Clive Thompson in the NYT Magazine:
Bueno de Mesquita is one of the world’s most prominent applied game theorists. A professor at New York University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, he is well known academically for his work on “political survival,” or how leaders build coalitions to stay in power. But among national-security types and corporate decision makers, he is even better known for his prognostications. For 29 years, Bueno de Mesquita has been developing and honing a computer model that predicts the outcome of any situation in which parties can be described as trying to persuade or coerce one another. Since the early 1980s, C.I.A. officials have hired him to perform more than a thousand predictions; a study by the C.I.A., now declassified, found that Bueno de Mesquita’s predictions “hit the bull’s-eye” twice as often as its own analysts did.
Last year, Bueno de Mesquita decided to forecast whether Iran would build a nuclear bomb. With the help of his undergraduate class at N.Y.U., he researched the primary power brokers inside and outside the country — anyone with a stake in Iran’s nuclear future. Once he had the information he needed, he fed it into his computer model and had an answer in a few minutes.