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Nate Silver talks data, baseball in One Book keynote address

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Nate Silver talks data, baseball in One Book keynote address

Nate Silver speaks to an audience of roughly 1,000 about data analysis and predictions at the One Book One Northwestern keynote address. Silver’s book “The Signal and the Noise” was selected as this year’s One Book read.

Nate Silver speaks to an audience of roughly 1,000 about data analysis and predictions at the One Book One Northwestern keynote address. Silver’s book “The Signal and the Noise” was selected as this year’s One Book read.

Linnea Narducci/The Daily Northwestern

Nate Silver speaks to an audience of roughly 1,000 about data analysis and predictions at the One Book One Northwestern keynote address. Silver’s book “The Signal and the Noise” was selected as this year’s One Book read.

Linnea Narducci/The Daily Northwestern

Linnea Narducci/The Daily Northwestern

Nate Silver speaks to an audience of roughly 1,000 about data analysis and predictions at the One Book One Northwestern keynote address. Silver’s book “The Signal and the Noise” was selected as this year’s One Book read.

Christian Surtz, Reporter

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Nate Silver said it’s crucial for society to use big data responsibly and discern truths from it during his One Book One Northwestern keynote address on Thursday.

Silver, author of “The Signal and the Noise,” spoke to roughly 1,000 people in Pick Staiger Concert Hall on Thursday night about his work in statistical analysis and predictions. During the talk, Silver explained his methods of working with data and answered questions from the audience.

“Ninety percent of the world’s data has been created in the last two years,” he said. “(But) it’s not like when we have more information we agree with each other more.”

Silver, a University of Chicago graduate, is known for his website, FiveThirtyEight.com, and for correctly predicting the results of all 50 states in the 2012 U.S. presidential election. In 2009, he made the Time Magazine’s list of The World’s 100 Most Influential People, and in 2012 he published “The Signal and the Noise.”

Silver made special note of FiveThirtyEight’s baseball predictions in light of the Chicago Cubs’ chances to win their first World Series in more than a century. As of Thursday, the website said the Cubs have a 25 percent chance of winning.

When asked about FiveThirtyEight’s baseball predictions, University President Morton Schapiro, a New York Mets fan, told The Daily he is still mourning the team’s loss Wednesday night. He said “The Signal and the Noise” was a good choice for the One Book program.

“As I’ve always taught, the reason for statistical analysis is to figure out the truth,” said Schapiro, who teaches economics at NU.

Silver also spoke about the upcoming presidential election, noting that there is a high number of undecided and third-party voters. He explained that a larger undecided voter population means the election is significantly less predictable.

Weinberg freshman Gina Johnson said she enjoyed Silver’s speech, especially its relevance to current events such as the election.

“It’s a really unique experience,” Johnson said. “I’m grateful that we’ve been given the opportunity to read his book and hear from him in person.”

Silver said he hopes his message of interpreting and using data responsibly continues to resonate throughout the world, mentioning education and criminal justice as fields he’s interested in exploring.

“Prediction is central in the process of gaining knowledge, and data is becoming more readily available,” Silver said during a press conference before the event.

Steve Carr, the faculty chair of the One Book program, said he was impressed by Silver’s ability to simplify complicated concepts.

“Nate really puts (concepts) in perspective and shows how (they) illuminate the world around us,” Carr said.

Email: christiansurtz2020@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @CJSurtz

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