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The Predictioneer's Game: Using the Logic of Brazen Self-Interest to See and Shape the Future Paperback – October 12, 2010

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Editorial Reviews Review

Book Description
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is a master of game theory, which is a fancy label for a simple idea: People compete, and they always do what they think is in their own best interest. Bueno de Mesquita uses game theory and its insights into human behavior to predict and even engineer political, financial, and personal events. His forecasts, which have been employed by everyone from the CIA to major business firms, have an amazing 90 percent accuracy rate, and in this dazzling and revelatory book he shares his startling methods and lets you play along in a range of high-stakes negotiations and conflicts.

Revealing the origins of game theory and the advances made by John Nash, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist perhaps best known from A Beautiful Mind, Bueno de Mesquita details the controversial and cold-eyed system of calculation that he has since created, one that allows individuals to think strategically about what their opponents want, how much they want it, and how they might react to every move. From there, Bueno de Mesquita games such events as the North Korean disarmament talks and the Middle East peace process and recalls, among other cases, how he correctly predicted which corporate clients of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm were most likely engaged in fraudulent activity (hint: one of them started with an E). And looking as ever to the future, Bueno de Mesquita also demonstrates how game theory can provide successful strategies to combat both global warming (instead of relying on empty regulations, make nations compete in technology) and terror (figure out exactly how much U.S. aid will make Pakistan fight the Taliban).

But as Bueno de Mesquita shows, game theory isn’t just for saving the world. It can help you in your own life, whether you want to succeed in a lawsuit (lawyers argue too much the merits of the case and question too little the motives of their opponents), elect the CEO of your company (change the system of voting on your board to be more advantageous to your candidate), or even buy a car (start by knowing exactly what you want, call every dealer in a fifty-mile radius, and negotiate only over the phone).

Savvy, provocative, and shockingly effective, The Predictioneer’s Game will change how you understand the world and manage your future. Life’s a game, and how you play is whether you win or lose.

Amazon Exclusive: Bruce Bueno de Mesquita on The Predictioneer's Game

Knowing what will happen around the world can be awfully useful. Forewarned, after all, is forearmed, whether the questions of the day are about business, national security, or our day-to-day lives. The Predictioneer’s Game provides a reliable way to anticipate the future, one you can experiment by using the online version of the game’s program on my website. Suppose, for instance, you want to work out likely future developments in Iran. You can build a data set and test it just as I have done.

We all know that Iran’s Ayatollahs faced a pretty stiff challenge following that country’s June presidential election. As I predicted in February 2009. the Qum clerics, sometimes called the Quietists, are quiet no more and Iran’s Supreme Leader is facing the first real political challenge since Iran’s 1979 revolution. Iran is in for more challenging times in the months to come. You might wonder, what is likely to happen to relations between Iran’s and Iraq’s Shia-dominated governments now that the U.S. is withdrawing most of its forces from Iraq? How will the evolving relations between Iran and Iraq shape the interests of the United States in the region? These are some of the questions I try to answer in The Predictioneer’s Game.

I conclude that if the U.S. fully withdraws, then Iran and Iraq will form a strategic partnership and Iran might even intervene militarily on behalf of Iraq’s Shia government to put down a rising political threat from the pro-Baathist, anti-American, Sunni Vice President of Iraq, Tariq al-Hashimi. Hashimi’s power is predicted to increase markedly while Prime Minister Maliki’s declines if President Obama decides not to maintain 50,000 American troops in Iraq. If, however, he chooses to keep 50,000 or more troops in Iraq after August 2010, then Iran and Iraq will not forge a strategic alliance, Hashimi’s growing power will be contained, and Maliki will remain in charge. And in Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei’s power will continue to decline while the military, the moneyed interests and the Qum clerics will become the backbone of a more moderate, more pragmatic Iranian regime.

Predicting the future--whether you are concerned about Iran or about how best to settle a family crisis--is not all that mysterious. If people do what they think is best for themselves--and who doesn’t--then, with game theory’s help, we can anticipate what they will do. Working out other people’s incentives means also working out how altering their costs or benefits can be used to change their behavior and that, after all, is the essence of predictioneering.--Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Mesquita (The Strategy of Campaigning) purports to show how we can predict... and engineer the future with applied game theory in this provocative tutorial. Mesquita has spent 30 years refining his approach to the science of predictioneering, and claims a 90% accuracy rate for his mathematical model that predicts choices based on the self-interest of decision makers. Although he argues that accurate prediction relies on science, he cannot escape the reality that the numbers in his model are based on human, i.e., fallible, assumptions and estimates. The author admits to a few mistakes—he predicted that former first lady Hillary Clinton's health-care reform would become law—but blames any missteps on unforeseen events and uses his model to boldly predict that President Obama is unlikely to quash the terrorist influence in Pakistan and that global warming will prove immune to government prescriptions but will produce its own solutions. Mesquita claims perhaps too much for his game theory model, but his cogently argued and fascinating brief will appeal to anyone interested in complex national-security issues. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081297977X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812979770
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #155,822 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is Professor of Politics at New York University and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

