May 21, 2013

Nate Silver is #1 on Fast Company's "100 Most Creative People in Business 2013."

Here's the whole (nicely displayed) list. Here's the big article on Silver:
Nate Silver is now trying to see what's coming next for him. He has just turned 35. His interest in politics, always more intellectual than emotional, seems nearly exhausted by the election season. "I definitely get tired of the politics stuff," he tells me. "Or at least I'm tired of it now. You basically have a lot of sociopaths and crazy people who work in the politics industry who are kind of enabled by it being such a strange profession. Just a lack of. . . ." Silver stops to reach over for a french fry, eat it, and think. "I mean, well, the fact that it's seen as so optional to actually be truthful?" It offends his sensibilities as a data scientist in pursuit of truth. "You know," he continues, "whereas business can be amoral, I think politics is actively immoral on many occasions. So people will ask if I will go work for a campaign and I say, 'No way.' I can make a lot more money working for a hedge fund and it would be a lot less actively evil. At least you're not trying to manipulate people's belief systems."
In my view, the way not to get tired of the politics stuff is to be, specifically, interested in the behavior of real human beings, with all their flaws. That they are unusually flawed human beings — "sociopaths and crazy people" — becomes a positive. You are observing and analyzing these people, who are manipulating and dissembling and lying. This does not conflict with your own love of the truth. You pursue the truth about their lies and manipulations.

25 comments:

gerry said...

You pursue the truth about their lies and manipulations.

And how well the lies manipulate the voters. Silver is very good.

Larry J said...

Hanging around a bunch of liars, sociopaths and crazy people tends to suck the life right out of you.

pm317 said...

"I mean, well, the fact that it's seen as so optional to actually be truthful?" "At least you're not trying to manipulate people's belief systems"

Obama!

What does Nate Silver know and what does he not want to tell us?

Bryan C said...

I don't think any profession is inherently moral, or free of sociopaths and crazy people. Certainly not any of the sciences, which are historically eager to partner with political movements who'll give them money and power. The entire scientific method exists as a check against the tendency to manipulate and fabricate results.

Paco Wové said...

I know it is a trite old saw to observe that those who desire power are probably the worst people to have it, but still.

Maybe we could make political office like jury duty. Then by happy accident we could occasionally get a decent person into office.

pm317 said...

You pursue the truth about their lies and manipulations.

Not if they come to audit you, send FBI to your door. You are critical in pursuing the truth but not that critical so as to hurt yourself. You throw in a post calling Obama a 'beautiful man' and analyze his umbrella and dreams with a lot of sympathy and empathy. you too give him a break when he does not deserve one. So you may pursue his lies but only with a lot of restraint.

For Silver, to sound all idealistic now, is meaningless. He more of an enabler of the liar Obama last go around as much as the next guy who voted for him.

traditionalguy said...

The phrase "actively manipulate their belief systems" says it all.

Like a good wrestler needs a hold on his opponent so he can slam his opponent, a psyops/Madison Avenue psychologist first take a hold on peoples' belief system and slam them with it. The Great Hoax of Climate Science is a perfect example.

Why? That's usually been to steal everything others own and dance on their graves.( See, Khan, Genghis)

Our built in cultural traditions are feedback loops restraining the system from total evil all of the time, like the Nuremberg trials did after WWII, and like our News Media used to do some under our First Amendment.

No wonder truly evil men like Obama hate our culture's restraint systems in our Constitution and in the news media.

Henry said...

If you want an interesting pairing consider Silver and Bjorn Lomborg at the same time. What is revealed is that much of modern science -- the soft sciences and science based on models -- is an exercise in probabilities. An actual statistician can unpack a lot of bad science just by applying their specialty.

One thing that Silver ran into in this cycle, and pm317 above is a perfect example, is the fact that you can't do data mining in politics without being maligned as an agent. Messenger. Blamed. I imagine that wasn't a highlight of the job.

To throw out another name, Tom Tango is an interesting character. Tango is perhaps the preeminent baseball statistician at the moment. This is the field from which Silver sprang. Tango works anonymously, and comes across in interviews as a kind of distilled Silver: the gimlet-eyed jeweler alert to every flaw in every system.

