathan squeals so loudly. No, I don't have a solution either. I don't like it when people (me) get hurt by budget cuts or tax increases. In hindsight it's pretty easy to say we should control spending ... Ok, it was pretty easy to say in foresight too, but when votes are demonstrably buy-able, that takes real leadership, and none of our politicians on either side have provided that. As for needing real revenue to balance the budget, I think both sides are saying you actually need real economic growth to do so now - even the Dems don't think tax increases alone will do it. Cutting some DoD budget may help, but even a 10% cut there only gets you a fraction of the way to balanced. And it affects a lot of people (voters) directly, not to mention the optics of it. I wasn't a fan of the Bush spending, but Obama's done Bush on steroids (I know, fighting the dreaded double-dip recession ... time will tell how well that went, but so far it's nothing like advertised!).

Re:silver is honest (1)

SlippyToad (240532) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141159)

I wonder if this is actually the cause of the current national debt problem in the US

No, that's just the Republicans trying to force cuts to social spending that they're too chickenshit to propose themselves. They call it "starve the beast" and it is an intentional strategy. The kind of strategy you'd ordinarily use to destroy a country.

Re:silver is honest (0)

SlippyToad (240532) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141063)

No it doesn't.

Idiot.

"Right" is frequently just opinion (4, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140305)

Both sides are not equally wrong, but that doesn't mean both sides are right. The Republicans are wrong 99% of the time. The Democrats are wrong 95% of the time. Why can't we field a candidate who's right even half the time?

Because "right" is for better or worse often a matter of opinion. There is no single objectively right answer for many questions. Think abortion or gun control. Lots of opinions on both sides but there is never going to be a single "right" answer. At best there might be a consensus but probably never a unanimous one. Even for questions where a single objectively right answer may theoretically exist, there often is insufficient data to figure out what that answer is. (for example what is the optimal tax rate)

Re:"Right" is frequently just opinion (1)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140591)

There is no single objectively right answer for many questions.

The problem is when there is an objectively right answer, and neither party will stoop to even asking. e.g. Cannabis reform, which I mentioned in this post [slashdot.org] . Most of our problems are caused not by honest disagreements, but obstinance and dishonesty, and Obama is no exception.

Re:"Right" is frequently just opinion (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141493)

What?! Why do you think it's called political CORRECTness? Those are the objectively right opinions. Otherwise why would all the smart people hold them?

Re:"Right" is frequently just opinion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43141919)

Assuming your post itself is not ironic - because the term Politically Correct is was and always will be an ironic/sarcastic term which ultimately is meant to insult people who seem to think that there are correct and incorrect political opinions.

Re:silver is honest (1)

greenbird (859670) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140433)

The Republicans are wrong 99% of the time. The Democrats are wrong 95% of the time.

Except the difference isn't statistically significant. In other words who is wrong more is lost in the noise of wrongness.

Re:silver is honest (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140459)

That's why you don't vote for the party, you vote for the candidate. If you vote for the candidates that are right more often, there's at least some hope of positive change. But, if you vote for people that are can't manage to be write even 5% of the time, then well, why would you expect any improvements?

The point is, that the GOP lately has been promising to burn down the economy and people are surprised that the economy isn't doing any better, well maybe if the GOP would show some actual interest in working to solve the problems instead of terrorizing the nation we'd see some improvement. It's one thing to disagree with the Democrats plans and quite another to firebomb them without putting up any of your own ideas.

Re:silver is honest (1)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141085)

That's why you don't vote for the party, you vote for the candidate.

Yeah, that worked out really well for Obama voters. No, what you do is vote against the current party system. Anyone who is not a D or R is better than anyone who is. Any of the third party candidates in 2012 would have been better than either Obama or Romney. The most important thing is to break the two party hegemony.

Re:silver is honest (1)

dyingtolive (1393037) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141631)

Damnit. Undoing moderation.

Re:silver is honest (1)

The_R_Meister (1221402) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141915)

If you have a problem judging politicians as a whole, why is it OK to judge parties as a whole? Vote local, and odds are one of your candidates is doing better than the party line on the "being wrong" scale ... vote for those candidates often enough and maybe you can bring those averages down to the 50% mark ... Stick with your party-line black-and-white politics, and you end up only averaging things out.

Re:silver is honest (2)

greenbird (859670) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140635)

"both sides are equally bad/dishonest/wrong" is the biggest political cop-out ever.

