International relations and game theory collide in alumnus Jonathan Grady’s career, leading him to launch an artificial intelligence-driven forecasting service
Jonathan Grady ’16 may have majored in international relations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at New York University, but he has always maintained a data-driven, entrepreneurial spirit.
“My undergraduate experience was doing game-theory-based models of major international events,” Grady explained. “I took Ph.D. classes as an undergrad, and it was then that I learned how to use prediction models.”
Game theory, Grady explained, is formalized strategic behavior.
“Every day, we act out in self-interested and strategic ways, without game theory models,” Grady said. “What game theory seeks to do is to formalize the sorts of decision-making processes that we go through in order to clarify and find insights that can be very valuable. It’s just a formalized study of the choices and preferences in front of us.”
His passion for international affairs, data, game theory and the Asia-Pacific — along with generous fellowship funding offered by the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) — brought him west to seek his master’s in San Diego.
“UC San Diego has one of the best China studies departments in the country, and they are a very evidence-based, data-driven department, so I felt that it was a great place to study,” Grady said. “It really opened a new world for me.”
At GPS, Grady took a management course with associate professor Elizabeth Lyons and leveraged other resources available through the university to help his career path.
“As a GPS student, I took most of the AI training sequence that was offered at the time for social science doctoral students, which really gave me a lot of foundational training,” he added.
Fast forward to today: Grady is the founding principal of The Canary Group, an artificial intelligence-driven forecasting service based in New York that he began in 2018. Among the company’s accolades, it partnered with CNBC to run the largest game theory project ever made for a public audience by a major media organization — which was eventually made into an internationally televised documentary.
“It was a very GPS sort of analysis because we were analyzing the Quad — the emerging naval coalition in the Indo-Pacific region, vis-à-vis China, and I recruited some of the best experts in the world,” Grady said.
Grady has also completed a project for Politico on major China-U.S. trade negotiations and has written articles for publications such as Nikkei on topics such as the surging Japanese defense buildup.
“For these projects, I had to both analyze the underlying economics and politics,” Grady added. “Analyzing policy is a very GPS-y thing to do, because if you go through the core sequence at GPS, you realize that what is economically feasible is a function of policy choices.”
Grady will also serve as an adviser with the Policy and Strategy Entrepreneurship Lab (PSE-Lab). The lab was founded by Lyons in 2023 to develop and support early-stage ventures with high-impact potential in the school’s areas of expertise and to complement the entrepreneurship and innovation management training offered at GPS and across campus. Over the next decade, the lab aims to have a reputation for developing some of California’s most transformational companies and entrepreneurs and that GPS will be known as a national leader in policy-oriented entrepreneurship training.
“It’s great for the PSE-Lab to have access to the type of insights and lessons Jonathan has as a result of his experience founding a company and his knowledge of GPS and what it has to offer our participants,” Lyons said. “It’s also personally rewarding for me to have the opportunity to work with and engage former students through the PSE-Lab.”
Grady offers two tips to current GPS students: find a mentor, and think like an investor.
“Mentors can be sources of support and guidance, and these people can help you find resources and opportunities both inside and outside of school,” Grady noted. “GPS has some of the world’s leading experts in their different domains, and since the school is a very diverse place, just meeting one person that gels with your background would set you up for the future to do extremely well.”
When it comes to choosing courses, Grady points out that having an investment mindset is invaluable.
“Every class you take that is project-based allows you an opportunity to create a deliverable that can be transformed into a representation of your expertise in a specific subject and gives you an opportunity to network with experts in the field,” Grady explained. “Grad school is a time about setting yourself up for your future, so you should be doing that sort of investing.”