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The Predictioneer's Game: Using the Logic of Brazen Self-Interest to See and Shape the Future

3.58  ·  Rating Details ·  543 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published September 29th 2009 by Random House (first published January 1st 2009)
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Esteban del Mal
Rational Self-Interest!*

This guy declares that everyone is an egotist. Nothing very earth shattering there. Then he sets about proving it by name dropping all the important people who have seen fit to pay him money to solve problems.

One gets the feeling that he's missed out on the cottage industry of pop prognostication that has sprung up in recent years (he even mentions how Nate Silver is the son of an old friend) and is desperately trying to get some street cred. It's as if the dad from Leav
May 04, 2010 Richard rated it liked it
Recommended to Richard by: New York Times
Shelves: nonfiction, cognition
De Mesquita's book is on the whole quite interesting, but ultimately very frustrating as well.

The essential idea is that he has created a computer model that simulates the interactions of multiple agents to predict the likelihood and form of an outcome. The basic form of the simulation is an iterated and evolving game. The inputs to the model are, apparently, purely quantitative representations of various attributes of those agents, including influence, salience and preferred outcome; the logic
Feb 12, 2010 thewestchestarian rated it liked it
A mostly fascinating consulting firm commercial. The unusually named Bruce Bueno De Mesquita (does this roughly translate to Bruce The Good Female Mosquito?) is a New York professor, Stanford University fellow and most relevantly runs a consulting firm you can hire to show (or “predictioneer” in consultant-speak) you the future. The peering into the future via the application of higher game theory math, as celebrated in the film “A Beautiful Mind”, is described in the first roughly 60% of the ...more
Dec 05, 2011 Clay rated it really liked it
Looks at an application of game theory for predicting the future of business and political negotiations. The model relies on political or business experts to identify specific issues, their possible outcomes, and the key players. Players are the people who influence a negotiation or decision. Experts are asked to answer narrow questions about which outcome each player would prefer, how important the issue is to each player, and how much influence each player can exert. The model simulates a ...more
Feb 04, 2010 Curtis rated it liked it
Bueno de Mesquita is a leading game theorist among political scientists and this book attempts to introduce the layman to the logic of self-interested behavior. The beginning of this book is pretty effective. The first few chapters use everyday examples to illustrate basic concepts in game theory. Readers are led to believe that they will learn how to apply some concepts from game theory to their own lives. Had the book continued this way, it would have been very good. Unfortunately, the last ...more
Aug 18, 2009 Bethany marked it as to-read
I don't know that I'll ever actually read this, but there was an interesting article about this guy in the NYT about using game theory to predict whether (or when, actually) Iran will build an atomic bomb.
Mar 20, 2011 Nathan rated it it was ok
Too much ego, not enough detail.
Jul 12, 2011 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A few of the chapters lived up to my hopes for the book, but several were disappointing. Using game theory to predict behavior is a fascinating topic, in my opinion. The book had a strong opening as he explained some of the basics of game theory and applied it to some real life situations. He then began to explain how his prediction model worked, but after talking about how he gets information from experts about certain questions, this ends abruptly. I was hoping to learn a little more about his ...more
Nov 08, 2013 Angela rated it it was amazing
I've been meaning to read this book since it came out in 2009 (I think?) & couldn't have enjoyed it more. In it, political scientist Bruce Bueno De Mesquita discusses how he's spent the last thirty-some-odd years harnessing the power of math & logic (in the form of game theory) to make spookily accurate predictions about business, politics, legal battles, & all kinds of other situations that involve human beings negotiating and scheming for the best outcome possible. Even more ...more
Devyn Duffy
Sep 17, 2015 Devyn Duffy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: readers interested in basic game theory, political history, and/or forecasting
Recommended to Devyn by: found it at the library
The Predictioneer's Game is an intriguing book about how political scientist and consultant Bruce Bueno de Mesquita has used game theory to build proprietary computer models to predict and even engineer events.

The book starts accessibly with an introduction to game theory and an example of how the author applies it to buying a car. The rest of the book is three threads woven together. One is stories of how Bueno de Mesquita used his models to help a corporation's executives get out of severe cr
Anna Ligtenberg
Jan 19, 2013 Anna Ligtenberg rated it really liked it
ISBN 1400067871 - The first, and only, prediction I'd make on this book is that most readers will be way geekier than I. And I totally mean that in a good, awestruck, way because - you've surely noticed by now - geeks run the world and I don't.