293 of 315 people found the following review helpful By Aaron C. Brown TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This review has been edited to correct some misstatements pointed out by the author. I was working from a prepublication version that did not have all the end-notes, nor a reference to the website. Moreover, the author's comment to this review adds some useful material. On the basis of that, I would raise my rating from three stars to three and a half if that were allowed, but my basic opinion has not changed.

This book is likely to teach you some fascinating and useful material, but I can't recommend it wholeheartedly because it may drive you crazy as well. The basic idea is simple. Experts know a lot, but are bad at making predictions about human affairs. Simple models based on quantitative game theory are more accurate, and even when they're incorrect they expand your thinking in useful ways. Moreover, these models allow you to simulate alternatives and generate outcomes as good or better than the best human strategists can achieve.

To evaluate this book, it's useful to separate that claim into two parts. I'm a quant, and therefore I think it's pretty well established that you make better decisions by asking experts what they know and letting a computer trace the logical implications than by following the experts' recommendations. I also accept that simple quantitative models do remarkably good jobs, and are only rarely surpassed by complex qualitative analysis. Anyway, if you don't accept those positions, there's no point in even opening this book. So to me and probably to you if you're still reading, asking experts simple questions with answers on a scale from 0 to 100 and combining the results in a reasonable way, is an excellent approach to most decisions. Call this the basic quant position.
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Mark P. McDonald VINE VOICE on October 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Predictoneer's Game is a story about the author and the accuracy of his predictions than a discussion on the application of Game Theory to decision making. While the book contains descriptions of Game Theory, the majority of its pages are dedicated to the author explaining past predictions and how they were destined to be accurate. If you are looking for a book on how to understand and apply game theory for yourself, then you will need to look elsewhere in my opinion.

In many ways, Bruce Bueno De Mesquita's book is similar to those written by Nicholas Taleb. Both authors explain their thoughts and tools in a self-referential style that you will notice throughout the book. In more than one place, this tone can be a bit overbearing. This is more of a book for those that admire game theory rather than people who want to learn how to apply game theory. This does not mean that the book is not enjoyable and worth the read - it is just not what I expected.

The Predictioneer's Game is organized around the authors experience applying game theory to a wide range of situations from peace in the Middle East, North Korea nuclear disarmament to how to purchase an automobile. Each of these case stories is interesting examination of the events and the motivations leading to the actor's decisions.

The book does describe approaches for applying game theory. The appendix contains sample calculations all of which will get people started. These will help get people started in applying game theory to understand the behaviors and motivations of players in a decision, but according to the author there is more to the model than a table of influence, salience and position figures.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Stefano Bertolo on July 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book because I had seen de Mesquita talk at TED

I found the TED talk intriguing but annoyingly devoid of the details that would help one understand how the model really works. This was part of a shrewd strategy employed by de Mesquita to make me buy his book. So, de Mesquita 1 - Stefano 0, I'll definitely give him that.

The book is *worse* than the TED talk: nowhere in the book de Mesquita gives you an honest explanation of how the model works. To begin with, it is even unclear what the parameters of the model are. In some sections of the book (Chapter 4, an analysis of North Korea's nuclear strategy) it seems as if there are three parameters for each decision maker involved in a given issue: 1) what is their preferred outcome (expressed numerically on a sliding scale) 2) how influential they are; 3) how much they care about the issue. In other sections (Chapter 11, analysis of climate change international negotiations), it seems the parameters are four: the previous three plus 4) desire for agreement.

de Mesquita's claims are that: i) a diligent subject matter expert can reliably identify the decision makers involved in an issue and assign to each of them a value for these three or four parameters; ii) the model takes this parameter assignment as input and charts the interactions among decision makers identifying *the* outcome with the most power behind it (the outcome preferred by the decision makers that collectively yield the majority of power); iii) the model is stable (i.e. small variance in the assignment of initial parameters does *not* result in drastically different outcomes).

There is one big problem: the book does not contain a proof/explanation of claim ii).
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