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Vying for the Iron Throne Using Artificial Intelligence

Millions of people tuned into HBO to learn who would get the most coveted job in Westeros sitting atop the Iron Throne, with many disappointed with the final decision.  This invites a challenge to all of us fans: Can we do better?  Well, here at Cangrade we’ve built an AI with the sole purpose of matching people to jobs, so we figured we’d give it shot!

How does this work? 

We had Game of Thrones superfans impersonate all of our favorite characters and run through our pre-hire assessment.  Then our AI matched each character against the profiles of successful executives in modern-day corporations to predict who would be the most effective leader.  Perhaps you’re crying foul because an American CEO is not the same as a Westeros ruler?  True, but 1) we don’t have many kings and queens of Westeros for our artificial intelligence to learn on, and 2) a strong CEO needs many of the qualities we associate with a powerful ruler: ambitious, decisive, creative, hard-working, focused, etc.

Who does our AI think will be the best king or queen of Westeros? 

It will probably come as no surprise that this was a tight competition!  Scores in the table below are from 1 to 99, with anyone scoring above 90 identified as very high potential, and anyone above 80 as likely to succeed.  Folks between 50 and 80 are wildcards who might do well, but who probably will not be elite rulers.  Those below a 50 have no business trying to run 7 kingdoms.

Who is our best option for the Iron Throne?

We’ve ranked the main contenders, in order of effectiveness (though not necessarily kindness) based on Cangrade’s artificial intelligence:

We invite fans to debate whether our AI got that right.  But our science team tells us it certainly predicted one thing: How long a contender for the throne lived.  There’s a high correlation (r = ~.64) between how characters scored and how many episodes they managed to go without getting themselves murdered.

As for the individual characters, we think many of these scores will come as no surprise to GoT fans.  Even beyond the fact that he’d rather be torturing animals than ruling, our AI identifies Joffrey as an inefficient and lazy prat with zero emotional awareness, a lack of focus, and a high likelihood of cracking under pressure.  Does that sound about right?

And though they all have different personalities and styles, it’s hard to deny that Lord Varys, Olenna Tyrell or Tyrion would be exceptionally good rulers if given the chance to reign on the Iron Throne.  All are ambitious, focused, fabulous at reading people, hard-working, good in an emergency and willing to get their hands dirty.  Even Tyrion’s hint of self-questioning and self-loathing (in the language of psychology, “neuroticism”) can actually be a good thing for a ruler who has to stay grounded while making high-impact decisions.

Strong Females Rank High in Compatibility for the Throne

Cersei and Dany may seem a bit more surprising to people, now that they are both notorious mass murderers.  But remember our AI is not trying to identify who is the nicest person. It looks at who is the strongest and best equipped to rule (hence Gilly not sitting on the throne). Cersei and Daenerys are both strong, single-minded, efficient and incredible under pressure.  Our AI also says they share a certain “creative impulsivity” that can be good for leaders, and which in this case probably helped both women figure out how to unexpectedly burn their strongest enemies to a crisp.

Many other characters scored pretty high for the job, but our AI identified weaknesses that could undermine their ability to rule:

Sansa is great at holding people accountable and has great follow-through. However, she could be better at multitasking and would benefit from a bit more adaptability.

Margaery is fantastically intuitive and a self-starter. But, she could stand to work a bit harder and focus on her critical thinking.

You Know Nothing, Jon Snow (or Petyr Baelish)

John is also intuitive and shows exceptional accountability. However, he could stand to be more adaptable. His “business acumen” is limited i.e. his ability to consistently and strategically focus on what will be best for the 7 kingdoms.  (We think he did a good job with the white walkers though.)

Petyr Baelish has many characteristics of a strong ruler, but his intuition needs some honing, and he lacks a proper focus on achieving positive results.  (Also, he’s a bit of a jerk.)


Tywin and Robb, both brilliant and focused military commanders, also have some weaknesses in common.  Our AI believes both need to be more adaptable, better listeners and more attuned to the emotions of others.  If they had these characteristics, they’d be better rulers, and also might not have gotten themselves killed by people close to them.

Renly has the opposite problem.  He’s adaptable, intuitive and a great listener.  But he lacks focus and diligence.

Bran is immersive, focused and good at reading people.  But he’s a little straight to the punch (one might say almost “too honest”). He could work harder and needs to focus more on results.  Also, he’s just not very hungry for the job.  As a result, he scores in the wildcard range. Our AI doesn’t identify him as one of the best candidates for the Iron Throne.  In fairness though, our assessment doesn’t measure omnipotence, which is a proper advantage for a King.

The Baratheons are NOT an Iron Throne Fit

The rest of the legitimate Baratheons score the lowest on our assessment, albeit for different reasons:

Stannis is ambitious, hard-working and focused.  But our AI says he completely lacks adaptability. He needs to seriously work on both honing his intuition and improving his people skills.

Tommen scores poorly because he lacks focus and diligence. He seems likely to crack under pressure and may be just a little bit too nice for the job.  In fairness though, he’s also a child and we don’t get to see whether he’d mature into the role.

Robert is lazy, unambitious, unfocused, inefficient and completely lacking in results orientation and accountability.  And his wretched “son” Joffrey inherits these traits and worse, leading our AI to identify him as the worst of all contenders for the Iron Throne.

What do you think: Did our AI get all of these right?