Given (some of) the (extraordinarily) lengthy (long-winded...) reviews on this book (which scared me away from reading the book for a while), I'm going to forego any real recap of the book. If you haven't bothered to read any of the more verbose reviews, m
Aug 04, 2014 Greg rated it liked it
An interesting read on applied game theory to a variety of common and interesting questions ranging from international relations to commercial interests. Books of this type are very difficult to balance correctly - on one hand are the pop-science approaches that provide interesting anecdotes while glossing over the mathematics behind the work while on the other hand are the math heavy approaches that bog the reader down. Trying to find just the right balance is difficult and while this is an ...more
Uwe Hook
Jun 12, 2010 Uwe Hook rated it really liked it
Everyone interested in politics needs to read this book.
Several researches has shown that general population in developed countries do not behave entirely according to the game theory and they also conclude that the more level of country development is the less pure self-interests affect people behavior.
Well, apparently complex selfishness behavior is not a true case at all for large category of people and especially it is not true for politicians and businessmen. You probably always suspected
Lindsey Turnbow
Aug 18, 2010 Lindsey Turnbow rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people interested in PoliSci but without a strong bg in it
Recommended to Lindsey by: Chris Butler
I like the cover. It's pretty. I know that's not important, and will likely change with future editions of the book, but still... I said it.

This is the second of Bueno De Mesquita's books that I've read. I definitely appreciate that he attempted to make something more approachable to people with little-to-no background in political science (yup, that's me).

But one of his ideas of "approachable" seems to be "witty," which I am of the opinion BDM is not. As an introduction to the concepts of his
Sep 16, 2011 Chris rated it really liked it
An interesting book. It makes me want to read more about game theory and statistics. This is the first time I've seen a description of game theory applied to real world problems in a rigorous manner. There are a number of political situations in the world that seemed (for me) impossible to understand, solve or make sense of. This book uses game theory to show why some of these situations are stuck the way they are. It explains why some countries and politicians behave the way they do. What may ...more
May 30, 2015 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
The subtitle of the book concerned me, since I don't believe it's ethical to care only for oneself. Happily, the book is not just about "using the logic of brazen self-interest." It's about modeling complex systems. It's a fascinating read, humbly presented, with goals to show our choices do matter. Certainly, ancient Sparta could have played their horses differently for a world-changing outcome. Political leverage could have been applied to have saved the world from genocides, terrors, etc. ...more
Aug 14, 2010 Simmoril rated it liked it
Game theory has always been a fascinating subject for me, and Bueno de Mesquita's book helped introduce to me the ways in which he's taken that idea to the next level. By gathering information from various sources and running carefully modeled computer simulations, Bueno de Mesquita shows that the correct 'move' in a situation is not always the obvious one, and in some cases, the seemingly right move is doomed to failure.

I really enjoyed reading his deep analysis of different situations, such a
Jul 01, 2014 Josh rated it liked it
Definitely enjoyed the book, and it's an easy read too.

My main complaint is similar to other complaints some other reviews had. Mainly, the author's formulas are proprietary, so frequently you're left with:
... And so I guessed correctly.
OR, The model predicts in the third round X player would do X action, 78% of the time.

Obviously he can't share everything about his formulas and black box magic, but there's a couple major steps left out after he assigns various weights to all the players, namel
Stuart Bobb
Jan 19, 2016 Stuart Bobb rated it really liked it
This is just fascinating. The author does blow his horn a bit, but in all fairness, he also agonizingly unwraps one of his firms most spectacular "wrong calls". This is John Nash style game theory taken to the point of practical "prediction / engineering" of outcomes of negotiations or other events with multiple players and a high complexity of interactions. I don't now how to apply any of this to what I do daily, but this was a great insight. You don't need to be a math geek at all to enjoy ...more
Oct 16, 2012 Jim rated it really liked it
I learned what I already knew from this book-- that individuals and institutions act exclusively in their best interest. But Bueno De Mesquita took me from purely qualitative to a more quantitative, measurable and plannable place.

