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Everything Is Predictable

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781399604031

Price: £22

ON SALE: 25th April 2024

Genre: Mathematics / History Of Mathematics / Mathematics & Science

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Thomas Bayes was an eighteenth-century Presbyterian minister and amateur mathematician whose obscure life belied the profound impact of his work. Like most research into probability at the time, his theorem was mainly seen as relevant to games of chance, like dice and cards. But its implications soon became clear.

Bayes’ theorem helps explain why highly accurate screening tests can lead to false positives, causing unnecessary anxiety for patients. A failure to account for it in court has put innocent people in jail. But its influence goes far beyond practical applications. A cornerstone of rational thought, Bayesian principles are used in modelling and forecasting. ‘Superforecasters’, a group of expert predictors who outperform CIA analysts, use a Bayesian approach. And many argue that Bayes’ theorem is not just a useful tool, but a description of almost everything – that it is the underlying architecture of rationality, and of the human brain.

Fusing biography, razor-sharp science communication and intellectual history, Everything Is Predictable is a captivating tour of Bayes’ theorem and its impact on modern life. From medical testing to artificial intelligence, Tom Chivers shows how a single compelling idea can have far-reaching consequences.

Reviews

One thing that is perfectly predictable is that Tom Chivers writes terrific books. This one is no exception: it's witty, lively and best of all, extremely nerdy. I learned a lot and so will you
TIM HARFORD
From assessing the effectiveness of treatments, to the way consciousness works and the way we make decisions, Tom Chivers makes a compelling case that Bayes' theorem is the one formula that everyone should understand
ANANYO BHATTACHARYA
From an eighteenth-century cleric to the workings of the brain, Chivers explores the impact of Bayes' theorem; the mathematical basis for learning under uncertainty. After neatly summarising the history of probability and statistics, he handles challenging and controversial Bayesian approach to scientific evidence, induction, decision-making, statistical modelling, prediction, and human perception and reasoning. All with his customary light touch, and full of quotes and vivid stories. A filling but very tasty book
DAVID SPIEGELHALTER
EVERYTHING IS PREDICTABLE is one of those books that makes you feel smarter with every page you read. It should be required reading for anyone engaged in evidence-based decision-making - and I guess that means all of us
PHILIP BALL
A remarkable book by a remarkable writer about a remarkable theorem. The statistical chance of it not changing how you see the world forever is zero
WILL STORR
Life is shot through with uncertainty, but in this fascinating, witty and perspective-shifting book, Tom Chivers shows why this needn't condemn us to powerlessness and panic. I finished Everything Is Predictable not only better informed about a captivating branch of mathematics, but with an invigorating sense of greater purchase on the world
OLIVER BURKEMAN

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