Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday TED Talk: Bruce Bueno de Mesquita on Predicting Iran's Actions

The news was full this week of stories about Israel and Iran, and whether Iran's threat to go nuclear will result in pre-emptive action by Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu came for a visit with President Obama, and the newspapers claimed that the President had warned Netanyahu against Israel's taking any action on its own. Other reports even asserted that President Obama had decided that the United States (if not Israel) could live with a world in which Iran had nuclear weapons.

As usual, one has to take the official news stories with a very large grain of salt. In the TED talk below, I would like to introduce you to a man who has brought the science of game theory to predicting the future of global politics. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is a consultant to the Department of Defense and to the Central Intelligence Agency, and works with them on developing likely scenarios to assist in national strategic planning. By analyzing the players having an input on any political question, their values, beliefs, limitations and their self-interest, and by putting all the data into a mathematical model, the technique which he expounds in the talk below has achieved an enviable track record of 90% accuracy.

Watch him, therefore, as he puts his technique to work on predicting the answers to three burning questions: 1) Will Iran build nuclear weapons in the near future? 2) Who will run Iran and have the most influence in the years to come? and 3) What specifically is in President Ahmadinejad's future? What I can predict is that you will most likely be surprised with his estimates of the most probable outcome in each case:

I encourage you to leave your comments below about your reactions to what he says, and also about how you might reconcile his predictions with what the mainstream media is currently reporting. For example, do you see now how the official line that "President Obama can live with a nuclear Iran" might be geared toward bringing about the very outcome that Mr. Bueno de Mesquita thinks is most likely? As usual where the mass media are concerned, there are most likely layers and layers beneath what you read on the surface.

Once again, you may watch the talk in high-resolution video (MP4) format with an appropriate viewer (QuickTime, Windows Media Player, etc.) from this link, or you may download it to your desktop in various formats from this page. This will be one talk to which you will want to return in the future, when (if we make it through whatever is to come) we can check the actual events against Bruce Bueno de Mesquita's highly specific predictions made in February 2009.

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