It's almost painful at first, to have my "selfish sense" awakened to the point where I see otheres brazenly (though mostly unconsciously) flaunting their self-interest. Even more painful is the inevitability of my having to learn more of the tactical employment of the
Aug 23, 2015 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An introduction to game theory and Bruce Bueno De Mesquita's model, though at times it feels like an infomercial for the author's consulting services. The book is intended for a general audience and so stays at a pretty high level. I feel like you'd need to spend a fair amount of time working through exercises to be able to use the approach in the way the author does. I also have the impression that there's a certain amount of art in determining who the players are, what values to put on their ...more
Jan 02, 2014 Nelson rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: political science majors, game theory enthusiasts, car buyers
Pleased to see someone in political science emerge to buttress the discipline's predictive power. Other than Duverger's Law and Corollary, Democratic Peace Theory, Median Voter Theorem, and voting predictions (the most remarkable of which was done by Nate Silver), there aren't a whole lot of laws in political science.

Bueno de Mesquita explores a lot of historical anecdotes and tells you how to structure the car-buying game in your favor.

He discusses his methods but doesn't go into detail. For e
May 09, 2010 David rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everybody!
Truly a fascinating book! De Mesquita has used the game theory of John Nash to develop a series of models that help him to predict future events. The predictions are not simply binary (yes/no) prognostications--they are in-depth analyses that describe what will happen, and why. The author claims a 90% success rate. The last few chapters include a set of detailed predictions made by HIS STUDENTS using his models. Some of the predictions (most notably, Pakistan) are starting to come to pass, now. ...more
Jun 06, 2011 Nikzad rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
-It could have been shorter.
-An optional in-depth "technical" chapter would have served well, in which the details of the game theory model would be described in more detail.
-Some of the case studies discussed (aimed at validating the model) were actually to obvious. A model wasnt required for them. For example, in the Isreal-Palestine conflict its kind of obvious that the end result of any peace talks would be a position somewhere between what the extreme Palestinians and Israelis want.
-The boo
Mar 22, 2012 Carl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-help
While the concepts can be a bit difficult, I found the idea of using game theory to not only predict likely outcomes of multi-player conflicts, but to use the information gained to "engineer" a better outcome for a chosen player. If you are interested in historical analysis of lynchpin events, or just a fascination with real-world applications of higher math (you know, that stuff everyone said could help you one day) then give this book a read.
May 13, 2011 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Read most of this book, it is overall fairly simple to follow, however, he tends to get very technical. Reading sentences over again, paragraphs over again is not uncommon in this book. Take it slow and really devote time to it and perhaps you can get it. I was not willing to go that extra mile though for this book, even though this is one of the most fascinating subjects, the subject of Game Theory.
Jul 18, 2010 Nick rated it liked it
A cool premise, to be sure: can you use game theory to predict social events and even engineer the outcome, based on the very simple concept that "people do what they perceive is in their own best interests all the time". This maxim generally does hold true, the complicated part being in sorting out all the things they're thinking about and how they are perceiving them and the interplay of many people.
Thomas Magbee
Jul 18, 2010 Thomas Magbee rated it really liked it
I recommend this to anyone interested in quantitative decision-making or statistics. Bueno de Mesquita makes a wealth of statistical knowledge accessible, but I never felt like he went deep in describing his model for making decisions - he spent much more time talking about the historical or political environment of each situation. While I enjoyed the book, I hoped to learn more about statistics than politics.
Jan 21, 2012 Thomas rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pop-sci
This book starts out well enough focusing on game theory as it applies to real life situations. However, halfway through the book it seems to become more about the author's accomplishments than the theory itself. I got the feeling that the author feels that he doesn't get enough attention for his ideas. Might have been more interesting if it had been ghostwritten.
Rachael Herzog
Sep 30, 2015 Rachael Herzog rated it it was ok
The author's voice makes me dislike him personally. Is that weird? Something about the way he turns a phrase seems contrived, like he's trying too hard to be cool. Maybe he's self conscious about the fact that he's a mathematician and math is "uncool". Grow up. Nobody cares. Math is cool. But that guy sounds like a douchenozzle.
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Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is a political scientist, professor at New York University, and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He specializes in international relations, foreign policy, and nation building. He is also one of the authors of the selectorate theory.

He has founded a company, Mesquita & Roundell, that specializes in making political and foreign-policy forecasts using a computer m
More about Bruce Bueno De Mesquita...

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