I'm not sure how you can possible call that a cop out since it's 100% correct.

it's sad that such pat vaguaries aren't instantly embarassing to the faces they so often fly out of.

I'm assuming you meant vagaries but that doesn't make much sense. Not sure why you would consider it that erratic of a notion. It's been pretty consistent for quite a while now that the US government (either party) doesn't have the interest of the people as a priority and they're largely usurping the constitution to achieve what ever priorities they do have. Perhaps vagueness? Nothing vague about it. Just get your news from someplace other than the main stream press and it's more than clear. As a voter what other options do you have?

Re:silver is honest (1)

SlippyToad (240532) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141205)

I'm not sure how you can possible call that a cop out since it's 100% correct.

Except it's not.

Both sides is most definitely an intellectually lazy copout, and you're doing it right here.

And the Galt reference in your .sig just reinforces to me that you are too politically naive or ignorant to have any real opinion on these topics. You haven't put the effort into it.

Re:silver is honest (4, Insightful)

SlippyToad (240532) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141251)

Just to pile on, when you say "both sides do it," you are implicitly refusing to deal with the actual topic at hand, which is for example "budget" or "national security," or whatever.

So when you do that, you are basically throwing up your hands and saying "who can know such things?"

It's fucking lazy. Very, fucking lazy. I don't have much time to argue with people too lazy to at least delve into the elements of a topic. You obviously are.

Re:silver is honest (1)

fbobraga (1612783) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141491)

"both sides are equally bad/dishonest/wrong" is the biggest political cop-out ever.

I'm not sure how you can possible call that a cop out since it's 100% correct.

You must be kidding...

Re:silver is honest (2)

flonker (526111) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140773)

Very interesting and insightful troll. I was tempted to mod you up, but I figured a reply would be preferred.

Originally I disagreed with your post, but upon attempting to reply, I found that I agree that "both sides are equally bad/dishonest/wrong" is a cop-out, but I disagree that it's embarrassing. It's only embarrassing if you aren't doing anything to back up your belief, and voting is a good start, but it isn't enough.

Re:silver is honest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43141009)

It's not a cop-out, it's a call for sane elections that have more than 2 parties. Reducing politics to one-bit value isn't reasonable. Now granted 10 options isn't all that rich either, but it's a lot better and it allows any 2 parties involved in a conflict to stand out as those idiots while the rest of the politicians can get on with business. With only 2 parties all politics is a perpetual hot conflict - attacking someone makes you look bad, but not as bad as the one you are attacking, which is great if you two are the only options. With 10 parties, it makes not a lot of sense to attack any particular other party since that won't do you a lot of good anyway. I hear you guys are reaping the horrible consequences of that perpetual hot conflict especially right around now.

Re:silver is honest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43140025)

On the scale where 0 is perfect honesty and no delusions, and 10 is complete delusionment and no honesty whatsoever, there are no political parties that score below a three, whereas there is only one political party right now that scores above an eight.

Just because there aren't any parties that aren't deluded doesn't mean that a single party can't be an outlier in the data.

Re:silver is honest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43140437)

Heres a hint on which one if you wanted to know (original poster probably meant the other party though):
"I'm going to close Gitmo within one year"
"Unemployment will never go over 8% if we pass this stimilus"
"I will end warentless wiretapping"
"I will cut the deficit by 50% within my first year"
"This will be the most transparent administration ever"
"ACA will reduce healthcare costs by 20%"
"I'm going to pass immigration reform within my first term"
"Deficit spending has been fixed now that taxes on the rich have been raised"
"The US does not have a spending problem"

I'm not even going to the entire party, all those gems are from a single person in charge of the DNC. Anyone who voted for him and hates lying politicans should be ashamed.

Re:silver is honest (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140849)

Completely delusional: That would be the greens.

No, he's been correct. A few times. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43139995)

Come back with your praise after four or five more Presidential elections.

If he maintains his accuracy across multiple elections with much different dynamics, then he's on to something.

Re:silver is honest (2)

nschubach (922175) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140079)

I'm sure part of it is the fact that we like to "celebritise" people. He might have spoken out against something and people will latch on to it because it might also jibe with their train of thought. It's also part self gratification. If they can turn that person into a celebrity, they re-enforce their ideas through this man's "fame."

