Posted April 7, 2009
Ted Talks

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita: Three predictions on the future of Iran, and the math to back it up

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita uses mathematical analysis to predict (very often correctly) such messy human events as war, political power shifts, Intifada ... After a crisp explanation of how he does it, he offers three predictions on the future of Iran.

A consultant to the CIA and the Department of Defense, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita has built an intricate computer model that can predict the outcomes of international conflicts with bewildering accuracy.

Every motive has a number, says Bruce Bueno de Mesquita. A specialist in foreign policy, international relations and state building, he is also a leading -- if controversial -- scholar of rational choice theory, which says math underlies the nation-scale consequences of individuals acting for personal benefit. He created forecasting technology that has, time and again, exceeded the accuracy of old-school analysis, even with thorny quarrels charged by obscure contenders, and often against odds. (One example: He called the second Intifada two years in advance.)

Bueno de Mesquita's company, Mesquita & Roundell, sells his system's predictions and analysis to influential government and private institutions that need heads-ups on policy. He teaches at NYU and is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

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