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

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  815 ratings  ·  90 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 fro ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published September 29th 2009 by Random House (first published January 1st 2009)
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Average rating 3.63  · 
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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
Nov 12, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended to Richard by: New York Times
Shelves: cognition, nonfiction
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 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 bo ...more
Dec 05, 2011 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 numb ...more
Feb 13, 2011 rated it it was ok
Too much ego, not enough detail.
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita has demonstrated the power of using game theory and related assumptions of rational and self-seeking behavior in predicting the outcome of important political and legal processes. No one will fail to appreciate and learn from this well-written and always interesting account of his procedures.
Kenneth Arrow, Stanford University

Organized thought applied to problems can illuminate and help solve them. This easy and enjoyable read is, in many ways, a how-to book for that very
Chris Esposo
This book has aged poorly in the ten years since its publication. De Mesquita’s claim-to-fame is that he constructed "successful" game theory models for several intelligence agencies. I expected that a well-published academic like this would write something more along the lines of Judea Pearl's The Book of Why, which omitted most of the mathematical content, yet retained a lot of rich conceptual structure that provided useful ideas to the reader. Though Pearl’s graphical models may well lend the ...more
Jan 30, 2010 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 2/ ...more
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book introduces applications of an applied game theory modeling on political events. Some parts are very interesting and inspiring, some parts are not too relevant for my lack of interest in the events themselves.

This is the third book of the same author who wrote The Logic of Political Survival, The Dictator's Handbook, and this one. I'm going to read The Logic of Political Survival soon.
Aug 18, 2009 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. ...more
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I started reading this book about maybe three years ago, but I wasn't serious until about a month ago, when someone urged me to return it (I have a borrowed copy). Let me first say, this is a great book. I wish more people know about it: it has many interesting things, including:

(today's topic) how you should buy a car, how corporate look at litigation cases, accounting scandals, North Korea nuclear problem, Iraq and Iran, Pakistan, and global warming!

(historic topic): Catholic church, WWI and
Feb 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Some interesting moments; best in the analysis of historical scenarios and for some of the rather dramatic anecdotes the author includes.

However. If techno-utopianism and Silicon-Valley type "the algorithm is God" optimism irritates you, this is going to as well. The author is not as smart as he likes to think he is and is regularly guilty of blurring the lines between the mathematical predictions of his model and the interpretation of the numbers (which is often better with hindsight). An inter
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author describes scenario in which he used the principles of game theory and an algorithm he developed to successfully model and predict outcomes ranging from political conflicts to business competition to legal disputes. Interesting ideas. At the same time the author touts the effectiveness of his model but l, for proprietary reasons, does not share many details of the modeling process. General principles are explained, but much detail remains sufficiently mysterious. Nonetheless, the quali ...more
May 02, 2021 rated it it was ok
If you are interested in a collection of somewhat entertaining anecdotes about problems to which the author/his company applied their predictive models, then by all means read this book. Otherwise, save your time. There is shockingly little math, logic or details in this book even by the standards of the popular science genre. In the authors defense, he has a lucrative consulting practice so the models are proprietary. Still, the book should have been marketed differently in light of that fact.
Tarek Amr
I was expecting a book about game theory. And when the author introduced himself as an academic, I expected more formal explanation of the theory and more, well, beef. I ended up reading a very shallow superficial book about the topic full of stories and loads of bla-bloody-bla, and at some parts I even asked myself if I am reading a book or the author's resumé. ...more
Giulio G.
Feb 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
The theory behind this book is exposed rather well. Bueno de Mesquita knows how to talk about himself while keeping a shroud of mistery. Unfortunately, I was bored easily about the stuff on international politics, because they are definitely out of my interests.
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
worth to read by those who are in politics and finance. Bruce is one of my favorite authors and his predictions have turned out to be true in most of the cases.
May 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very accessible discussion of game theory. It's a bit dated but easy to read and a great introduction to the topic. ...more
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reading this book for a graduate social work class, to learn how to use game theory to understand and shape how power moves in service to social justice causes, was fascinating.
Sep 12, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this interesting but frustrating- the author hints a lot about his model while bragging of its success, but the appendix that “explains” the details is slipshod and incomplete.
Dec 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Ultimately disappointing. Not enough detail to understand what actually goes into the computational models, which just leaves a lot of pop-scientific fluff.
Wout Vekemans
Too much bragging, not enough game theory .
Mar 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Read this as part of a series on AI's impact on all-tiers of our common day workplace, and this did not disappoint as an anchor piece. The concept of game theory is embarrassingly now believable, with the concepts of big data and meta data being used to predict outcomes. In the 1990s we didn't think that was possible with the same confidence this author did. Therefore this story becomes entrepreneurial, showing how the world needed a better way to predict important outcomes and thus he would dev ...more
Apr 16, 2011 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
Sep 30, 2009 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 impressive, these ...more
Devyn Duffy
Sep 17, 2015 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
Feb 16, 2017 rated it liked it
I found the first three or four chapters of this book were incredibly engaging and easy to read. My knowledge of game theory improved greatly while reading this book. That said, as it progressed, I found the text to be more and more dry, making it difficult to get through. A good read, but it definitely requires patience.
Anna Ligtenberg
Jan 19, 2013 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
Uwe Hook
Jun 05, 2010 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
Aug 04, 2014 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 int ...more
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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 model

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