Re:silver is honest (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43140107)

It's not about political parties, it's about our disfunctional national media. They're so in love with the "close race" that they'll basically start making stuff up about how candidates are "really close" so just stay tuned to this story, etc. etc. If you look at the actual polling data, nothing about either the 2012 republican primary or general election was ever anywhere near as close as the media wanted you to think. It was refreshing to have Silver there to cut through the bullshit, both in 2012 and in 2008.

Re:silver is honest (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43140137)

Nate is not a politician.

Re:silver is honest (0)

SlippyToad (240532) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141255)

Fucking duh.

SkippyToad falls for the BS, 'natch (-1, Troll)

sgt_doom (655561) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140155)

Nate Silver, since you either haven't been reading all his stuff, or are horribly retarded, is just another typical Wall Street apologist at the NY Times, which is why he is paid and why they pay him; his BS article/posts on the banksters "using the wrong or imperfect models" and such is the cause for all their thievery --- what moron could possibly fall for such abject propaganda on their behalf --- you evidently, sonny!

Re:silver is honest (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140193)

I think Silver stands out because unlike too many modern American politicians, he is interested in the facts, and not what bullshit he can use the data to support.

So it's not so much that he's done a fantastic job figuring all this out, it's just that he's fucking honest about the results unlike a certain perpetually-deluded political party I'm sick of naming.

Arguably, it isn't really politicians who he differs from most meaningfully. Sure, there are a lot of politicians living in absurd contrafactual fantasy worlds; but that is(unfortunately) mostly a product of the fact that they are acting as representatives of people who do exactly the same thing... Pandering is a nonfactual enterprise in the sense that it may involve telling people the most insane lies, if that is what they want from you; but it is an eminently empirical exercise in the sense that you must constantly strive to better understand what people want to hear, so that you can better pander to them.

Where Silver, and his data-driven compatriots, really differ from the traditional is with the 'pundit' class. Pundits are selected pretty much entirely for their ability to tell emotionally compelling stories, with minimal reference to data, and provide marketable column inches and cable news minutes. The better ones, to their credit, are masterful in engaging audience emotions, weaving stories, and other affectively gripping flimflam. However, they tend to be somewhere between extraordinarily weak and overtly hostile to the idea that 'data' rather than 'feelings' can actually provide excellent information about the world, particularly if you use this crazy 'math' stuff that the nerds are always going on about.

Pundits make good TV(and, very conveniently, can offer viewers everything from lowbrow talk radio shouting matches to middlebrow 'public intellectual' posturing with little more than a change in tone and presence or absence of a thesaurus, unlike stat-heads who pretty fundamentally lean on nontrival math); but the kind of suck [theatlanticwire.com] compared to statistical models.

Re:silver is honest (3, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141075)

Mod up! This is exactly what happened last November. It wasn't the politicians who Nate revealed had no clothes, it was the pundits. While stories abound about Romney's supreme overconfidence, I think one could tell from the Republican rank and file that they knew months before the election that Obama was going to win a second term and there was little likelihood that they could gain a Senate majority.

But the pundits, now that was a group that was utterly stripped of any illusion of wisdom. They were proven to be absolute fools, little more than shouting ignoramuses. I hope that Silver and the other statisticians working on electoral prediction continue to hound this overpaid talking heads to extinction. In no small part, politics is as bad as it is because of the pundits.

Re:silver is honest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43141243)

Silver is honest, brilliant, and a genuinely sweet guy. He's a fun character to playfully explore (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOYXK6BaFWA) because of that interest in the facts.

That's true (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43139791)

Silver termed his fame 'strange' and 'out of proportion,'

Well, yeah - he was on track for another 2010-sized blunder until Sandy bailed him and his affirmative-action hero out.

Re:That's true (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140171)

Yeah it had nothing to do with the Republican party's platform...*eye roll*

Re:That's true (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141091)

I'm amazed. There are still Republicans stupid enough to believe that kind of nonsense. I pity you.

Since when did South by Southwest become.. (2, Informative)

areusche (1297613) | about a year and a half ago | (#43139887)

Since when did South by Southwest become a tech conference? I find it interesting that all of these technology gurus are talking at a music festival. What's next, Ballmer speaking at Bonnaro?

Re:Since when did South by Southwest become.. (3, Informative)

Antipater (2053064) | about a year and a half ago | (#43139981)

http://sxsw.com/interactive [sxsw.com]

According to Wikipedia, "SXSW Film and Multimedia", now split in separate "SXSW Film" and "SXSW Interactive" started in 1994, seven years after the music festival did.

