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Nate Silver – risk geek superhero

Before the moment has passed I thought it would be a good idea to celebrate a hero who sputtered across the UK firmament just after the US presidential election.  Apart from its intrinsic interest, this post will serve as a placeholder until I get round to having a closer look at what happened and see what it takes to create a globally recognised risk analysis.

Nate Silver has been celebrated for some time in the US for his baseball predictions (sabermetrics – look it up and contemplate Liverpool FC) and forecasting of elections.  He creates Monte Carlo models based on poll data and is able to calculate probabilities for the outcomes of an election.  Needless to say, the probabilities are mainly ignored in favour of the most likely outcome.  You can see some of the output in his New York Times blog.  State by state he ‘predicted’ the result and showed that Obama would win easily.  He also engaged in some fairly vituperative exchanges with political commentators who thought that gut feel and experience was a better approach and considered the election would be close-fought.

Seems to me there will be a few lessons here for the more humble risk analyst supporting risk management in organisations.  So let’s get our Y-fronts on and fly to the rescue of society (and nature).

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