Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony and Cass R. Sunstein show the detrimental effects of "noise" in many fields, including medicine, law, economic forecasting, forensic science, bail, child protection, strategy, performance reviews and personnel selection. Yet, most of the time, individuals and organizations alike are unaware of it.
Noise seems certain to make a mark by calling attention to the problem and providing a tangible guide to reducing it. Despite the authors’ intimidating academic credentials, they take pains to explain, even with welcome redundancy, their various categories of noise, the experiments and formulas that they introduce, as well as their conclusions and solutions ... The authors’ [...] argument, however, is that there is now so much noise that a major hygiene effort is in order across multiple disciplines. In too many arenas, they maintain persuasively, we’ve allowed too much noise at too high a cost ... Noise is about how our most important institutions can make decisions that are more fair, more accurate and more credible. That its prescriptions will not achieve perfect fairness and credibility, while creating pitfalls of their own, is no reason to turn away from this welcome handbook for making life’s lottery a lot more coherent.
Noise digs deep into the details of unwanted variation, including its causes and components, how to measure it, and the interplay between noise and bias ... they provide a well-stocked toolbox to help decision-makers identify and reduce system noise ... long and nuanced. The details and evidence will satisfy rigorous and demanding readers, as will the multiple viewpoints it offers on noise. I was distracted, however, by shifts in writing style at times. Some sentences and sections read like a psychology or statistics textbook, others like a scholarly article, and still others like the Harvard Business Review. But that is a minor complaint. Every academic, policymaker, leader and consultant ought to read this book. It convinced me that we already know how to turn down much of the systemic noise that plagues our organizations and governments.
... vague hand-waving over the serious societal implications of AI is all of a piece with a book that, while it undeniably has a point, and an important one, feels, to be blunt, half-baked. If ever there were a book in search of an editor, it is this one. Noise could have been half the length and it would have been a far better book for it. Instead, weighed down by flabby vignettes complete with imaginary (and terrible) dialogue that add nothing except pointless pages, it is a slog. This is disappointing given the authors’ previous output and it’s tempting to wonder the extent to which this study was a product less of an idea whose time had come than of a publisher’s desire for the next bestseller.