Re:Since when did South by Southwest become.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43139985)

There's two sxsw - this one is the interactive

Re:Since when did South by Southwest become.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43140005)

No, ZZ Top performing at Black Hat.

Re:Since when did South by Southwest become.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43140009)

No, Larry Ellison speaking at Sturgis.

Around 1995 (1)

sjbe (173966) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140029)

Since when did South by Southwest become a tech conference?

Apparently sometime around 1995 [wikipedia.org] though that part of the festival doesn't appear to have come into prominence until about 2005 or so.

Re:Since when did South by Southwest become.. (1)

SydShamino (547793) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141865)

There's three main SXSW festivals - Music, Film, and Interactive.

Interactive is now the largest, by a pretty large margin. The Twitter launch really made SXSW explode. Then music is the next biggest festival, with more bands than you can imaging playing at official venues, side parties, fast food restaurants, on the street. Film is the smallest. Then there's the education festival, the comedy festival, the eco festival, the gaming exposition, the fashion show, etc., but those are all free, for industry only, or accessible using one of the three main badges. Nintendo had a big booth at the gaming expo, and Board Game Geek made a showing for wood-and-cardboard gaming.

The first half of this week is the Interactive festival, which from my perspective is mostly filled with thirty-something wanna-be hipsters hoping to become the next big thing. The latter of this week will be the Music festival, which is mostly filled with thirty-something wanna-be douchebags hoping to become the next big thing. Meanwhile, the Film festival runs the entire week, and is mostly filled with thirty-something boors who are willing to patiently queue for hours a day to get into film screenings, and generally look on the attendees of the other two festivals with contempt.

For full disclosure, I'm posting this from the show floor of the SXSW trade show, wearing a Film badge. My wife has an Interactive badge and I have several friends who attend for Music.

Youtube??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43139899)

I keep seeing these /. articles about SXSW, but where the fuck are the videos?

If you don't have a link then stop cockteasing us ffs.

Re:Youtube??? (1)

SydShamino (547793) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141889)

You have to pay several hundred dollars to see these presentations live, so they don't post them online for free immediately.

Science is rare (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43139947)

Very, very little in this world actually happens because the data suggests its a good idea. People make decisions based on their comfort level, tradition, who their friends are, etc. Suggesting that we should listen to the data disempowers the powerful. It's 2013, and the principles of evidence based medicine were only developed 20 years ago, and are still not widely used in practice. We're going to have to wait centuries before evidence based public policy becomes the norm.

Optimism (5, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140045)

We're going to have to wait centuries before evidence based public policy becomes the norm.

I think you are being optimistic. Very optimistic.

Re:Optimism (0)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140185)

Exactly.

Re:Science is rare (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43140267)

The thing is you can have mountains of data (which we do). The problem is asking the right questions. You can ask the right sorts of questions but have 0 idea how to get that data out of the other data. You can have all sorts of stats on something and even be asking the right kinds of questions. But then do nothing about it 'because that is how we always did it'. These sorts of problems are not computer problems. They are emotional ones.

Hindsight is always 20/20, foresight is usually 20/1000000.

I saw one company that had all the numbers. All the same facts. But until a guy came in and said 'hey why dont you try this way of doing things' nothing changed. He gave them a way to measure the change to see if it worked (so they could go back if it did not). They didnt even know what to ask. They were so blinded by hey this works lets keep doing it. Not even looking for a better way to do the same thing.

I see this all the time in programming too. People will bash something together and 'get it to work'. Then go about cut&pasting that 1 pattern everywhere. Even though it may be a crummy pattern. It works...

Re:Science is rare (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140383)

The thing is you can have mountains of data (which we do). The problem is asking the right questions.

The problem is that those in power dont want to ask the right questions because it will force their hand. e.g., we have mountains of data that show that Cannabis is less harmful than most over the counter drugs. Certainly less harmful than alcohol. So we 75,000 of us get together and ask the President a question. "Why can't we regulate Cannabis like alcohol?"

His response amounted to "Cannabis is a dangerous drug", and he never mentioned alcohol once. He didn't even bother dismissing the question, he failed to acknowledge its existence.

Why would he do that? It's obvious, if he actually considered the question, he would have been unable to come up with an answer that would be consistent with our current policy. He knows that, and he doesn't care that the policy is demonstrably harmful.

