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Summary

The Sunday Times best seller 

Wherever there is human judgement, there is noise. 

From the world-leaders in strategic thinking and the multimillion-copy best-selling authors of Thinking, Fast and Slow and Nudge, the next big book to change the way you think.  

Imagine that two doctors in the same city give different diagnoses to identical patients - or that two judges in the same court give different sentences to people who have committed matching crimes. Now imagine that the same doctor and the same judge make different decisions depending on whether it is morning or afternoon, or Monday rather than Wednesday, or they haven’t yet had lunch. These are examples of noise: variability in judgments that should be identical.

In Noise, Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony and Cass R. Sunstein show how noise produces errors in many fields, including in medicine, law, public health, economic forecasting, forensic science, child protection, creative strategy, performance review and hiring. And although noise can be found wherever people are making judgments and decisions, individuals and organizations alike commonly ignore its impact, at great cost.

Packed with new ideas, and drawing on the same kind of sharp analysis and breadth of case study that made Thinking, Fast and Slow and Nudge international best sellers, Noise explains how and why humans are so susceptible to noise and bias in decision-making. We all make bad judgments more than we think. With a few simple remedies, this groundbreaking book explores what we can do to make better ones.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2021 Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, Cass R. Sunstein (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic reviews

"Noise may be the most important book I've read in more than a decade. A genuinely new idea so exceedingly important you will immediately put it into practice. A masterpiece." (Angela Duckworth, author of Grit)

"An absolutely brilliant investigation of a massive societal problem that has been hiding in plain sight." (Steven Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics)

"A monumental, gripping book.... Outstanding." (Sunday Times)

What listeners say about Noise

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Where there is judgment there is noise

When I saw that the authors of Thinking, Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman) and Nudge (Cass R Sustein) had collaborated to write this book, my System 1 thinking kicked in and I immediately hit the "buy" button. I do like this type of "clever thinking" book and was intrigued to discover what "noise" was all about.

The authors collectively consider the impact of "noise" on the way people apply judgment and also discuss the difference between noise and bias. This may include any decision we make and is applicable to investment decisions, recruitment, sentencing for criminal justice and calculations for insurance risks. Humans are fallible and it is found that a simple way to reduce noise is to consider the "wisdom of the crowd" by simple aggregation and averaging of opinions. This is not so easy, of course, with one off events and, as we know, history only runs once and it is impossible to quantify the impact of noise on unique political decisions.

There is some overlap in this book with previous works by the authors such as Kahnman's System 1 / System 2 thinking and the concept of Superforecasting as outlined in Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner book from 2016 is also re-visited here. There is also a lot of content devoted to statistical analysis which some will love but others (myself included) will find heavy going in places.

I may be biased (see what I did there?) here, but I would give this book 4 stars. It has been proven that the first person in a group who speaks will guide the group in its collective decision, so maybe this first review will set a trend.

26 people found this helpful

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Powerful book

A few people have left negative reviews, but I feel they have not read or engaged with the book. A powerful case is made by Kahneman et al. that noise is an important problem in many decision contexts, and concerning how to interpret and deal with that noise. Laypeople, and even non-statististicians who use statistics, could learn a lot from the book -- although there are indeed some controversial claims that could have used another revision. Nonetheless this is an important book and I think it will have a long life.

The audiobook is OK, but the narrator runs through material breathlessly and often with evident misunderstanding. He reads chapter and section headings as if they are simply part of the ongoing text and that is a most alarming habit. The narrator of Thinking Fast and Slow was so good -- what happened to him?

15 people found this helpful

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Hard going

This kind of book is not suited to audible. Although you can download an accompanying PDF I think a text copy of the book is important to digest the material properly.
It takes me back to my school days, eyes glazing over as the narrator reads out studies.

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Not very interesting

Good subject matter but the result is repetitive and also you need a download that I have yet to find!!

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  • MJ
  • 09-01-22

The irony of noise!

This book, is really about variation when people make judgements, but they call it noise: not systemic or individual bias, but occasion and individual noise blah blah. The whole pitch is "you should reduce noise" in a noisy book, as your first task is to get used to the unholy offspring of Sheldon and Kermit squeaking the words out. Then once you can concentrate on the content, it first seems like an advert for buying a Noise Audit with some pretty poor marketing style imagineering. Then they do it again and again in a Gladwellian attempt to prove the same point slightly differently, before just repeating themselves again, until the whole things descends into an exercise in the wisdom of (informed) crowds. Then right at the end they explain that noise can be good and the implications of trying to reduce it, can make the whole thing pointless. Drum roll and cymbal crash to the irony. I'm a massive fan of Dan and Cass, but this book feels like it was written during several wine infused dinner parties.... what were they thinking?

1 person found this helpful

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Good book but needs more editing

The subject was really interesting, well explained and though I've not studied statistics I could understand the concepts without needed to get all the maths.
Some of the points felt over-explained which is why I say needs more editing but it doesn't detract too much.
Vocal performance was clear and easy to listen to: it feels conversational not lecturing which can happen with this kind of book. Delivery is slow but I just sped it up so not an issue

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Insightful book, though not well-suited to audiobook

Noise is an insightful and thought-provoking book, though it is perhaps poorly-served as an audiobook. This is due to the amount of technical detail included, and the frequent need to refer to the accompanying PDF.

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Informative, educative , unsettling

A very well constructed and read book on a complex subject, providing unsettling insights into real world decision making but clearly setting out methods for improvements.

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So boring and lacks substance.

So boring and lacks substance. Please don't buy it. The voice will put you to sleep.

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Noise and how to be a little bit better

Having Read Thinking Fast and Slow I was very excited for this book, Kahneman references the work of his co-authors repeatedly and I could only imagine where a collaboration was goijng to lead. I didn't find it as edifying as Thinking Fast and Slow and at several times I thought this book is more of a signposting exercise to where you can find some interesting research, the sorts of statistics that you need to look into and some ancedotes about areas where Noise can be found. I'm pretty interested in the Superforecasters after this book and think that I'll probably look more into that area.

Whilst interesting in terms of seeing how inconsitent methodologies can cause more problems than bias where a miss in the system against a theoretical "true value" doesn't cancel out with a mistake made in the other direction, ie when you mis-price two stocks it doesn't matter if the errors are opposite, both are errors and it's only the magintude of the error that matters.

The authors seem to assume some familiarity with their previous work, talking about System 1 thinking without the background of thinking fast and slow might cause an issue for some readers. The audiobook also has an interview with the authors at the end which seems to be a quick summary of the points made in the book, it's about half an hour and doesn't add much to the text.

There's some practical advice at the end of the book about eliminating Noise in different areas which is interesting even though it might be hard to implement because it's hard to see the results. Author's refer to decision hygenie as you're fighting an invisible enemy through methodology which can't show what you might have been protected from, you just have to trust in the process.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-04-22

Not Thinking Fast and Slow

It's a lot like Thinking Fast and Slow but the aspect of Noise being harder to detect means it's considerably less interesting, literally the best think in the book is decision cascades which is honestly just bias with extra steps

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  • Christopher James Perry
  • 29-12-21

A bit niche, but still a solid recommendation.

A fantastic treatise on an important topic. It's probably less generally applicable for most people than the author's other very popular book, Nudge, but a you might still find it enlightening even if you can't personally utilize the noise-reducing techniques within. Personally, I think it suffers a bit as an audiobook, because there are frequently long descriptions of hypothetical situations, sociological experiments, and maths which I personally feel like I need to relisten to sometimes so I can grok the necessary details, and that's just more easily done with text.