Optimization… it has such a positive connotation; it’s something we believe we should all strive for. When things are optimized everything is running smoothly and efficiently. Productivity is maximized, and so are the profits.

But optimization itself is a process and so it too can also be “optimized”. A lot of times when we think about optimization it involves ideal conditions and an ideal world. The reality is that the world we live in does not operate under ideal conditions.

I was listening to some public health experts talking about the ongoing vaccination rollout against COVID-19. Logic and perhaps morality suggests that there are certain populations (i.e. healthcare workers and the elderly) that should be getting the vaccine first in order to minimize deaths. One of the experts made a point that I thought was important, and that I hadn’t really considered up until then: the logistics required for getting these populations vaccinated comes at the cost of the rate of vaccination, which results in slower roll-out and ultimately to potentially more deaths and further spread of the virus.

It can be easy to get caught up in optimization, especially since it seems like a universally good thing, but just like with any optimization problem, maximums (or minimums) can be achieved in more than one way in more than one place, you just have to find the way that fits within the parameters of the situation.


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