That, my friends, is the face of evil.

not evil...humanity (2, Insightful)

bussdriver (620565) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140605)

Some people think a tiger who kills a human is evil; it is in it's nature to kill it's food. The human animal is still just an animal and does natural things lacking any conscious rational but unlike the tiger, it has the brain power to rationalize its instincts into an illusion of free thinking and therefore believe it is unlike other animals. This is extremely hard for the human ego to accept.

Politicians succeed by tribalism; not reason and not logic. To some degree they must reflect the populace; even a dictator has limits and must bend to expectations.

What is evil is how to make generally good people collectively manifest "evil" deeds. A mental hack which makes somebody do antisocial things is evil - I use the word make because of the above statement. Free will is not as strong as people BELIEVE it is. Now if you don't have your parent's religion, politics, tastes... maybe then you are in a position to argue otherwise.

Re:not evil...humanity (3, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140673)

What is evil is how to make generally good people collectively manifest "evil" deeds.

Which is exactly what I described in the above post. The War on Drug Users is the perfect example what Thoreau meant when he said "Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice."

I think we're both right. It is part of human nature, but it's also evil. Jealousy and greed are also part of human nature, but they still make us do evil things. Good people learn to control those urges. Politicians apparently never learned to control theirs.

Re:not evil...humanity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43140945)

Free-will doesn't exist in any meaningful sense. Your output is simply based on your genes, upbringing, and inputs. Everything you say or do could be predicted if all info on your development and inputs was available.

Everything that ever happens may be the inevitable result of the big bang.

Re:Science is rare (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43140645)

The situation is a bit more complicated than that. There's politics to think of. Legalizing cannabis wouldn't happen with the current makeup of the House/Senate and a large proportion of Americans are against it (I don't know the exact numbers, but I would be surprised if legalization had as much as 55% support). Obama has other priorities; going after an issue that no one is effectively making much noise about isn't going to help his position. (Not to say those priorities are well placed, but evil might be going a bit far.)

Re:Science is rare (1)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140751)

Yes, legalizing won't happen without Congress. But why should that stop the president from answering a question accurately? How are we ever going to convince Congress to implement good policy if we can never get anyone to admit that current policy is bad?

I didn't complain that Obama didn't make Cannabis reform his number one priority. I complained that he failed to answer a simple, factual question after promising he would do so. The right thing to do would have been to say "You're right, there is no reason Cannabis can't be regulated like alcohol, and if a bill comes to my desk I will sign it. But it is a low priority because of these reasons..."

But of course, he couldn't do that, because there are no such reasons that actually sound honest.

Re:Science is rare (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43141971)

(I'm the same AC.)

Yeah, and I really wish politics actually worked the way you describe, but it doesn't. Or, at least, the conventional wisdom in American politics is that it doesn't, which is effectively equivalent. Obama didn't do that because cannabis reform is too hot an issue. If he expressed an opinion on that, he would end up being constantly attacked on it and have even more trouble reaching his achievable political goals. Simply mentioning the truth even without a push toward a policy proposal is not politically safe.

Personally, I didn't vote for him because I knew he wasn't interested/willing to push on progressive issues even if he couldn't win. Unfortunately for me, the majority of the American public does not agree with me. Realistically, if you want to change policy, you have to change public opinion: like it or not, Cannabis reform isn't happening because it's not popular.

Re:Science is rare (1)

Comrade Ogilvy (1719488) | about a year and a half ago | (#43142159)

Realistically, if you want to change policy, you have to change public opinion: like it or not, Cannabis reform isn't happening because it's not popular.

Not popular enough, yet. True.

Cannabis reform, very narrowly defined, is popular. But seem to be many more people who will show up to the polls to vote against a candidate that is labelled "wants to legalize dope", than will show up to the polls to punish a "for prohibition" candidate. Most anti-prohibition voters are already acclimatized to vote for pro-prohibition candidates. It will take a new generation of citizens who are used to voting against prohibition at their local elections to change this dynamic.

Faster change is most likely to come from law enforcement professionals, who want to prioritize resources in more useful ways.

Re:Science is rare (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43141029)

A ban of a reasonably safe substance, resulting in government officials destroying the lives of citizens, should require support of a much larger percentage of the population than 50%, and probably shouldn't be allowed if 99% of the population supported it since it violates the individuals right to engage in activity that harms no one except arguably themselves.

