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Predicting the Next Death on 'Game of Thrones'


In the fantasy series “A Song of Ice and Fire” (better known to HBO audiences as “Game of Thrones”), there are many villains. Now there's a new one. Forget the White Walkers and the Lannisters. Don't worry about the Tullys or the Boltons. The real adversary to avoid is a computer program designed by students at the Technical University of Munich. Why? Because it's predicting which characters in “Game of Thrones” will die next.

The class decided to create a machine learning algorithm designed to analyze the characters in George R.R. Martin's epic fantasy and look for markers that indicate impending doom. To do so, it relied heavily on the crowdsourced A Wiki of Ice and Fire.

The students identified more than 2,000 characters in the series. They took note of a character's gender, age, social standing, house, which books the character appeared in and whether or not the character is still alive in the context of the story. They designed an algorithm to take all this information into account to see if there are common elements that indicate a particular person is more or less likely to die. 

The information they gleaned is interesting. There are about twice as many male characters as females in the series. The men in the series are more likely to belong to a noble household. But men are also more likely to die violently than women are — only 57 percent of male characters are still alive by the end of the fifth book compared to 79 percent of the female characters.

Social standing doesn't offer much protection in Martin's world. Nobles and peasants alike have met a gruesome end. And since everyone is interested in ruling over the kingdom, being at the top of the food chain means you're wearing an awfully big target.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the computer algorithm predicts with a 97 percent certainty that Tommen Baratheon will be the next character to die. Tommen is the boy who currently sits on the Iron Throne. Right behind him is Stannis Baratheon, brother to the late king Robert Baratheon. Rounding out the top three is the Mother of Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen, at 95 percent.

If these revelations fill you with dread, keep in mind this is just a computer program giving probabilities based on statistical analysis. And according to the class, in tests the model was only able to “predict" a dead character's death with 49 percent precision.

Will the algorithm end up being right? Is Jon Snow really coming back, or is the computer just a big fan? Will Martin throw us all for a loop and bring everyone back for a big musical number? We'll have to wait and find out. For now, check out the video above to learn more about the program.



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