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

af Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

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2033105,362 (3.24)Ingen
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.… (mere)
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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 Leave It To Beaver got on the Internet and started LOL-ing inappropriately and telling you how the intransigent geopolitical quandaries of the age are no different from haggling over the price of a new car with a cynical, albeit perfumed, salesman.

My estimation is that it's a clumsy book, but I'm sure he forecasted a certain amount of disappointment with startling accuracy.

______________________________

* now with algorithms!
( )
  KidSisyphus | Apr 5, 2013 |
Clout Computing or The Non Sequiteer's Game

I bought this book because I had seen de Mesquita talk at TED

http://www.ted.com/talks/bruce_bueno_de_mesquita_predicts_iran_s_future.html

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: I'll come back to this) 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 an proof/explanation of claim ii). You will look in vain for a description of how the interaction among decision makers is modelled. de Mesquita goes through numerous real life examples telling you about certain things happening or not happening after a certain number of negotiation rounds but you are *never* shown how to compute the collectively preferred outcome at step N as a function of the values of parameters 1)-4) at step N-1. Since I bought the book to learn precisely that, I am completely disappointed.

To add to the confusion, there are many charts (e.g. chart 10.9, prediction of power shifts in Iran) in which de Mesquita seems to imply that what his model predicts is the value of parameters 2) and/or 3) for some of the actors. in other words, what had been previously defined to be an *input* to the model is now treated as its *output*.

For the rest, the book is stuffed with completely unsupported claims of the form "as we can see, the model predicts X". No, Bruce. We *cannot* see that because you are not showing any of the details that would be required to make that claim. And it is really mysterious why de Mesquita would not be showing the details: apparently he teaches the model at NYU so its details can hardly be a trade secret.

That said, although the book is a grotesque collection of non-sequiturs, they are highly interesting non-sequiturs. de Mesquita's point of view on many historical or current events is much less developed than it should be for the book to be valuable, but definitely insightful: he seems like the kind of guy who could enliven a dinner party with really good stories worth additional thought and research. My personal favorite is his game-theoretical analysis of Worms Concordat on the Pope-King procedure for the selection of bishops (Chapter 11).

Finally, one pet-peeve: who the heck designed the charts and who approved them for print? some of them (10.8B, page 198) are simply illegible (go ahead, I dare you). Some seem to have been put together by somebody who had to learn the basic of the Microsoft Office suite in a hurry. For example: was it really so hard to justify the boxes on figure 11.1 (page 206)? who drew the lines of the convex preference sets in fig 2.1 (page 22)? These remarks sound catty but diagnose a problem: nobody who was really serious about professional data analysis would be caught dead producing such cartoonish disasters. To me this is a symptom that this book was the outgrowth of a PowerPoint culture, one in which what's important is to catch the attention of a distracted decision maker with an-intriguing-but-please-not-too-detailed slide. This visual slovenliness dovetails perfectly with the intellectual sloppiness of the rest of the book.

Bottom line: skim it if you find it at the library but don't buy it. There's little to learn from here and none of what is advertised. ( )
  stefano | Jul 28, 2010 |
An interesting look at how game theory can be applied through multivariate analysis to accurately determine how people act in a given situation. A fascinating look at the hidden side of decision making, that must be considered before attempting any major new undertaking - one needs to consider who are the real decision makers, the influencers, and each party's willingness to accommodate others' opinions and desires. ( )
  Meggo | Jul 24, 2010 |
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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.

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