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The Dilemmas of WonderlandDecisions in the Age of Innovation$
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Yakov Ben-Haim

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198822233

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198822233.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 01 August 2021

Optimization and Its Limits

Optimization and Its Limits

(p.59) 4 Optimization and Its Limits
The Dilemmas of Wonderland

Yakov Ben-Haim

Oxford University Press

Innovation dilemmas often result from seeking optimal—that is, minimal or maximal—outcomes. However, uncertainty sometimes makes outcome optimization infeasible or unwise. Human progress originates in our thirst for improvement. However, our ability to predict the outcome quality of the options is limited when our knowledge is severely curtailed. We simply can’t know which option will be optimal. Furthermore, seeking the best outcome sometimes becomes a moral imperative of its own, regardless of substantive needs. Optimization is then a goal in itself, leading to misuse of an otherwise worthy idea. We begin by discussing the modern paradigm of optimization—the laws of physics—and then discuss three ways in which seeking optimal solutions may go astray. After distinguishing between substantive and procedural optimization, we will see that outcome optimizers inadvertently minimize the robustness against uncertainty.

Keywords:   innovation, innovation dilemma, optimization, human progress, uncertainty, info-gap, laws of physics, substantive optimization, procedural optimization

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