Consider a human decision maker, for example, a
businessman. How do we judge his decisions? What criteria do we use to
decide whether he has done a good or bad job? Usually we say he has done
well when he makes adequate selections within the time and resources
allocated. Goodness is judged relative to his competition. Does he
produce a better widget? Does he get it to market more efficiently?
With better promotion? We never judge a businessman by an
attainment-of-the-best criterion; perfection is all too stern a
taskmaster. As a result, we conclude that convergence to the best is
not an issue in business or in most walks of life; we are only concerned
with doing better relative to others. Thus, if we want more humanlike
optimization tools, we are led to a reordering of the priorities of
optimization. The most important goal of optimization is improvement.
... Attainment of the optimum is much less important for complex
By using the word optimal I mean to imply "the best that we can do
for now." Thus I am not looking for the ultimate course of action.
There is almost always some time limitation as to when something is
wanted. Thus I mean also to imply that optimal means the best within a
time limit where it will be useful. Looking for the best may result in
a solution, but if it comes too late it is no solution at all.
By using the term "optimal" I mean to set the achievement bar very
high. Far beyond what most believe is possible. The only way to judge
the level of achievement is the extent to which wants are achieved.
Since all of our wants are coupled to some type of cost-benefit
trade-off, optimal may mean doing some mundane task that has been done
many times in the past but with less effort. But, it equally might mean
doing what has never been done before.
Our future is directly dependent upon the quality of our decision
making. Optimal achievement is dependent on our decision making
ability. Our ability to make optimal decisions is irrevocably tied to
our ability to plan and forecast. Thus much of this text is focused on
optimal planning and forecasting.
You will find I rely very strongly on a careful analytic approach.
Many people are put off by such an approach. They often dismiss it with
a wave of the hand and call it "ivory tower thinking" or "analysis
paralysis." Although, such comments are often used as an excuse to
avoid a difficult path, there is an element of truth in the accusation.
We will avoid such pitfalls by adhering to the concept that the path to
optimal achievement is through searching for better right now, and not
the best at some time in the future.
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(C) 2005-2014 Wayne M. Angel.
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