David Rothschild is an economist at Microsoft Research in New York City. He has a Ph.D. in applied economics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. David Rothschild’s primary body of work is on forecasting, and understanding public interest and sentiment. Related work examines how the public absorbs information. David Rothschild writes extensively, in both the academic and popular press, on polling, prediction markets, social media and online data, and predictions of upcoming events; most of his popular work has focused on predicting elections, an economist’s take on public policy, and choices in news generation and consumption. After joining Microsoft in 2012 David Rothschild has been building prediction and sentiment models, and organizing novel/experimental polling and prediction games; this work has been utilized by Bing, MSN, Cortana, and Xbox. Amazingly, David has correctly predicted 50 of 51 Electoral College outcomes in February of 2012 (wish I trusted my model or polling more in 2016), an average of 20 of 24 Oscars from 2013-7, and 15 of 15 knockout games in the 2014 World Cup. David Rothschild is also a fellow at the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia and the Penn Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies. Please enjoy my interview with David Rothschild.
How do you describe your occupation?
Talk us through a typical day for you…
What are you reading at the moment and what made you want to read it?
Grant by Ron Chernow. I have read extensively about both the Civil War and military history in general. A fresh take on US Grant by Chernow was an easy sell. Reading The Federal Papers by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison, for obvious reasons.
Can you remember the first book you read by yourself?
Not sure, but I was very into Choose Your Own Adventure by Edward Packard as a kid.
Are you a page folder or a bookmarker?
When did you fall in love with reading?
I used to read several hours per night as a kid. I was very punctual at finishing school work on time and did not have a TV in my room. So, straight through high school, I made the time. And, I am fortunate that I lived for years as a young adult without streaming shows to distract me. I continued to make the time to read 1-2 hours per night, up until very recently. Now my reading is a little more limited.
If you could gift yourself books at age 16 and age 25 – what would they be and why?
Hitler’s Willing Executioners by Daniel Goldhagen to explain how democracies can quickly and terribly fail; The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis to get excited about behavioural economics; Barbarians at the Gate by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar to understand capitalism; Capital by Thomas Piketty to understand capital and labour; Let My People Surf by Yvon Chouinard understand work/life balance; The Big Short by Michael Lewis (yup, two Michael Lewis books), so I could have made out like a bandit during the Great Recession.
What are perfect reading conditions for you?
Rocking chair in the apartment, with light music in the background, but no further distractions.
For someone starting out in your career, which three books would you make required reading and why?
If you could invite 5 authors (dead or alive) to a dinner party – who would they be and why?
Michael Lewis, Mark Twain, Leo Tolstoy, William Tecumseh Sherman and Edna St. Vincent Millay.
What was the last book you purchased, and why did you buy it?
Fire and Fury by Michael Wolf. I wanted to see the full thing for myself.
What is your favourite thing about reading?
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. I wish I read graphic novels as a kid.
If you could insert yourself into any book, which would you pick and why?
Everything is Obvious by Duncan Watts, it will be obvious after you read it.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life? What impact did it have?
The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy: “Ivan Ilych’s life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.”
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
I love collections of short stories. It is trite, but besides The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy, The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain, Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut. And, as a kid The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, World According to Garp by John Irving, and The History of United States Naval Operations in World War II by Samuel Eliot Morison all enthralled me as a kid. And The Band Played On by Randy Shilts is continuously relevant.
Which book sat on your shelf are you most excited about reading next and why?
I read books when I buy them.
Image credit: Robert Caplin