How to predict the future with game theory

Will the Copenhagen climate summit lead to any meaningful reductions in greenhouse gasses?

In a word, no.

That’s the confidant prediction of the “Predictioneer,” a.k.a. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, professor of politics at New York University, who has developed a computer program based on game theory that he claims will accurately predict the future 90% of the time.

Bueno de Mesquita talks about his methods in his lecture Predictioneer: How to predict the future with game-theory (website, iTunes).


Bueno de Mesquita speaks with the brash self-confidence of your slightly obnoxious cousin who knows how the world works, and tells you that whatever you’re doing is just plain wrong. But for all that, he’s also endearing, noting that he courts ridicule by publicizing his predictions in advance, not just crowing about their accuracy after the fact.

For any situation that is based on the interaction of people with conflicting interests, Bueno de Mesquita hunts down information and plugs it into his program. The information that he looks for includes:

Who are the decision-makers and the stakeholders?

What do they want?

How much power do they have, and how hard will they work to achieve their goals?

How firm is their resolve?

Then his program chugs away and he gets an answer. In the case of the Copenhagen Climate Summit, he notes that the self interest of the countries involved is pretty clear: they all want to look like they’re doing something about climate change, but they don’t actually want to be held to any enforceable standard. And thus he predicts a lot of grand rhetoric but very little action.

For more about Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, check out this New York Times Magazine article, and his recently published book The Predictioneer’s Game.  Bueno de Mesquita’s website also has a web version of the program you can play with and make your own predictions.

This entry was posted in Academic podcasts, Books, Five-star professors, Idea of the week, International Relations, Lectures, Political Science and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to How to predict the future with game theory

  1. Dear Dara, do you realize you have just bashed your cousin? Or does that cousin know the world so well, they refrain from reading your blog?


  2. My compliments Dara, you use very convincing hypotheses

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