One of his more famous pieces is his counter to Silver's ambitious PECOTA system for projecting player performance. To test it Tango conjectured a benchmark, the Marcel the Monkey system:

...it is the most basic forecasting system you can have, that uses as little intelligence as possible. So, that's the allusion to the monkey. It uses 3 years of MLB data, with the most recent data weighted heavier. It regresses towards the mean. And it has an age factor.

....

I do not stand behind these forecasts. Consider me only a trustee of the system. For me to stand behind a forecasting system, I'd have to spend a multitude of hours to get it right. And, the difference between doing it right, and doing it with the Marcels.... well, I'd rather continue spending my time working on other baseball research. Still want more proof? Well, here's how Marcel stacked up with the best in the business. Ain't much difference.


The phrase "here's how Marcel stacked up with the best in the business" links to a pretty interesting exchange between Tango and Silver, circa 2007. Tango leads the discussion. Silver responds in the comments.

http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/comments/forecast_evaluations/

So there's some statisticianal archaeology for you.

pm317 said...

is the fact that you can't do data mining in politics without being maligned as an agent. Messenger. Blamed.

Glad to be the perfect example. If he had said what he is saying now and named names, before the election as he did his 'data mining', I would have more respect for him. Obots went around claiming Silver is God and he must have liked all that adulation.

AprilApple said...

Notice too that what he is describing is the inside of the democrat machine.

Titus said...

He's gay too.

Henry said...

Notice too that what he is describing is the inside of the democrat machine.

Why do you make that assumption?

Henry said...

@pm317 -- What he is saying now is boilerplate. Them politicians is craaazy. That's not news and it wasn't his brief. His brief was running numbers.

He may have liked the adulation from the left. I don't know. It was certainly pathetic to have innumerate leftists use him as their latest appeal to authority. But it was also pathtic to see innumerate righties cry bias and let slip the dogs of stupidity without any basis for their incriminations.

Silver did a good job. He also got lucky. All his predictions covered a range of possibilities and there was no guarantee that he'd hit the sweetspot. He did. I wish he'd been wrong. But good for him.

Henry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Henry said...

I'll add that the Fast Company profile reads like a fan-club letter. Enough with the adulation. They should have mentioned Marcel the Monkey.

Fernandinande said...

"You pursue the truth about their lies and manipulations."

Good luck to Jason Richwine.

edutcher said...

Being a shill for the Gray Lady and a stolen election would require one to be "creative".

As was Grigory Potemkin.

pm317 said...

@henry,

The bigger point of Silver is that he gave legitimacy to what was a sham run altogether. Was he counting the voters whose belief system was manipulated by Obama (and of course without saying as much) or was he enabling the manipulation of the belief system to take root with his numbers/analysis? He was no objective bystander.

Zach said...

In my view, the way not to get tired of the politics stuff is to be, specifically, interested in the behavior of real human beings, with all their flaws. That they are unusually flawed human beings — "sociopaths and crazy people" — becomes a positive. You are observing and analyzing these people, who are manipulating and dissembling and lying.

It's probably more fun if you're not the target of the sociopathic and crazy behavior. To Silver's credit, he has done a good job of covering elections without becoming a crazy psycho or resorting to the "crazed fanboy projection system" (to borrow another term from sabermetrics). Personally, I think his models incorporate too many variables and are needlessly complex -- it would be interesting to compare his projections to a minimal "Marcel the Monkey" projection system, although I don't know if any such system currently exists.

Salamandyr said...

It's easy to hate on Silver, if for no other reason than for being so evidently pleased with his own ill tidings. But, I for one am glad to find someone in the public eye who sees private enterprise as superior to politics.

So good on him. I hope he joins a hedge fund, makes a lot of dough, and finally comes to the realization that business is not amoral, but actually the most moral thing in the world.

Lem said...

You pursue the truth about their lies and manipulations.

And not get invited anywhere.

Marty said...

Ann said,

"In my view, the way not to get tired of the politics stuff is to be, specifically, interested in the behavior of real human beings, with all their flaws."

You mean, you're not one of us?

Bob said...

Yes!

Unknown said...

I've got no problem with Silver--he seems like a guy who is interested in the numbers, not the politics. Why do people want to hate him, because he worked for the wrong people? There are honorable and fair people on both sides, and I've never gotten a sniff that Silver lacks integrity.

DEEBEE said...

Nate -- 14:57 14:58 14:59 POOF