Re:Science is rare (3, Informative)

Comrade Ogilvy (1719488) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140401)

Evidence based public policy decision making is a recent innovation understood by a very small minority of the populace. Doing what will get you liked by people like you has been baked into our genes for millions of years.

Analytics (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43140157)

Silver's rise to prominence most closely mirrors Google's. Find a good model and apply it to an area that has been underserved.

When they write the book on the history of the Information Age, it will be about how we learned to leverage analytics for the common good.

Re:Analytics (2)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140405)

When they write the book on the history of the Information Age, it will be about how we learned to leverage analytics for the common good.

Why do you assume it will be for the common good? Those most able to leverage analytics(the rich, powerful, and well connected) have the most incentive to use them for their own personal gain, regardless of what the common good is.

Re:Analytics (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141119)

In the case of elections, leveraging analytcs means "create a political platform that people will vote for".

Re:Analytics (1)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141263)

Which is a different problem than creating a political platform that will have the best results. People will readily vote against their own interests if properly manipulated. Look at all the working class white people who vote Republican, for instance. People are more likely to use analytics to manipulate people into voting against their interests than for their interests.

Re:Analytics (1)

Comrade Ogilvy (1719488) | about a year and a half ago | (#43142221)

Most "polls" that bypass the Do Not Call list are transparent efforts to figure out which bumper sticker or sound bite will manipulate the populace most efficiently. They have zero to do with getting input from the citizenry on the relative merits of a new public policy proposal. The only important policy input is provided by the corporations writing the checks.

We see it in the gun debate (1, Offtopic)

Quila (201335) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140465)

Some guy uses an AR-variant to shoot some kids, and people are screaming for a ban on such rifles to make the country supposedly much safer.

Two problems: One, such mass murders are an extremely small percentage of total murders, so even if you could stop them with a law, the statistical effect on murder would be negligible. Two, murders by rifle are a small percentage of total gun injuries/murders, and "assault weapons" make up a percentage of those, so even if you could remove every one from civilian hands, the statistical effect on gun injuries/murders would be negligible.

Even with magazine size limits, the vast majority of gun injuries/murders involve the firing of fewer than ten rounds. Completely eliminating magazines, not just banning future sales, of over ten rounds would stop an insignificant number of gun injuries/murders, if any.

Legislating on emotion rather than fact.

Re:We see it in the gun debate (1)

dhammond (953711) | about a year and a half ago | (#43140743)

You're ignoring the fact that truly effective gun legislation (e.g. total ban on gun ownership) is a political non-starter. Banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines may have very little effect on gun homicide rates, but at this point anti-gun lobbyists will take whatever they can get, and it is not irrational to start by banning the most egregious examples of gun proliferation even if it saves an "insignificant" or "negligible" number of lives.

In other words: bad example.

Re:We see it in the gun debate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43141017)

Legislating on emotion rather than fact.

Legislation based on fact would be even more severe (i.e ban all guns, revoke the Second, establish a PreCrime unit to catch people before they go on a shooting spree, etc.)

If one is to look at facts, one might even suspect the validity of the core values the United States was founded upon. America's story is an exception in history, not the rule.

Valid Criticism (4, Informative)

Capt.Albatross (1301561) | about a year and a half ago | (#43141461)

Cathy O'Neil (Mathbabe) offers a well-argued criticism of Nate Silver when he stepped beyond his area of expertise in his recent, popular book, '"The Signal and the Noise: Why so many predictions fail – but some don’t"

http://mathbabe.org/2012/12/20/nate-silver-confuses-cause-and-effect-ends-up-defending-corruption/ [mathbabe.org]

According to Ms. O'Neil, Mr. Silver fails to recognize situations where bad models are deliberately used to game that system.

Re:Valid Criticism (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43142189)

I can't emphasize this enough...

I've been following Nate Silver and other people for years and don't understand the need to glorify him, as if no one had been doing this before him, and glossing over his problems.

It's as if some people learned statistics through him and then assumed that he invented meta-analysis and statistics completely. It's so bizarre. Just because you didn't know about statistics and social science methodology before Nate Silver doesn't mean there has been an entire field that existed years before he was born.

E.g., the Princeton Election Consortium should have as much credit but doesn't: http://election.princeton.edu/

I agree with O'Neil completely about Silver's problems. I've noticed this from the beginning, that he takes a naive approach to modeling and fails to understand the pitfalls of poor models.

I guess that's life. It's as if the entire country thinks they are statistical experts based on an introductory undergrad grasp of the material.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?